Mercyhurst students took second place in the Lake Erie International Model United Nations Conference last weekend in Huron, Ohio.
The International Organizations and Diplomacy class, taught by Lena Surzhko-Harned, Ph.D., as well as a select few students, participated in the conference, which lasted Thursday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 8.
“The political science professor Dr. Surzhko-Harned, who is also my advisor, runs the program and told me about it, encouraging me to join it. However, this semester it was part of my Poli Sci class, International Organizations and Diplomacy,” Sergio Cortes, sophomore political science major said.
Each student role-plays a specific country assigned to a particular international organization for the conference.
“In my case, I represented Latvia in the European Union. I chose Latvia because I was most comfortable with the country from previous classes,” Thomas Matheson, a junior intelligence studies major said.
Students are expected to become experts in their respective countries as well as their organization.
“As a committee we talked about tax evasion, EU defense policies, diversification of EU energy supplies and judicial cooperation in the union,” Matheson said.
The conference is a culmination of the semester’s work.
“I researched extensively on the themes my committee, The United Nations Security Council of 1973, was going to cover and the position France had on this issue, as well as researched about the ruling party in the French government to better understand my position. We also had two friendly skirmishes with other colleges and went over the rules and procedures in class,” Cortes said.
The goals are to negotiate and reach an agreement among the countries.
“For each of the those topics we had to create communiqués, which are basically resolutions,” Matheson said.
In addition to research, there are other necessary skills practiced in class.
“We prepared in class with public speaking exercises and general discussions on international organizations. We were fully responsible for the research of our countries,” Matheson said.
The conference simulates the policies and procedures used in international organizations.
“It is expected that you master the foreign policy of the country you are representing and be able to represent them and debate them effectively. Also, you must be able to know the rules and procedures of the debate and if possible use them to your advantage,” Cortes said.
Students are recognized for their preparation and hard work at the conference.
“I won the excellency award on my committee. There are two awards, the excellency award and the supremacy award. In order to win an excellency award, I believe, you must be able to excel at the debate and be one of the delegates leading the debate and passing resolutions,” Cortes said.
There is a lot of time and effort put into this unique experience, according to students.
“It was a very demanding experience but at the same time it was very rewarding. That’s something I always look for in contrast to your typical lectures and notes for an hour and a half,” Matheson said.