What to Know
- FIU has North America’s top-ranked Model United Nations team.
- “It’s an extremely rigorous academic program,’’ said John Stack, dean of FIU’s Green School of International and Public Affairs.
When it comes to nationwide academic competitions, we tend to think of universities such as Yale, Stanford, and Princeton winning them.
Add Florida International University in Miami to that list. FIU has North America’s top-ranked Model United Nations team.
“It’s an extremely rigorous academic program,’’ said John Stack, dean of FIU’s Green School of International and Public Affairs. “Our students gain experience as leaders, negotiators, consensus builders and critical thinkers. The success they have in Model UN translates into success in life and in their careers, as evidenced by the many successful MUN alumni we have in top positions throughout the public and private sectors.”
To reach the top, the team works out nine hours a week. We went to a practice session.
“Debate is now in session, thank you all for coming to this iteration of the nuclear proliferation treaty,” said the program director, Michelle Rosario, after banging a gavel to get the meeting started.
About 30 students, each of whom represented a country, began debating the topic of the day: the 1995 nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
“Currently there are over 40,000 nuclear weapons in the world,” said one student, representing Nigeria, to the assembled delegates.
When they hear something they like, the students snap their fingers, like the audience at a poetry slam.
“I am honored to stand here before you, working to create a better version of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that we have been fighting for since the 1960’s,” said the student representing the United States.
Many fingers snapped.
“We teach people how to have salient conversations on controversial issues while being diplomatic, while being respectful, while reaching across the aisle and finding compromise,” Rosario explained. “So just last year, we went to 14 different competitions, we traveled to Harvard, Georgetown, the University of Chicago, and we win consistently every time.”
In the practice session, the students do a lot of talking, both face-to-face and from one group of “nations” to another. They’re learning how diplomacy works at the real United Nations, along with communication and leadership skills.
“Additionally, you learn how to research efficiently, so you’re given a very large topic for example, nuclear proliferation in 1995, there’s also topics such as climate change issues that our global leaders haven’t yet fixed and we are tasked with fixing over a weekend,” said Katerina Geisler, a junior from Colorado.
Model UN also teaches students to think critically about worldwide current events.
“We all talk to each other about the different issues that are going on and that’s honestly not a thing a lot of young people do, and as we see the shifting role of the United States in the global sphere, as we ourselves are moving away, I think a lot of the general public moves away from international issues but what’s cool about us is we don’t, we pay attention to those things,” said Alex Anacki, a sophomore from Massachusetts who was attracted to FIU by the preeminence of the Model UN team.
It’s that spirit of engagement, along with talent and a ton of hard work, which makes the Panthers’ team number one.