By Jo Kadlecek
Last year it was Tanzania. In years past it was Angola, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia. This year? Gabon.
The Gordon tradition—to represent an African country—brought 17 student “delegates” together to represent Gabon at the 57th Session of the Harvard National Model United Nations. The 2011 Model UN took place February 17–20 at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston and included more than 3,000 college students from around the world, representing 35 nations.
“The Model UN provides an amazing opportunity to give our ideas practical expression,” said David Lumsdaine, professor of political science, who was this year’s advisor to the Model UN. (Paul Brink, associate professor of political science and regular Model UN advisor is on sabbatical this semester.) “Students interact with people from all over the world—literally and figuratively—and represent the needs of their own ‘country’ as best as they can.”
After a comprehensive application process, this year’s selected Gordon delegation consisted of a mix of majors from international affairs and political studies to music and philosophy. The students spent weeks in Lumsdaine’s International Development class researching specific issues germane to Gabon, a West African country that borders Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo. They were then placed on various committees that focused on a range of challenges—from international security or African union to social humanitarian efforts or the world health organization—and spent the semester preparing for four days of intense debate around those issues.
Gordon student leaders James Cassell ’11, a political science and music double major from Simi Valley, California, and Rachel Ashley ’12, a political science and biblical studies double major from Lowville, New York, were selected by their peers as the 2011 Gordon team leaders. Cassell had been a part of the Model UN for the past three years and said the experience and the class guaranteed growth, learning and global awareness all in one.
“At very few other places can I tackle African natural resource management with someone from Kosovo and eat lunch afterwards with a person from Venezuela,” Cassell said. “Being a head delegate has also taught me invaluable lessons because leading such a smart group keeps me on my toes and conscious of the team’s purpose and direction. All in all, the Model UN experience—both here and at the conference itself—is where the merging of sound academia and diplomatic application occurs.”
Ashley agreed. “Harvard Model United Nations is comparable to a huge international social experiment. Within the context of competition, the experiment becomes rather edgy,” she said. “But it was a pleasure to watch each delegate grow in confidence, and I am honored to have been a leader and a part of such a talented delegation.”
Lumsdaine said the Model UN experience challenges students to think and work in new ways concerning their country and the issues facing them as well as develop skills required for politics and diplomacy. Corinne Ventura ’11, a political science major from Cahoes, New York, said that attending and participating in the Harvard Model United Nations was both an exhilarating and profound experience for her.
“You live and breathe four days of debate, negotiation, and a healthy supply of international perspective,” Ventura said. “Gordon is privileged to participate in this annual conference as it fully supports the institution’s goal of seeking international justice in the context of our Christian worldview.”
Other 2011 Gordon delegates included: Chris Gavrielidis ’14, a political science and biblical and theological studies double major from Marshfield, Massachusetts; Tim Synan ’14, a political science and international affairs double major from Reading, Massachusetts; David Denison ’11, an international affairs and philosophy double major from Windsor, Colorado; Jacob Wagner ’11, a political science major from Andover, New Hampshire; Naama Mendes ’13, an international affairs and economics double major from Medford, Massachusetts; Rachel Keller ’11, a biology major from Wethersfield, Connecticut; Emily Hutchings ’12, an international affairs and business administration double major from Windham, New Hampshire; Dawn Cianci ’14, an international affairs and philosophy double major from Clovis, California; Maggie Austen ’11, a secondary education and history double major from Lindenhurst, New York; Phillip Valdes ’14, a political science major from Upland, California; Deborah Devenney ’11, a communication arts major from East Haddam, Connecticut; Theresa Bennett ’12, an international affairs major from Mesa, Arizona; Jacqueline Benton ’13, an international affairs and sociology double major from Manchester, Connecticut; and Lorenza Bronkhorst ’13, an international affairs major from Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“My only regret is not having done more conferences,” said Cassell. “Let that speak for how much I’ve enjoyed my Model UN experience.”
Gordon College is a multidenominational Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston’s North Shore, offering majors in 38 fields with graduate programs in education and music education. Gordon is nationally recognized for excellence in academics and in character building, and ranks as one of the nation’s top Christian colleges. www.gordon.edu