By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – When Chuck Rowling meets with prospective students, he always mentions the Model United Nations program.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney political science professor and department chair brings it up again at the beginning of their first year on campus. He wants to make sure students know all about this experiential learning opportunity.
“Students learn a lot when they participate in Model UN. They learn about global issues, how the UN works and the value of diplomacy within the international system. They also become better thinkers, communicators and citizens,” Rowling said.
And, he added, they have a lot of fun along the way.
With more than 30 active members, UNK has one of the largest collegiate Model United Nations programs in the U.S. Participating students advance their understanding of international relations and cooperative conflict resolution by addressing real-world issues from the perspective of a specific country. They meet once a week throughout the academic year while preparing for competitions where they discuss and debate topics such as gender equality, climate action and global health, allowing them to experience the challenges of negotiation and develop an appreciation of differing viewpoints.
“Model UN aligns with the strategic plan of our university, providing students with the opportunity to learn through experiences outside the classroom. These students are taking their knowledge of international relations and the UN system and applying it in a simulated setting,” said Rowling, who teaches a class on the politics and processes of the United Nations every spring.
UNK students competed in Lincoln and Washington, D.C., last fall before heading to New York City last month for the oldest and largest intercollegiate Model UN conference in the world. Representing Japan, they won two prestigious awards at the National Model United Nations event – best position paper and honorable mention delegation.
“It was no surprise to me that they came back from the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City with two awards,” Rowling said. “All year, these students worked extremely hard in preparation for this conference. We have exceptional students here at UNK, and the best part of my job is watching them thrive. Our students are always drawn to rigorous intellectual challenges and their success here underscores our strong commitment to these academic values.”
Ella Ferguson, a freshman from Springfield, was among the 21 UNK students who attended the weeklong conference. She called it an “amazing experience.”
“When you go to these conferences, you’re not only meeting people from other places, but you’re also learning about places all around the world,” she said. “You’re learning how the United Nations works and how diplomacy works.”
The conference’s closing ceremony was hosted at the UN Headquarters, where students got to meet Japan’s delegation. They also had time to attend a Mets game and a Broadway musical, visit the Statue of Liberty and local museums, and check out filming locations from popular movies and television shows.
On April 24, they were back on campus for the first-ever Nebraska High School Model United Nations Conference, an event organized by the Department of Political Science and students from the UNK Model UN program. More than 100 high schoolers from across the state participated, giving them a chance to develop the same leadership, communication and critical-thinking skills while broadening their world view.
“The value of these types of experiential learning opportunities is impossible to measure,” Rowling said.
Ferguson agrees. As a pre-law student, it’s the perfect preparation for her future career.
“But we also have students who are in completely different majors and they still love it,” she said. “You’re going to learn a lot about the world around you, you’re going to have travel opportunities, and you’re going to make a ton of friends in this organization because everyone is so welcoming.”
The following UNK students, listed by hometown, participated in the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City:
Aurora – Clayton Wendt
Broken Bow – Tanner Butler
Central City – David Johnson
Fairbury – Zane Grizzle
Hyannis – Shelby Haney
Kearney – Emily Saadi
Lexington – Kimberly Gomez
Lexington – Kennia Garcia-Retana
Loomis – Caitie Wahls
Maxwell – Ellery Simpson
McCook – Hannah Goltl
Riverdale – Ella Waller
Seward – Jacob Mueller
Springfield – Ella Ferguson
Valentine – Rhiannon Painter
Out of State
Aurora, Colorado – Simon Clark
Gimhae, South Korea – Mingyeong Seo
Kathmandu, Nepal – Aayusha Neupane
Mahottari, Nepal – Shlok Sah
Osaka, Japan – Sayo Kajiyama
Tokyo, Japan – Mizuki Dazai