Developing countries' struggle to balance growth and environmentalism. Improving international cooperation. Defusing regional tensions. Reducing poverty in the Third World. These sorts of topics are the stuff not only of the actual United Nations, but also of its college equivalent, the model UN. Ioli Christopoulou '02, one of several dozen MHC women who participate in model UN conferences, says Mount Holyoke will send a delegation to the national UN conference to be held March 30 - April 3 in New York City. At the nationals, students will interact as representatives of the African countries Chad and Malawi.
Participation means much more than just attending a gathering, Christopoulou said. Each person is assigned to represent a particular country and area of interest (such as space exploration, peace and security topics, or population control). Then students research the country and their area of expertise and come prepared to give informed presentations and make persuasive arguments on behalf of their country's positions. "It's fun to feel like a real diplomat," Christopoulou said, "and we learn so much that we don't learn in classes." Amrita Maini '01, chair of the model UN at Mount Holyoke, says the group develops students' "people skills, convincing skills, and public speaking skills. You grow in your ability to speak, to think on your feet, and to get your point across."
Students can earn two course credits for participating in the model UN. In addition to the independent research on the issues and countries they'll represent at conferences, students meet as a group for three hours weekly. The class, taught last semester by politics professor Vincent Ferraro and this semester by professor M.J. Peterson of UMass, discusses current affairs issues, parliamentary procedure, and effective speaking as well as the United Nations itself.
Christopoulou added that interest in the model UN at Mount Holyoke has grown since five women started a campus chapter four years ago. The College sent between thirty and forty people to a conference at UPenn. last semester.