Equatorial Guinea may be almost seven thousand miles from Tomball, but this spring, four Lone Star College-Tomball students intellectually bridged that gap when they took part in the Model United Nations (MUN) in New York City, representing the west African country as part of a group, which also included students from LSC-Kingwood and LSC-Montgomery, that was named Outstanding Delegation for the first time in the 9-year history of LSCS participation in the event. Additionally, the LSC-Tomball participants penned two of the delegation’s five total positions papers recognized as Outstanding. Its success placed the delegation in the top 12% of over 200 schools and 5000 students participating from all over the world.
Over the years, LSC-Tomball has represented countries from all over the world. Last fall, participating institutions were assigned the country on whose behalf they will negotiate. In the months leading up to the convention in March, students researched issues relevant to the country they would represent. At the convention, model delegates sat on model versions of the committees on which their assigned country serves and represent the country’s interests. This year, native people’s rights, racism, and xenophobia were all issues that the students were called upon to address in the committees on which they represented Equatorial Guinea. “Whatever role Equatorial Guinea takes, the students take,” said Dr. Sean Tiffee, LSC-Tomball speech professor and MUN co-advisor. “It gives them the opportunity to not only learn about the issues writ large, but also to explore completely different perspectives, perspectives different from their own, but also different from those usually associated with the United States.”
Stevi McRoberts, an LSC-Tomball student since 2013, aspiring biomedical Informatics scholar, and co-author, along with Alan Abbott, of a UN Environmental Programme Committee position paper, said, “As an American we do not fully understand the severity of the issue because the problem is not a problem in the United States. I believe the United Nations as a whole is imperative. It provides countries a forum to communicate their agenda and establish their position on certain issues.” Stevi was also awarded a position of responsibility on the dais, an honor among attendees. “I am blessed that I had the opportunity to broaden my perspective and get a firm grasp on the process of International relations. This experience has made me appreciate what I have and pay attention to what’s going on in the world.”
Over the course of four days, students worked with other delegations in formal sessions, presenting and debating the two-page position papers the students had prepared in teams of two. They worked in informal sessions where they caucused with other country representatives to write resolutions which were then voted on to be put forward to the General Assembly, an achievement the LSC-Tomball delegation’s resolutions accomplished. On the final day of the event, the delegations convened in the actual United Nations assembly hall where the nominated resolutions are voted upon. “All of our resolutions were approved,” Tiffee said.
The LSC-Tomball MUN initiative is a joint project between the Speaking Excellence Center and the Language and Culture Center. Co-advisor David Birch, government professor and director of the Language and Culture Center, said, “Over the last year, we’ve built upon the success of previous delegations, pooled various resources and capitalized on the dedication of this particular group to put together an outstanding delegation.”
This was the second year of participation for political science major Kaylin Arnold, who began attending LSC-Tomball classes as a dual credit student. The position paper she co-authored with Marlaina Holiman for the General Assembly III Committee was recognized as Outstanding. Her participation in MUN brought about a change in her opinion of the effectiveness of the United Nations. “I actually wrote a paper on the UN's effectiveness in my English class when I first did NMUN last year. I went into MUN with the mindset that the UN was useless; they're all about peace and security and there doesn't seem to be an overflowing abundance of that in the world. Since I joined MUN, though, my opinion has changed vastly!” She cites particular examples that have helped shift her perspective, “Last year, I worked on stopping terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and this year I worked on eliminating racial discrimination. Both topics were absolutely incredible! There's such a desperate need in the world for change and immediate action. I fully believe that the UN can be a part of that.”
Kaylin was invited to attend an actual United Nations press conference with the UN press secretary where she was permitted to formally ask a question that will be entered onto the official transcript of the day. “National Model United Nations has been the most incredible experience of my life. It has shaped me into a more able public-speaker, researcher and an altogether driven global citizen,” she said. “It has been tremendously life-changing and I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities.”
Over 65% of participating students in the event were from international schools, many of them post graduate students studying foreign policy who plan to pursue diplomacy as a career. “Yet, only the University of Munich did as well as our delegation,” Dr. Tiffee noted. “Our students performed better than those from the likes of the University of Vienna, University College-Dublin, and the European School of Economics. Kaylin, Marlaina, Alan, and Stevi were able to accomplish this feat through a lot of hard work, building bridges across the System with their delegation mates, and across the world with their fellow committee members on the day. They should be commended for their diplomatic and collaboration skills. They represented LSC-Tomball in spectacular fashion.”