by SAMANTHA GEBERT
Patrick Henry College
After months of anticipation and preparation, the new PHC Model UN class took an “extended fieldtrip” to New York City last week to participate in the 2007 National Model United Nations conference as delegates representing the Ukraine. The twenty-six PHC students spent the five day conference playing the roles of UN diplomats along with 2,000 other students from 270 universities all over the United States and the world.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the UN, it’s a pretty strong institution and it’s here to stay,” said NMUN Head Delegate Kirk Anderson, a junior at PHC. “Just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn about it.”
|The 2007 Patrick Henry College NMUN Delegation in New York City|
According to Cheryl Banks, assistant to PHC Provost Edward Veith and coordinator of the Model UN trip, the Model UN program serves to give students an international perspective. “As an NMUN delegate, the students are not representing themselves or their personal views. They aren't even representing the school. They have to see themselves as a delegate of the country they are representing, in our case Ukraine. Putting themselves in the position of a Ukranian gives them a different perspective of the world, and possibly even the UN, an institution that most people have a strong opinion about, good or bad."
In order to accurately represent the Ukraine to the UN, PHC students extensively studied the history, culture, policies, and politics of the Ukraine, as well as the purpose, procedures, and methods of the UN. Once at the conference, the PHC delegates worked within their twelve committees to write resolutions and reports that accurately reflected UN goals and Ukrainian policies.
“It was definitely an interesting educational experience,” commented Stewart Lundy, a sophomore and Political Theory major at PHC who attended the conference. “I learned that the UN’s goals are utterly idealistic and that they have no authority. Everything about it is based on will and consent. They ‘urge,’ ‘exhort,’ and ‘encourage’ people, but they have no power to enforce, correct, or penalize.”
Dr. Veith, Provost at PHC, said that he fully supports the program and sees it as worthy academic pursuit. “PHC’s education philosophy includes both knowledge and application,” said Dr. Veith, who accompanied the students to New York when Dr. Roeder, academic advisor for the class, was unable to attend. “Model UN teaches application. It isn’t exactly reality, but it teaches students a lot about how diplomacy and organizations work. Model UN teaches application.”
The Model UN downplays the competitive aspect of the conference and awards, and instead encourages delegates to work together and stay in character as a delegate of their country. To the surprise of the whole class, PHC did not win awards this year, but according to Dr. Veith, a lot of the same countries who won awards this year had won previously “which tells me that experience is important.” This is only PHC’s second conference.
Both Dr. Veith and Banks said that they were proud of and pleased with the professionalism, work, and academic abilities that the PHC students displayed at the conference. “Whenever I walked into a conference room to observe, PHC students were leading the discussions and writing the papers,” said Dr. Veith. “Everyone was gathered around them and it was their leadership that really impressed me.”
“They are good representatives of the Patrick Henry College and excellent examples of benefits of a classical liberal arts education,” observed Banks. “Each PHC student knew that they had nothing to be ashamed of, that they performed magnificently and deserved more than one award.”
PHC will continue to make itself known to the national leaders of the NMUN program, work to achieve leadership positions, and learn from past experiences. Dr. Veith commented that Model UN could be an important application of the new international relations track as PHC builds that department. He would also like to expand funding to cover meals for the students who participate and see the program eventually gain a standing at PHC similar to that of debate and moot court.