Model UN gives students shot at International diplomacy

Model United Nations (MUN) allows OU students to step into the shoes of another country and debate worldwide issues.

These students get a chance to learn about the United Nations (UN), an international organization that works to maintain peace and security.  

The club was started in 2008 by Paul Kubicek, professor of political science. Each student learns about a country and pretends to be a representative from that country. Different countries participate in discussions that pertain to them.

“[Participants] assume a different role and learn about multiple perspectives on issues,” Kubicek said.

The club replicates recent international debates.

The club had two debates in Fireside Lounge last week. One was about Israel and Palestine and one was on climate change and food security. Students could watch the debate and ask questions after.

MUN isn’t specific to OU – it’s international. Students can participate in conferences all over the world.

This year, OU’s MUN will participate in two conferences. From Nov. 5-8, the club will debate in Ohio at the Lake Erie International Model UN conference. Second semester, members will travel to Toronto for the North American Model UN conference.

Adam Derington, a senior studying history and political science and a MUN at OU member, went to the Toronto conference during the winter 2015 semester.

“It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had,” he said.

He is excited to represent China at the Ohio conference and said he learned so much from the last conference.

“It blends so many different skills,” he said, including how to be open and communicative.

Derington also said it’s interesting to learn about and voice opinions that aren’t necessarily your own.  

Alexa James, a senior studying international relations and the president of OU’s MUN said the club also helps with research skills. Participants must be prepared to discuss a range of topics.

“You never know where the debate’s going to go,” she said.

A student could debate for eight to ten hours a day at the conference, James said. But that doesn’t seem to discourage participants.

“International politics is my passion,” James said. “To me, it’s a fun weekend vacation.”

Kubicek said preparation for a conference is crucial. He has seen debates go off the rails because someone didn’t research.

“It can throw the whole committee off,” he said.

Even with the occasional ill-prepared student, Kubicek said participants get a good understanding of how the UN works.

“It captures the essence of the UN,” Kubicek said.

During the winter 2016 semester, OU’s MUN will host a conference for high school students for the first time. 250 students are registered. The conference will take place on Feb. 26 and 27 and will be run similarly to a college conference.

Because MUN requires a lot of dedication, students must take a class with Kubicek the first semester that they are involved. They learn debate procedures and improve their research skills. Returning members don’t have to officially sign up for the class, but it serves as the club’s meeting place and time.

All of this prep work pays off – OU students regularly win awards at conferences, Kubicek said.