Spotlight on Model UN
Senior Ben Seigel has spent two years with the Towson Model United Nations, helping plan and participate in the conference and assisting Towson and high school students understand international politics.
“I always find the creative solutions that the delegates come up with really interesting,” he said. “For example, last year North Korea attempted to pitch universal communism. I like seeing how the students work with the system we built and seeing how they try to find real solutions to real problems.”
The 2013 conference was Friday and Saturday, and students from Towson and other schools in the Baltimore County area were transformed into delegates of a UN country. Teams of two from each of the participating 11 high schools represented a country in the UN.
Every year, the UN attempts to develop a solution to a hot button issue in the General Assembly. This year’s topic focused on “combating transnational organized crime,” like human trafficking, drug trafficking and illicit firearms trade. Associate professor in the department of political science Alison McCartney said the goal is to create meaningful interaction among the college and outside students. She also said the MUN model helps students academically. Students who assist with the conference must first pass a Civic Engagement and International Affairs class, offered each fall semester, with a grade of B or higher.
“It’s about deepening research skills to prepare for post-grad education and careers,” McCartney said. “The students need to show not only that they have advanced skills, but also a deep interest to get into grad schools. I hope they get an understanding of how they can take the knowledge they are getting in classes and through research and learn to apply it to a community setting.”
The discussion-based class focuses on the role of the citizen in society and current issues on the General Assembly docket that fall, McCartney said. Members of the class also conduct a research project on an association of the UN, which they then present at a Baltimore County high school class participating in the conference.
Social studies teacher at Catonsville High School Robin Crèmen said that she appreciated the research project that was presented to her classes.
“It was really an in-depth lesson on one topic,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had time to otherwise cover that topic.”
Sophomore political science major and Towerlight contributor Rachel Eldringhoff said the civic engagement class taught her “how important it is to be politically involved and inform people about spreading the word by looking at history.”
TU students assisted with the General Assembly by passing notes between countries as they tried to gain allies. Among the chaos, the high school students must also pay attention to the speaker proposing his or her solution while asking questions and debating.
“There are so many different ways to excel here,” Cremen said. “Whether you’re good at writing, public speaking or if you just have a good understanding of international relations.”
Catonsville High School sophomore Nadia West, representing the United Kingdom, said that she learned more about politics and what the UN does. She said that after conducting research she was surprised to learn how many nations depend on the UK and how much is expected from the country.
“When passing notes to different countries we want to focus on nations we have an alliance with and ones we want to gain an alliance with, such as Italy,” she said. “[The conference] is helping me get a better understanding of other country’s problems and how they affect other nations.”
Some Towson students also act as school coaches for teams by attending after-school meetings and helping high school students prepare for every aspect of the conference. Before coming to the conference, the teams attended a workshop training day in November.