A group of students from Florida International University will spend their spring break trying to resolve world conflicts from the vantage point of the Czech Republic, a former communist country that made a successful transition to democracy.
The 17 students, members of FIU’s Model United Nations (MUN) team, are competing in the New York National MUN conference from March 18-22. FIU students have traditionally done well at the annual conference, winning top prizes in past years. This year, 4,051 student delegates and 266 colleges and universities from around the world are expected to compete. The conference partially takes place at United Nations headquarters in New York City.
FIU’s MUN delegation is fresh off a historic victory. In February, for the first time since it formed a team in 1989, FIU won the Best Small Delegation Award at the prestigious Harvard MUN Conference in Boston.
The Harvard competition included 131 schools from all over the world. FIU, which represented Cameroon, took home a total of six awards that included committee-level awards of Best Delegation, Outstanding Delegation and three Honorable Mentions. The Best Small Delegation Award was one of only three team-level awards given at the competition.
At the New York competition, the FIU team will represent the Czech Republic. A former Soviet bloc country that successfully made the transition to democracy, the Czech Republic enjoys friendly relations with its Western European neighbors while also maintaining ties with other former Soviet countries, explained FIU MUN program director Gonul Tol.
“It’s a country that’s close to the developed world and also close to the developing world,” Tol said. “That can be both an advantage and a challenge.”
MUN team members are part of a class that is offered each Spring semester by the Department of Political Science and is sponsored by the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship Studies. The MUN is one of the most successful intercollegiate teams at FIU and is funded by Student Government and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.
Admission to the team is competitive. All finalists are interviewed by John F. Stack Jr., director of the Gordon Institute.
“The MUN experience highlights team work and strengthens research, writing, and advocacy capabilities,” Stack said. “This year we have a terrific group of talented and highly motivated students.”
MUN competitions offer students an opportunity to experience the challenges of international negotiation and diplomacy. Throughout the conferences, students work within UN rules and regulations and tackle global issues such as nuclear proliferation, global warming, and drug trafficking.
Participants work together toward a common goal of furthering international awareness and building consensus. In the spirit of the mission of the United Nations as declared in its 1945 charter, the goal of the program is to provide a forum where constructive debate can lead to solutions.
To prepare, FIU students spend months researching detailed knowledge of their country’s history, economics, politics, culture and society, as well as relations with its neighbors and other states. The intense training regimen also includes hours of speech labs where students learn formal and informal debating within the UN framework.
“I believe it’s a wonderful learning experience,” Tol said. “You really become part of the United Nations.”
A photo of the team is available at http://news.fiu.edu/releases/2008/images/model_UN_03-17-08.jpg
Madeline Baró, 305-348-2234 or firstname.lastname@example.org