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CSUSB Model UN Team Earns Top Awards at Canada Conference

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By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– The Cal State San Bernardino Model United Nations team spent its Thanksgiving holiday at Banff National Park for the 2017 National Model UN-Canada Conference, and brought home top awards for its efforts.

The team, representing the United States for the first time in the history of the program, earned a Distinguished Delegation Award, and in two of the four committees it participated in, team members earned Outstanding Delegate Awards:

  • UN General Assembly — McKenzie Kelly (social science and globalization master’s student and teaching credential program double major) and Eric Lowe (social science and globalization master’s major); and
  • UN Environmental Assembly — Rama Al-Shreteh (mathematics and biology double major) and Jeffrey Hutchison (global studies major).

The National Model UN’s criteria for its awards include “remaining in character, participating in committee, and proper use of the rules of procedure.”

“This is a huge accomplishment for our program for a wide range of reasons,” said Kevin Grisham, the program’s faculty adviser and associate professor of geography and environmental studies. “First, we represented the United States, which given the current policies being adopted by the current administration made it incredibly difficult to represent our own country. This is particularly true given the thematic focus of the conference — indigenous issues and climate change.

“Second, only two of the eight students from the team had ever competed at an international NMUN conference and three of the eight had never done Model UN until this conference,” Grisham said. “Lastly, due to one of our team members not being able to get a visa to Canada (i.e., he is an international student from Pakistan studying at our campus), we had to move team members around to different committees two days before we departed.

“With all of these challenges and the high caliber of students from around the globe they were competing against, their win is incredible and one of the largest accomplishments in the 42-year history of our program and the 10 years I have directed the program,” he said.

Past participants in the Model United Nations program have said the simulations gave them real-life experiences in diplomacy and relationship building. Some program graduates have embarked on careers in diplomacy, while others have gone on to prestigious graduate programs, such as the Harvard School of Law.

The student delegates arrived in Banff National Park Nov. 19, and the next day participated in a hike through a snowy Johnston Canyon in the park and rode a gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. More than just a sightseeing trip, it provided the students the opportunity to gain “a greater and deeper understanding of sustainability and the need to combat climate change,” Grisham said.

Before the conference formal opening ceremony on Nov. 21, the student delegates participated in a seminar on issues faced by indigenous peoples, including a session on the ongoing cases of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada, led by activist and artist Stephanie Harpe.

“Through hand-on workshops about the plight of First Nations peoples in Canada and globally and participating in a smudging ceremony with local First Nations elders, our students gained an education about issues facing indigenous communities that I don’t think they could have ever gained in a classroom setting,” Grisham said.

“Many of the students were moved to tears as they learned about residential schools in Canada and the tragedy associated with them and the previous policy of assimilation. All of these will be lessons these students will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Grisham said. “For myself, as a person whose family are First Nations peoples who are from this area (Blackfoot), it allowed me to educate the students even more using my own families’ history.”

The CSUSB Model UN program will soon begin preparations for the 2018 National Model United Nations Conference in New York, where its delegates will represent Jamaica and the non-governmental organization Save the Children. The New York conference attracts student delegates from throughout the world; more than 5,000 students from more than 32 countries from six of the world’s seven continents annually participate.

To learn more about the Model United Nations program, which is housed in the university’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, visit the NMUN website.

To learn more about the CSUSB Model UN program, or to contribute, contact Kevin Grisham at kgrisham@csusb.edu or (909) 537-7569.

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