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UWRF students attend conference to debate global issues

April 22, 2010

The Arrowhead Model UN Conference (AMUNC) was held April 15-18, at UW-River Falls and included the largest group of competitors UWRF has fielded in some time.

“The 21 participants, that’s the most we’ve had in my time here,” political science Professor Wes Chapin said. “Usually we only have 10 or 11 students.”

Chapin attributed the increase in interest to UWRF hosting the event as well as the opportunity to learn about serious topics in an unusual setting.

“There are certainly a lot of students who enjoy the debates about real issues as opposed to sitting in a classroom listening to a professor lecture about them,” he said.

Chapin is also the UWRF International Relations Club advisor and an AMUNC secretariat. 

The top award went for best delegation went to the contingent from UW-Eau Claire who represented the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

UWRF delegate Matt Dale took honorable mention in the Security Council debates while fellow UWRF student Tom Justesen was nominated for best delegate on the Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee.

UWRF senior and International Relations Club Secretary Beth Biagi said in an e-mail that though the group meant many new faces to the competition, UWRF represented itself well.

“Everyone did their part to study their country, prepare speeches and participate,” she said. “We all had a ton of fun in the process.  One of our strengths was confidence. 

It can be a rather daunting task at first to improvise speeches in front of 60 some students, especially when you know you are being judged.”

The conference consisted of 310 student delegates from 20 colleges and universities.  The majority of participants traveled from Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin. 

In addition, two institutions, the Ghana Union of Professional Students and the University of Ibadan from Nigeria, came all the way from Africa, according to a program put together for the participants.

According to the AMUNC Web site, the conference is modeled after an actual United Nations conference. 

Students are given countries to represent along with real-world issues facing their assigned countries and are asked to draft resolutions to the problems.  After several days of debate the conference wraps up with a large general assembly meeting involving all the event’s participants.

Though the conference is designed to give students a feel for the real UN and provide them with experience debating tough issues, Chapin said they often take away much more.

“Many students develop lasting friendships with students from other universities,” he said.

Biagi said the AMUNC conference provided her with a better understanding of how much give-and-take goes into the UN decision-making process, among other things.

“I will take away from this experience a better understanding of how complex global issues actually are,” she said. “It is really something when you put away your personal bias and find yourself understanding why countries act the way they do. This experience will definitely help me as I will be graduating this fall with a double major in political science and international studies. I want to devote my life’s work to solving domestic and possibly international issues.  By participating in the AMUNC conference I got a chance to experience how policies are made, revised and agreed upon, as well as rejected, at the global level.”

AMUNC was founded in 1975 by multiple schools in the upper Midwest and central Canada looking to further their students’ knowledge on international issues, according to the conference’s Web site. 

The conference derives its name from Minnesota’s Arrowhead region which was a central location for the founding institutions, which according to Chapin, included UWRF.

The host school is rotated through the UW System and the Minnesota state colleges and universities, Chapin said.  It’s typically held in one of the two states because they are a central location for participants who often travel from Michigan, Canada and the Dakotas.