Fairfield University students win prestigious award at Harvard-sponsored World Model United Nations conference


Students at Fairfield University helped put their Model United Nations club on the map this year by winning an esteemed Diplomacy Award at one of the most competitive conferences, the Harvard-sponsored World Model United Nations Conference, which was held in Heidelberg, Germany.

At the five-day conference in March, Fairfield University students Brian Gosselin and Julia Cunico represented the African nation of Sierra Leone before a committee investigating the issue of "conflict diamonds," which are used to fund terrorism and warfare. Gosselin and Cunico conceived the resolution that was ultimately chosen by their committee to tackle that problem.

About 156 country delegations participated in the conference, which gathers more than 800 university students each year.

Julia Cunico"We had an extraordinary experience," said Cunico, a sophomore from Long Valley, N.J. who is majoring in politics.

Their work in creating the idea for the resolution and developing a coalition to draft it, won over the majority of delegations at their committee, despite competing resolutions put forth by delegates from Ivy League schools. The WorldMUN presents Diplomacy Awards to teams that display a variety of virtues that are emblematic of the spirit of the conferences, such as diplomacy, compromise, knowledge, learning and friendship. In winning an award in their committee, Fairfield University's delegation joined the ranks of delegates from Brown University, Yale University, and West Point.

Katherine Kidd, Ph.D., a director of the International Studies Program at Fairfield University, suggested the students look to the Montreal Protocol, a real-life successful U.N. initiative to regulate the movement of chlorofluorocarbons (which deplete the ozone layer), for inspiration in dealing with the issue of administering the Kimberly Process, which regulates the international diamond market and the trade of conflict diamonds.

The two problems were remarkably similar in that they both involved attempts to stop the production of illicit materials, said Gosselin, a junior accounting major from Andover, Mass.

Gosselin and Cunico worked with student delegations representing Egypt, Israel, Botswana and South Africa to draft a resolution.

Brian Gosselin"They represented their country well," Dr. Kidd said. "They had an innovative way of thinking about the problem that was convincing to other people in the conference."

"Model U.N. provides a concrete example of just how valuable experience-based education is for our students," said Norman Solomon, Ph.D., dean of Charles F. Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University. "Dolan School of Business students are consistently exposed to 'real world' issues in their classes and many of these issues have international dimensions. Competitions such as Model U.N. give our students the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills in ways that contribute to better understanding amongst nations and peoples.

"Especially gratifying however is the fact that the students participating in the program come from academic disciplines across the university. The success of Fairfield's participation is a tribute to faculty advisor, Dr. Katherine Kidd who herself directs the International Studies Program which is based both in the College of Arts & Sciences and in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business," Dr. Solomon added.

About 40 students participate in the Model U.N. Club at Fairfield University, now in its second official year. "The entire group has grown tremendously in their passion for the program," said LeAnne Mistysyn, the club's advisor. She noted of the seven students who attended the WorldMUN, that "every student exceeded our expectations in Heidelberg. Fairfield is lucky to have such great students."

Model U.N. is the type of experience that stays with you after college and can have a significant impact on your future career, Mistysyn said. "If you go to a job interview, that's the thing that recruiters notice and ask you about," Mistysyn said, noting that everyone who participates in Model U.N. is excited to discuss their experiences with others.

"It exposes you to things you wouldn't necessarily get in class," Gosselin said.

The Model U.N. circuit also fosters relations among students worldwide who are interested in foreign policy. "Model U.N. teaches you the value of working with other people from different backgrounds," Cunico said.

Winning the award is particularly gratifying for Fairfield University students because unlike most of the teams they are competing against, they get no academic credit for their Model U.N. work, Dr. Kidd said.

"It's completely extracurricular," Dr. Kidd said, noting that the WorldMUN is one of the most competitive conferences. Successes at this level could open Fairfield University up to participating in invitation-only conferences. The Fairfield Model U.N. Club attended the Georgetown invitational, McGill and Harvard National Model United Nations conferences this academic year in addition to the WorldMUN.

Hard work, dedication, research and a certain amount of luck are all necessary to win awards at Model U.N. conferences, Gosselin said. Sierra Leone was a good country to represent for the topic of conflict diamonds. "We got the right topic with the right country," he said.

"The work of Ms. Mistysyn, Dr. Kidd, and this fabulously dedicated bright group of students is a model unto itself," said Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University. "First, it represents the form of experiential learning to which many of our faculty are turning. This is particularly important, not just in the sciences, where it is more traditional, but in our humanities and international education, as well. Second, the quality of these students' work is testimony to the increasing quality of our student body."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 24, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 268