Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Georgia State undergraduates excel at Model U.N. regional conference

Representing the interests of Sudan and Iran, two countries often criticized on world stage, is no easy task.

But Georgia State University students excelled at foreign diplomacy for these and other countries at the Southern Regional Model United Nations conference, held Nov. 19 -22 in Atlanta.

A team of 45 GSU undergraduates represented four counties, including India, Iran, Sudan and Morocco, and competed for their interests against roughly 700 college students from across the country.

In keeping with the university's track record, the GSU teams won a series of awards. Five of the Georgia State delegates were recognized as the "outstanding delegate" in their committee. Two of the Georgia State teams, Iran and Morocco, won the "Distinguished Delegation Award," ranking among the top five percent of teams overall. GSU's team from India also received the "Honorary Delegation Award."

"The students worked very hard to participate as some of the most difficult countries to represent," said Rashid Naim, senior lecturer in GSU's Department of Political Science and program director. "It's quite an exercise, requiring diplomatic skills. It gets young people to think about the world's problems and become problem solvers."

The conference provides participants the opportunity to learn about the U.N. system and important global issues facing the international community today, such as poverty, terrorism and HIV/AIDS. Students learn to conduct in-depth research, express ideas in formal writing and debate such issues within a diplomatic framework. As delegates, Georgia State students were assigned to countries and committees by the event organizers.

"You have to be in the mindset of your country," said James Dutton, president of the Georgia State U.N. Association. "You have to do a lot of research to know that country's point of view and you have to discuss the best way to do things. Sometimes it is a consensus and sometimes it is a battle."

GSU has been participating in the regional conference since 2003 and will head to the National Model U.N. Conference in March, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, N.Y. Georgia State has taken home the top prize from nationals, "Outstanding Delegation," for the past four years.

"We're hoping to accomplish it for a fifth time," Dutton said. "Nationals is the show. It's not just a weekend; it's an entire week of debate. That's what the entire year is focused on."

Students in Georgia State's Model U.N. Association are enrolled in an elective course that helps them prepare for competition. The undergraduates also help host a Model U.N. conference on campus for high school students, which was held earlier this month and attended by more than 450 Georgia teens.

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