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World Lessons: Juniata College Mixes Learning and Politics at High School Model UN Conference

(Posted November 1, 2004)


HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Area high school students will debate and discuss, depending upon the outcome of the presidential election, how President George W. Bush or President-elect John Kerry will approach the Iraq war and other pressing foreign policy issues, Monday, Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in various campus locations, as part of a Model United Nations conference for local high school students sponsored by Juniata College.

"The National Security Council meeting will be challenging for everybody involved in the conference because we can't prepare arguments until we know which candidate has won the election on Nov. 2," says Emil Nagengast, associate professor of politics at Juniata. "If President Bush wins it will be interesting to see how the students will approach the ongoing war; if John Kerry wins we might see some interesting ideas for coalition-building or withdrawal."

In addition, the conference also will feature the participation of a group of five students who are part of the U.S. State Department-sponsored Partnership for Learning Undergraduate Studies (PLUS), a program where Muslim students from North African and Middle East nations study at colleges across the country. Students from Palestine, Morocco (two students), Syria and Kurdish Iraq will participate.

Fouad Touzani, an international student from Morocco, will serve as a co-chair of the U.N. Security Council session, and Kurdo Othman, a Kurdish international student from northern Iraq will work on the Special Committee on Israel-Palestine. "High school students prepare very well to debate these issues, but the international students have a deep understanding of these Middle East issues that will really connect with the high school students," says Sarah Kimmerle, a senior from Allentown, Pa.

More than 170 students on teams from Altoona Area High School, Huntingdon Area High School, Bellefonte Area High School, Lewistown Area High School, Indian Valley High School, Mansfield Junior/Senior High School, the Milton Hershey School, St. John's School at Prospect Hall, Williamsport High School, Wyoming Seminary and B. Reed Henderson High School (in West Chester, Pa.) will attend the one-day event.

Nagengast says a model U.N. conference gives high school students and their teachers a chance to participate in simulated international negotiations and diplomatic role-playing. Students in high school United Nations clubs are given background briefing materials 30 days before the conference. Each club is assigned a country or countries to represent and given assignments to participate in other United Nations organizations such as the Security Council or the World Health Organization.

"The Juniata students work hard to get the younger students working together in these smaller groups to increase participation," Nagengast explains. "Often times if you have a large general assembly just a few strong voices dominate the proceedings.'

The Model U.N. conference will include a session of the National Security Council addressing "U.S. Foreign Policy," with Juniata sophomore Ben Waxman, of Erdenheim, Pa., standing in for Pres. George W. Bush or President-elect Kerry. The United Nations Security Council session will address "The Sudan Crisis."

Other sessions and topics include: the Disarmament and International Security Committee, "Chemical and Biological Weapons;" the United Nations Environment Program, "Global Warming;" the Special Committee on Israel and Palestine, "Israel-Palestine Policy;" and the Committee for Human Rights will meet on "Women's Rights." A Special session will meet on "United Nations Reform" and there will be a Special China/U.S. Trade Summit.

The conference is sponsored and staged by the Juniata College Model United Nations Club. About 35 Juniata students will participate in the events and oversee the various committees and sessions. The student secretary general for the conference is Sarah Kimmerle, a senior from Allentown, Pa. At the end of the day, each committee will choose a Best Delegate Award as well as several Outstanding Delegate Awards.

The regional Model U.N. conference is in its sixth consecutive year at Juniata. The Juniata students serving as committee chairs are: National Security Council: Ben Waxman a sophomore from Erdenheim, Pa.; Disarmament: Jon Hoey, a senior from Selinsgrove, Pa.; U.N. Security Council: Magda Sarnowska, a sophomore international student from Poland; U.N. Environmental Program: Gabriel Lopez Escalante, a freshman international student from Ecuador.; U.N. Development Program: Amie Park, a sophomore from Port Matilda, Pa., and Colleen Dubrey, a freshman from Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Committee for Human Rights: Emila Brkic, a senior from Bosnia Herzegovina; Special Committee on Israel and Palestine: Javaid Zeerak, a junior from Afghanistan now living in Woodbridge Va.; Special S.S./China Trade Summit: Jeremy Weber, a senior from Mohnton, Pa. and Special Committee on U.N. Reform: Gareth Walker, a non-degree student from Sudbury, Pa. and Matt Drexler, a senior from Pottstown, Pa.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.