SF State Students Awarded at Mock United Nations Conference
April 20, 2007 11:39 AM
International relations students proved they could hold their own while representing Israel. One of SF State's Model United Nations delegations won an Honorable Mention Award at the world's largest university-level U.N. simulation; beating out hundreds of students from across the globe.
The National Model United Nations (NMUN) Conference, held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, served as a forum for college students to compete by assuming the roles of international diplomats and devise solutions to global issues. For the second consecutive year the SF State delegation took home an Honorable Mention Award.
Recognized for their punctuality, commitment and remaining true to their country’s policies, SF State delegates were among students from 25 schools to win the tier-three prize, during the event's March 24 closing ceremony.
“It felt good to be recognized for our hard work,” said NMUN team member Myla Hardiman, 28. “It’s difficult when you represent Israel because in order to stay in character you can only work with a limited amount of countries.”
The 15-member SF State team consisted of domestic and international students alike.
Elizabeth Deheza, 25, an Italian international student, cited staying in character as one of the determinants of their win.
“We had to be as real as possible. If you did something that didn't reflect the policies of your country you were criticized by other students,” she said. “Israel would never team up with Syria or Iran.”
The schedule for the conference spanned the course of five days, with the initial proceedings beginning at 8 a.m. and often continued until 11 p.m. The one- to two-hour breaks interspersed throughout the day gave the model U.N. delegates the chance to network with other diplomats.
“We could, but we wouldn’t, invite Syria out to lunch,” said Hardiman. “We stayed in character and ate with the U.S.”
Hardiman, whose committee focused on water resources and research, complained that certain delegations were combative.
“[The International Hydrological Program] is a committee where there shouldn’t be bickering amongst nations. It just shouldn’t happen,” she said. “But the Syria and Iran delegations were attacking us as if we were in the G.A. [General Assembly]. It just didn’t make any sense.”
The contentious dynamic between Israel and Syria at the conference, continued to parallel the actual conflict that exists between the two countries.
“Syria called us hydro-terrorists,” said Hardiman. “But in actuality, if they had done their research, they were the ones who tried to gather all the other Arab countries to take and block water from Israel.”
Away from the bickering among mock nations and international law, delegates found time to take in tapings of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”
The international relations students also took trips to U.N. Headquarters, where an Israeli diplomat fielded an hour-long series of questions from students and doled out advice.
“She basically reiterated Israeli policy on a number of issues,” said co-head delegate Jared Lee, 23. “Although she did not admit to having nuclear weapons. Israel's official policy on nuclear weapons has always been very ambiguous.”
The trip was funded through the school, so students did not have to pay for their room and board. And they are set to be reimbursed for their airfare.
Planning for the NUMN consisted of four months of meticulous research, with students referring to Israeli newspapers, government Web sites and Journal Storage (JSTOR) as some of their sources of information. The preparations were done in conjunction with The National Model United Nations class, IR 432, which is a requisite for conference participation.
Students enrolled in the spring course may have the opportunity to attend the conference held in New York, or the smaller Far West conference that takes place in Burlingame, Calif. But the class operates as a strictly on-campus club in the fall. Students have the option of taking the class twice to get the full experience.
Professor JoAnn Aviel, who co-teaches the course, stressed that enrolling in the class doesn’t guarantee a spot on one of the Model U.N. teams. Aviel said that students who have attended the club in the fall get the first choice of conference assignments. The student assignments are confirmed if they submit a research paper during the first spring semester class meeting.
“It’s quite unusual that you have to do work before class actually begins,” she said. “[The paper] is a way for students to confirm their assignments and get a head start on the research.”
Students who have managed to secure a place on the team find the experience rewarding.
“As an international relations major, it’s very prestigious to participate in this conference,” said co-head delegate Matt Paul, 25. "It is an honor and a privilege for those who are chosen, and put in the time."
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