They arrived at a Franklin & Marshall College lecture hall prepared to argue whether international intervention and foreign aid was in the United States’ interest. The two Model United Nations teams, three members each, were as ethnically and racially diverse as the campus.
As president of the club, F&M sophomore Christian Bogardus moderated the Stager Hall debate, giving participants five minutes each to make their arguments and rebuttals before the club members in attendance asked questions of the team members.
“On my right, we have those in favor of foreign intervention and aid,” Bogardus said. “On my left, we have those against it.”
From the right, first-year Ali Husaini started; he took the podium to cite examples of successful American intervention including eradication of many diseases in the world.
“We’re living in a globalized world,” Husaini said. “We’re not living in a world where one country’s disease stays in that one country.”
From the left, sophomore Rachel St. Louis argued that foreign aid discourages developing countries from eventually helping themselves and opens the door to intrusive American actions that hinder independence.
“We’ve seen a lot of good things come out of foreign aid; however, I feel like this creates a cyclical dependence on foreign aid … countries all over the world, basically, will fall in line to support this dire need for money,” St. Louis said.
Similar to a debate society, Model U.N. members travel to other mid-Atlantic colleges to compete in debates and win awards. They do considerable research on the crisis selected for debate, act within the rules, and work to pass legislation that matches their positions to the solution.
“Each participant attempts to further the position of their own country while also solving the larger crisis just as you would at the U.N.,” said Bogardus, a biochemistry and government major.
In the last year, F&M’s club has revamped to become more collaborative, with an emphasis on working together and working in the community.
“The format is large room, parliamentary style, what you expect if you went to the actual U.N.,” Bogardus said. “The goal, as an entire group, is to achieve some objective.”
Husaini, who is considering one of the social-science fields as a major and first participated in Model U.N. as a freshman in high school, said Model U.N. is about building leadership skills for debating and relationships for cooperating in groups.
“We have to be the leaders of the next generation and the way you do that is by starting now, with the current-event issues that we see today so that later on, when we’re tasked with the goal of solving these problems, we’re ready to do the same thing,” said Husaini, who is the club’s recruitment and community outreach officer.
First-year Eve Mikes, the club’s social-programming chair, was in Model U.N. all through high school because of how much her participation helped her with her academics.
“It’s helped me broaden my perspective on the world and on different issues. I used to be focused on one opinion and one perspective, and Model U.N. helped me branch out,” Mikes said. “It’s also helped me on my debate and writing skills.”
The club has grown rapidly the last year, more than 25 members with diverse backgrounds and academic pursuits. Members also volunteer in the community—they train students at McCaskey High School’s Model U.N., sponsor issue-talks around campus, and perform mock debates on topics such as international intervention.
“Everybody is really a part of something in Model U.N.,” Husaini said. “Winning awards is good, that has its own status, but the ability to make people feel like that they’re a part of something, even for a solution to a fictitious problem, is part of the Model U.N. experience.”
On March 23, F&M’s club will for the first time host a Model U.N. conferencethat will bring a number of regional colleges to campus. The winner directs 75 percent of the money raised from conference fees to the charity of their choice; 25 percent will go to Church World Services in Lancaster.
“Their leadership, organization and hard work have resulted in individual and team success within the club and also within the greater F&M and Lancaster communities,” said Ali Janicek, the club’s adviser and assistant dean for International & Off-Campus Study.“They have embraced their responsibility to these communities with sincere vigor.”