Several hundred students sharply-dressed in suits and ties will descend upon Santa Fe College on Friday, Oct. 1, for two days of speech-making, debating, and compromising on issues of international security and human rights. For the fifth year in a row, Santa Fe will host the annual Florida Model United Nations (FMUN) Conference, a state-wide program that simulates how the real United Nations functions.
Eight other colleges, including the University of Florida, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College, will send students to join Santa Fe’s own group of 20 at the conference. Political Science Professor Vilma Fuentes, who sponsors the Global Society club and the Model UN events here at Santa Fe, expects between 250 and 300 students from around Florida to attend the Model UN, which she describes as “a big role-playing game.”
“The conference does a decent job of capturing the essence of the UN. Whereas the UN takes weeks or months to discuss an issue, we do it in a couple of days,” said Fuentes.
Students are assigned as representatives to one of the UN’s 192 member states, whose interests they must represent at the conference. This year, the two topics up for debate in the General Assembly will focus on natural disaster preparation and cleanup and prison reform and the reduction of criminal recidivism. In addition, committees based on the UN Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Environmental Program will each discuss two more topics. Held in WA-104 and WA-108, the deliberations will last from 5 p.m. Friday to 10 p.m. Saturday, culminating with an awards ceremony.
Santa Fe’s group will represent a total of eight countries, including Mexico, Algeria, Iraq, Russia, and Mauritania. Participating students prepare months in advance for this conference, researching and writing papers about their particular country’s political platform and homeland statistics. This isn’t always as easy as it may seem, however.
“It’s more of a challenge with underdeveloped countries than with wealthy ones. Some governments may not have a website, for instance — so the students use the UN website to pull up old speeches and look up statistics,” said Fuentes.
The Santa Fe Model UN team meets once a week before this type of conference to give its members the opportunity to practice speeches and critique each other’s papers. While all students are welcome to join the Global Society club and participate in Model UN events, Fuentes also offers a three-credit Model United Nations course every fall, under the course code INR2500, to introduce students to world politics and the inner workings of the UN.
“At the UN, it’s not about who can beat who. It’s about who can achieve a consensus and create a strong resolution,” said Fuentes.
This Florida conference is but a warm-up for Santa Fe’s Model UN team. Starting in November, Santa Fe will send representatives the Southern Regional Model United Nations in Atlanta, and four or five students will travel to the Czech Republic to attend an international conference. Held in the home of the UN, New York City, the National Model United Nations (NMUN) rolls around in late March, and Santa Fe’s team hopes to send a few of its own members to be part of the thousands from across the world who participate.
Fuentes has seen some of her Model UN alumni have earned positions in the State Department, the Peace Corps, non-governmental organizations, and city government.
“On a general level, they develop a good understanding of the UN and the issues under its consideration,” said Fuentes. “But it also helps them to develop in their practical lives through public speaking, working collaboratively with others, and developing research skills.”
For more information, please contact Professor Vilma Fuentes at 352-395-5030.
Professor Vilma Fuentes, 352-395-5030 or email@example.com
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