April 9, 2010
Elizabeth Klipp, 404-413-1356
Senior James Dutton figures he and 35 other GSU students got about 12 hours of sleep total between March 28 and April 3. They stayed awake until well past midnight, sometimes as late as 4:30 a.m., writing resolutions and practicing debates, and were getting up by 6 a.m. for opening caucuses.
But the breakneck schedule was well worth it, they say.
For the fifth consecutive year, Georgia State students took home the top prize of "Outstanding Delegation" from the largest Model U.N. simulation in the world - the National Model U.N. Conference held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
"By the end of the week, you're a zombie," said Dutton, outgoing president of the Georgia State U.N. Association and recently elected president of GSU's Student Government Association. "But it's totally worth it because it takes that level of dedication and sacrifice to take the top award home every year."
Georgia State undergraduates faced tough competition from about 2,500 students hailing from 189 other institutions, half of which were from overseas.
GSU teams representing Mongolia and Tajikistan both won the top award, "Outstanding Delegation Award," which is given to teams judged as being in the top 5 percent of those participating. Georgia State's team representing Uzbekistan won the "Distinguished Delegation Award," awarded to the team in the top 10 percent.
Students in Georgia State's Model U.N. Association enroll in an elective course that helps them prepare for the rigorous competition.
Rashid Naim, senior lecturer in GSU's Department of Political Science who teaches the course and leads the program, said the students worked very hard learning issues of their countries so they could think like a person from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Mongolia. Students also poured over the U.N. committee rules, studying how to use them in their favor. Generally, students have two chances to speak over the six days, for only about two minutes, to effectively get their ideas across.
Along with earnest preparation, Georgia State's team had an advantage because its students are the "best and brightest" on campus and many are truly global citizens, Naim said.
"A lot of our students have been born overseas or have lived overseas, and that brings a global perspective to things we talk about," Naim said. "They are very quick to understand how someone outside the United States would be thinking on issues."
The National Model U.N. conference provides participants the opportunity to learn about the U.N. system and important global issues facing the international community today, such as poverty, terrorism, environmental disasters and HIV/AIDS. Students learn to conduct in-depth research, express ideas in formal writing and debate such issues within a diplomatic framework. As delegates, students are assigned to countries and committees by event organizers.
After representing China at last year's conference, GSU students said being assigned to the smaller nations of Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan was challenging. The two former Soviet Union countries are still heavily dependent on Russia and want to establish autonomy, Naim said. All of the countries are facing severe economic and environmental challenges.
"They are three small nations and they don't get a lot of attention because they don't have weight of presence," Dutton said. "So you have to be able to work with the other developing nations on a friendly level and build a coalition to meet everyone's needs."
Georgia State has been winning awards at the National Model U.N. Conference since it began participating in 2003.
At the southeastern regional conference in November 2009, the warm up for nationals, the GSU teams won a series of awards as well. Five of the Georgia State delegates were recognized as the "outstanding delegate" in their committee. Two of the Georgia State teams, Iran and Morocco, won the "Distinguished Delegation Award," ranking among the top 5 percent of teams overall. GSU's team from India also received the "Honorary Delegation Award."
In addition to competing, the Georgia State Model U. N. Association helps host a Model U.N. conference on campus every spring for high school students, which is attended by hundreds of Georgia teens.