November 19, 2007
Randolph Students Run Model European Union, Prepare for Model United Nations
Randolph College students at the Portuguese Embassy, following a briefing with Antonio Calado Lopes, economic counselor.
When the 2007 Model European Union (E.U.) closed, the Randolph College delegation did not win any of the coveted awards. They weren’t eligible.
As the delegation representing Portugal, Randolph students were in charge of running the show. That in itself was their award, a testament to the respect that the Randolph program has gained over the past few years.
The president of the European Commission is Portuguese, and Portugal happened to also hold the six-month rotating E.U. Presidency. That made the Portuguese assignment one of the most demanding in terms of advance preparation and conference leadership.
“I knew it was a big step up when we requested Portugal,” said advisor Jennifer Abbassi, associate professor of political science. “We had a team loaded with four-year veteran delegates, so I knew that they were up to the challenge.”
The 15th Annual Mid-Atlantic European Union Simulation, held Nov. 15-17 in Washington, DC, focused on the environment and climate change.
Mekhala Chaubal ’08 served as president of the European Union Commission (E.U.C.), the group’s governing council. She worked with other commissioners (via e-mail and Facebook) prior to the conference to draft the document which would drive the debates. She also headed up the commission sessions, playing the role and assuming the political personality of the real E.U.C. president José Manuel Barroso.
In fact, every delegate plays the role of a real-life political figure, becoming their “alter ego.” This requires extensive research on that person’s profiles, voting records, resolutions, position papers, articles, and even drilling down to schooling, background, and personal interests.
“We met with a consultant at the Portuguese Embassy, who knew everyone’s alter ego,” said Chaubal. “He gave us tips on how each person would act, like ‘this person’s really aloof’ or ‘this person is very assertive in debate.’ He also advised us on where Portugal would stand on the nuances of various issues.”
Unlike most other students at the conference, Randolph’s contingent was not there as part of a class. Rather, it was an extracurricular activity. That doesn’t mean it isn’t competitive. About 18 students applied for the nine spots on the delegation. Some of those not selected this year stayed on as research assistants and will be well prepared to apply for next year’s team. The team met for two hours every Sunday night since the semester began to prepare and research.
“This really plays to the strengths of our students,” said Abbassi. “It takes confidence and preparation. You have to really lead and think.”
One student, Emily Miller, was a Member of Parliament (M.E.P.) on the Climate Change Committee. Though this was her first conference, she was elected vice-chair of her committee and helped facilitate sometimes fractious debate.
“You have to have the confidence to speak in a large room and to stand your ground diplomatically,” Chaubal reflected.
Next year, Randolph will represent the United Kingdom, a major influence and power player in the E.U.
Many of the same students will take part in the National Model United Nations Conference this spring in New York City as part of the political science class, “Global Issues at United Nations,” taught by Abbassi. This year, Randolph will represent Guatemala. Like the Model E.U. delegation, this group is also highly selective with nearly 35 students competing for 16 slots. The 2007 Model U.N. team won awards for Distinguished Delegation, Outstanding Position Papers, and Outstanding Delegate in Committee (Matea Osti ’08).
“Model European Union and the Model United Nations are both great ways for students to strengthen their diplomacy skills and put into practice what they have researched,” said Abbassi. “Both are open to any student, regardless of major or class year. It’s competitive, requiring an application and references.”
Students interested in Model E.U. and Model U.N. should contact Jennifer Abbassi, Chair of Global Studies, email@example.com , x8543.