By Jessi Rucker
Mercy’s own Model United Nations team participated in the weeklong Model UN conference with 5,000 other college students from around the world this April.
Mercy’s MUN team is made up of students enrolled in the feeder course, International Organization, in which they spent all semester preparing to represent their country, Togo, as its delegation.
“It was a lot of work but I learned a lot so it was well worth it,” said co-captain of the MUN team, Gulmina Mahmud, Mercy Senior and Political Science Major who has always had an interest in the UN.
Togo, which most of the stu
dents hadn’t heard of until it was assigned to them is a small Sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Togo, like many other nations in Africa, suffers many social and economic hardships and Mercy’s MUN team were required to write position papers prior to the conference in hopes to not just bring awareness but offer plans of action, as would actual delegates.
“‘As diplomats-in-training’ for a semester, students learn a number of skills with lifelong benefits: speaking, writing, researching, budgeting, negotiating, criticizing constructively, teamwork, and sometimes getting by on limited amounts of sleep for a good cause,” said Frederick Shiels, Professor of Political Science and History, and coach of the MUN team for the last 25 years.
The team stayed at the New York City Sheraton Hotel for five days and four nights during the conference, sponsored by Mercy College. The team met with other students, taking on the role as delegates at the United Nations Headquarters all week. There were long meetings and presentations from the actual United Nations by day and organized social events every night. The last night there was a delegate dance where the students were rewarded for all their hard work.
“People really had a blast. We were able to meet and mingle with people from all over the world,” said Mahmud.
Before attending the MUN conference, Mercy’s team visited the Permanent Mission of Togo in midtown Manhattan to learn
about Togo’s position on global issues, it’s culture and the help they need from the international community. The mission’s Second Counselor, M.W. Yagninim and its Deputy Chief, Kouko Mbuendo offered specific advice to the students on arms control, the African development bank and a global quality of life.
“This experience helped me tremendously by getting exposure to global issues that, at first, I did not take seriously, such as human rights,” said Charlie Hammond, finance major and member of the Mercy MUN team.
The team was broken into subcommittees, which focused on issues important to Togo such as access to clean water, sanitation and health care, and the encour
agement of women’s roles in entrepreneurship.
“I was attracted to the opportunity because I have always been interested in developmental work and now I’ve learned the best ways to tackle extensive issues,” said Mahmud. “I hope to take part in the creation of a school in North Pakistan some day. That’s where I’m from so it is dear to my heart and I understand the lack of education there.”
Mahmud expresses a new found appreciation for the U.S. from what she has learned about other nations through the course, but has also been inspired on an international level by Shiels, who she refers to as “passionate and in tune with the rest of the world.”
In assistance to Shiels,
Michiko Kuroda, who worked at the UN for 30 years in posts in Geneva, Sudan and East Timor was a great addition to the Mercy UN team, according to Mahmud. Kuroda served the Mercy team as a UN class scholar-in-residence while also volunteering for the Mercy’s Conflict Resolution certificate program.
Many of the members this year are made up of aspiring lawyers. Past members and captains haven’t only been political science majors, but majoring in history, business and journalism as well. The course is designed for students interested in politics or international affairs and relations.
The MUN course is only offered in the spring because it is scheduled leading up to the MUN conference, which is only held in April of every year.
“I would take it again if I wasn’t going to graduate in the fall,” says Mahmud who recommends the course not just for the experience but as a good addition to their college transcripts or resume. “It was a great experience.”