While there’s no guarantee that any of the students participating in GRU’s Model United Nations program will end up being elected president of the United States or voted in as secretary-general of the UN, at least they stand a chance, which is more than you can say for those who aren’t a part of the program.
“I think every UN secretary-general has been in a Model UN program,” said Dr. Craig Albert, Assistant Professor of Political Science and the program’s director. “And I think something like 80 percent of modern-day U.S. presidents have been a part of it as well.”
Next week, 6,000 of these future world leaders from over 50 countries will converge on New York City to participate in the National Model United Nations, and GRU’s group will be right in the thick of it.
Run in joint partnership with the political science department and the study away program, the Model UN program is a three-credit class that runs the full 16-week semester and culminates with the trip to New York, where each program represents a particular member nation of the real UN.
This year, GRU is representing Palestine and will have a 90-minute briefing with the Palestinian Permanent Observer Mission.
Albert chooses – and gets – countries at the epicenter of world affairs. In 2012, GRU represented Iran.
“Three years ago, we met up with the Iranian embassy in New York, which was fantastic,” he said. “We went to their building, so technically, we were in the sovereign territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They gave us the whole spiel, and the students could see right through the propaganda.”
Once the students get to the conference, they have to remain in character throughout negotiations of a United Nations resolution.
“They start their session in New York at 7 a.m., and they finish at 11 p.m.,” Albert said. “It’s a full ambassadorial day – no break. In fact, they have rules that if another delegate wants to negotiate at 3 a.m. and they know your room number, that stuff’s allowed, just like in the real United Nations.”
One of the class requirements is that students attend every class in full business attire, which helps promote a sense of solidarity among the participants while preparing them for the long days in New York.
“Every time we meet, they have to be fully ‘ambassadored-up,’” he said. “Because a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be in an eight-hour meeting with a suit on.”
The strategy seems to work. GRU has racked up 17 international awards in four years, including a few best overall delegate awards, several position paper awards, and a regular appearance in the top three of participating programs.
In October, GRU hosted its first middle school Model United Nations, creating a kind of feeder system Albert hopes will benefit both the program as well as the school.
“Hopefully, the kids will develop an affinity for GRU from their experience here,” he said. “If they do the middle school Model United Nations, in three to five years we hope to roll out a high school Model United Nations, and those same kids could participate in that. And then, when they know we have a college team and a college program, why wouldn’t they just come right here, since they’re so familiar with it?”
Participating at the college level is not cheap, however. Because the program is run through the study away program, the cost is $1,800, which covers the transportation to New York and six nights at a Times Square hotel, but is still very expensive, considering that some students choose to participate more than once.
“Hopefully, in three or four years, the program can be a self-funding type of activity, which means I can really help all demographics of students,” Albert said.
Because of that, Albert is hoping to put the money raised by putting on the middle school Model UN into a scholarship to make the opportunity more affordable to all students.
Donations made out to the Center for Public Service: Foundation Account #29191 can be sent to Dr. Craig Albert, 2500 Walton Way, Department of Political Science, Augusta, GA, 30904.