By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips
Founded just two years ago, the APUS Model UN Club has matured into a thriving, 160-member campus interest group. The club is also a valued Model UN representative on the national scene, even when some roadblocks threaten to prevent its participation.
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When the APUS team took home three awards at last year’s Model UN competition in Arlington, Virginia, it made an impression on Dr. Shelton Williams of the Osgood Center, which sponsored the event. He invited the team to participate in the Osgood Center’s Texas Model UN 2020 (TexMUN) at the University of Houston’s Honors College on February 7-9, 2020.
Knowing that APUS has many military students, Williams suggested that the APUS team should represent the United States.
Two Members from Last Year’s Model UN Team Were Forced to Drop Out
Faculty advisors asked two members of last year’s team to participate again and attend the Houston TexMUN. But two team members, U.S. military reservists Zach Logan and Ryan Jones, were forced to drop out just weeks before the event. They were suddenly ordered to remain on call due to international events half a world away.
That’s when faculty advisor Dr. Paula Wylie sent an all-hands SOS email to the club membership, saying, “We need your help.” She wanted to find any club members in the Houston area who could get to the University of Houston for the competition.
Marija Milan wrote back almost immediately. “I live four hours away. If you can tell me exactly where and when I have to be there, I’ll arrange child care and get there,” she said.
As Milan later explained, “I live in Louisiana, but close to the border with Texas. Since it was a weekend and I own a vehicle, it wasn’t a problem for me to drive there. I was back home Sunday by 19:00 [7 p.m.].”
New Model UN Team Members Take High Commissioner and US Delegate Roles
At the conference, Milan was assigned to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She authored and presented position papers concerning refugees and internally displaced persons in the current environment, including sustainable shelter and sustainable return and repatriation.
Also, another Houston-area alum, Nathan Zimmerman, was going to the conference to be the coach. When he arrived, Dr. Williams asked him if he would take the Security Council role as the U.S. delegate.
“As far as the UNSC conference goes,” Zimmerman said in an email, “I defended the interests of the U.S. and didn’t encounter major challenges, mostly because the U.S. is one of the biggest donors even though it’s not willing to accept refugees in large numbers.”
Zimmerman added, “All delegates were professional and friendly. The most important lesson for all of us was the importance of diplomacy and the existence of international organizations such as the United Nations.”
The team also included Bryant Ezeamama from Miami, Florida, on the General Assembly, Third Committee (GA3), and Godwin Ilabija, a member of the General Assembly, First Committee (GA1). Ezeamama’s GA3 committee discussed two topics – the inclusion of persons with disabilities – and human trafficking. Ilabija’s two issues were developments in the field of information technology and nuclear disarmament, both in the context of international security.
Experience Leaves Team Members with Fond Memories
Ilabija also has fond memories of the Model UN experience in his hometown, Houston. Ilabija said, “The challenge was quite a mouthful especially with the tight deadlines of my coursework, the demands of my regular job and of course the thick payload of UN documents I needed to scavenge through, just to get myself sufficiently [up to speed] with the relevant information about my topics and the U.S. government’s position on them.”
As Ilabija explained in an email, “Being a delegate of the USA at the TexMUN, therefore, meant that every statement I made, my demeanor, body language and the quality of my contents had to meet certain expected minimum standards.”
“This conference gave me renewed vigor and interests in State matters,” Ilabija wrote. “It expanded a great deal my cerebral capacity, especially on geopolitical and diplomatic issues.”
Ezeamama shared the same sentiments. “It was a great team effort despite the unforeseen absence of two of our team members,” he wrote. “I got a chance to learn how multilateral diplomacy is conducted. I also was able to apply knowledge and learning of international affairs in a simulation setting, which taught me a lot and gave me a chance to apply and assess my skills.”
A Great Team Effort by APUS Team Members and Faculty
In the end, the team went home with an honorable mention award, perhaps not as high as they had hoped. Considering what the team had to go through just to compete, they should have taken the gold for effort.
In its short history, the club has participated in three Model UN conferences. “That’s remarkable,” Dr. Wylie said, “because the club is just beginning.”
She added, “Our APUS Model UN Club is in a unique position to plan for a ‘Virtual Model UN,’ where students could participate wherever they are. With our recent successes and the enthusiasm of our members, I’m confident that hosting a remote Model UN is a worthwhile long-term goal.”
Dr. Mily Kao said, “The Texas conference was special in many ways. We not only formed a team and got the preparation done in a short time, but also we had an alumnus leading the group.”
“The continued success of the Model UN Club demonstrates that our school’s students can compete with their peers from brick-and-mortar schools,” added Professor James Barney. “Our students can apply what they have learned in the online classroom to various settings.”
Professor Barney admitted that it takes the students, advisors and coaches many hours to prepare for each of these conferences. “However, the positive feedback from the students about their experience at the Texas conference and their continued success validate that the time spent in preparation was a wise investment,” he said. The conference provided a rare opportunity for current students and alumni to interact, Barney added.
“The positive feedback from all participants is a great encouragement as we continue seeking opportunities to include members of the APUS community in our MUN events, ” added Dr. Kao.
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