While the real world might be facing some international diplomacy issues, Sonoma State University's Model United Nations club is making strides in international relations education after taking home multiple awards for the seventh straight year at the National Model United Nations Conference in New York April 9-13.
"To actually be able to see these students, who were so nervous and unsure of themselves at the beginning of the semester, transform into such eloquent, diplomatic and confident leaders has been incredibly rewarding," says Claudia Sisomphou, one of two students designated as head delegates on SSU's team. "What I am most proud of was seeing our delegation on the trip back to California with their heads held high, knowing they had proven that Sonoma State is a force to be reckoned with."
This year, Sonoma State students were chosen to represent France. The team earned a total of four awards including Best Position Paper for the World Health Organization, two Outstanding Delegate Awards and an Honorable Mention Award.
Over the past few years Sonoma State has represented smaller countries like Nigeria, Venezuela, Azerbaijan and Cuba, but students weren't phased this year representing one of Europe's top leaders.
"Our leadership team could tell that our delegation was going to be one of the strongest groups that Sonoma State has ever sent to the conference," says Sisomphou. "Of course I wish that more of our students could have gotten awards, because our delegates truly were outstanding this year, but the awards certainly aren't the only measurement of success."
The 30-member team had the challenge of debating with 198 teams from around the world. More than 5,000 college students, more than half from outside the United States, come to New York each spring to discuss three pressing issues relevant to 21 simulated UN committees.
Students attended multiple seminars that focused on issues like the global refugee crisis, responsibilities of the media and women as international peacekeepers with award-winning presenters, including Peabody and Emmy award-winning CBS News journalist Vladimir Duthiers, CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, and Director of the International Organization for Migration Office at the United Nations Ashraf El Nour.
Sonoma State students start preparing for the conference in early October, taking a concurrent class to get ready for the national conference.
"We develop and strengthen useful skills like public speaking, resolution writing, effective communication, diplomacy, conflict resolution and time and stress management," says Sisomphou.
The club is already looking for students to participate next year. "The biggest misconception about Model UN is that you have to be a political science major to participate," says Sisomphou. "All you need is a strong interest in political affairs or activism, international relations, or the United Nations, and the desire to learn, challenge yourself, and desire to become a better student and a better leader."