Promising Practice: Teaching Civic Leadership Skills through Simulated International Conferences

March 23, 2015

The freshman Global Studies course, The Global Experience, compels freshmen to think about their roles in the world in different ways, span disciplinary boundaries, and work with diverse ideas and people to arrive at common understandings and solutions to world issues.

For the past six years, hundreds of students in The Global Experience classes have participated in simulated Model United Nations Security Council conferences. Freshmen learn about international issues from the perspectives of the countries that are members of the U.N. Security Council. They research the history and foreign policy of their assigned countries so they can accurately portray positions on various issues. Assuming a different cultural role deepens the student s understanding of his or her own views and beliefs, as well as those of others.

Upper-class students from the 40-member Model U.N. club visit The Global Experience classes to discuss world events, the structure of the U.N., and parliamentary procedures. The Model U.N. club works with faculty to organize and run three-day mock Security Council meetings at the end of the semester. The freshmen serve as delegates and advocate for their assigned countries as the council members present and debate their positions, synthesize divergent opinions, and pass resolutions to resolve world issues, such as nuclear proliferation, the Bosnia situation, or any other current crisis or problem. Without exception, these marathon conferences bristle with energy, and the level of student engagement is remarkable. Seniors surveyed at graduation indicate that the Model U.N. simulation was the best learning experience of their freshman year or of any General Studies class in which they were enrolled.

In 1999 the methodology of this simulation was adopted for all Global Experience classes and expanded to include simulated conferences on gender and environmental issues as well as the U.N. Security Council. All first-year students now participate in simulated conferences requiring them to research, present, debate, and reach resolution on political, gender, and environmental issues from the perspectives of different foreign countries.

Connecting first-year Global Experience classes with simulated international conferences helps students to make connections between classroom knowledge and real-world dilemmas and to develop the competencies and habits necessary for responsible civic leadership. This practice has promise for developing students as capable leaders committed to finding solutions to public problems in local and global communities.

Elon College - NC, North Carolina
President: LEO LAMBERT
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