While it’s been a little while since I’ve posted, I can’t think of a better way to break the silence than to post about my amazing Model UN students at Rutgers and the conference they will be running in just a few days. The Rutgers Model UN conference is the culmination of exceptional work, in my class and out of it, of a select group of Rutgers students who provide high school students from across the country an opportunity to examine, discuss, and seek solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.
So many things are inspiring about this effort. College students organize and run the conference for high school students, giving an incredible amount of time and energy to create a dynamic educational experience for “the kids” just a few years younger than themselves. My students write 20-25 page policy papers on two different topics of global importance which are then published and disseminated to high school students to read as a primer on the topics they will debate at the conference, taking on roles as delegates from countries around the world. The very idea of writing 40-50 pages of well-researched and policy-relevant material in a semester for just one class isn’t fathomable to most undergrads. But these aren’t most undergrads, and I like that.
And the conference itself operates at the highest level of professionalism and creativity, with visiting expert speakers in committees; mid-conference workshops with topics ranging from public speaking to conflict resolution to the process of state-building; an always-buzzing “nerve center” (set to diverse background music from Skrillex to Tupac throwbacks to Etta James) where operational decisions are made, resolutions are typed, and “actors” are called upon to play roles (whether an Iraqi refugee to a COO of a Multinational Corporation) that add different perspectives to the committees; even a closed-circuit video and social media feed of the conference itself unfolding; and a level of collegiality among the Rutgers students as they time and again, every year, successfully pull off this exceptional effort.
Always looking forward, the theme for this year’s conference — 8 Billion Reasons for Change — encourages students to consider the impact of the “explosion” of global population (reaching 7 billion this past March) on the problems they address in their committees. Integrating population pressures into the diverse issues taken up by the committees was a novel way by the RUMUN student leadership to add a critical demographic dimension to these problems. Take a look at the different committees and topics covered during this conference (and click on the individual committees to see my students and their own introductions to their topics). There have been a lot of posts on the facebook page on each topic and the theme with interesting links.
Writing this at midnight in Amman, I only wish I could hop on a plane and be there to watch all the magic unfold. After the painfully shallow and “in the gutter” discourse surrounding the presidential campaign, watching these students work through big problems critically and cordially is excellent medicine. I only regret that this is the first RUMUN in my four years teaching the course that I won’t attend, won’t speak in some capacity, and won’t be able to see up close the fun and learning (yes, they go together) that takes place. So here’s to IDIA, to the best of the best at Rutgers who populate its ranks, and to a highly successful and enjoyable RUMUN 2012!