AJU Students Represent Finland at U.N. - For the Record Summer '11

Ryan Bernhey, Rebeccah Minazadeh, Elissa Sidransky, Dr. Lois Hecht Oppenheim, Natalie (Neti) Dembowich, Sam Forshner, and Seth Pro.

How is it that AJU students came to represent Finland at the United Nations? No, not the United Nations in New York, but rather a simulation program for college students known as the Model United Nations of the Far West - or MUNFW. At this annual conference, students engage in mock sessions of the United Nations in an effort to advance their understanding of the nations of the world, relationships between countries, policies and principles by which they operate and the nature of the work done by the United Nations. AJU students have participated in this unique opportunity for almost twenty years.

Preparation for the MUNFW Conference, under the direction of Lois Oppenheim Ph.D., Co-Chair of the Political Science Department, is intense. In the time span of several months, students delve into the details of what it means to be a citizen of another country. The conference assigns the team a different country every year; this time it was Finland. They had to study Finnish culture, history, economic structure and politics, and understand what position Finland would take on a myriad of social, economic, military and political issues, including with whom they might ally. In addition, each student sits on a different UN committee and therefore has to learn about the specific issues that his/her committee would be discussing. This year’s MUNFW issues include the effects of climate change on urban housing, the needs of the internally displaced, rights of migrant workers and how to deal with the consequences of failed states, just to name a few. Furthermore, the students had to be well practiced in the specific parliamentary rules of the Conference.

Because AJU is a small college, our students have the built-in advantage of an accessible faculty and are able to work closely with each other as a team under the constant guidance of a professor who knows each student quite well. As a result, students can more readily work on enhancing their strengths, and improving upon their weaknesses. Dr. Oppenheim says that the most gratifying aspect of the conference for her is to watch the students grow intellectually and personally, and come to envision themselves as future leaders.

AJU’s Political Science Department is designed to help students gain a deeper understanding of political behavior from global, national and local perspectives. The goal of the department is to assist students in understanding global and national affairs as future practitioners at the international, national, governmental, and non-governmental levels, in addition to being well-informed citizens of local, national and world communities. The Department’s program has responded to the changing nature of the global environment in the new millennium in its curriculum, while continuing to satisfy student interest in both law and public policy issues in the US and the global arena.

Our delegation, which included three men and three women, had the opportunity to interact with more than 500 other college students from an array of colleges and universities, including international students from the Russian Federation and the Philippines.

Over the course of three days of meetings, disagreements arose in committees, negotiations took place and resolutions were agreed upon. We are proud to report that AJU’s Finnish delegation scored enough points, based on the materials they submitted and their level of participation in all phases of the simulation, to be awarded the coveted Certificate of Achievement.