Model UN Course Driven by Students’ Interest in Developing Resolutions to Real Issues

various national flags hanging together

One of the many ways that Rhodes students can get a unique “outside the classroom” experience is through the Model United Nations course, a one-credit class in which students research and gain a better understanding of the UN. Open to any major, the course is taking on exciting topics this semester focused on the United Nations’ 70th anniversary.

Dr. Barron Boyd, director of international programs in the Buckman Center, teaches the course as well as oversees the Model UN traveling team of six to eight students. The class is driven by the students’ participation and focused on developing resolutions to real international issues. They select the country they want to represent, and then they do independent research on their country of choice to figure out how it might act in the General Assembly.

“It’s hands on, real world, and incredible debating skill practice. It’s one of the things that really involves students in ways like the theater does,” Boyd remarks on the applicable nature of the class.

As the traveling team ventures to Los Angeles for this year’s Model UN Conference, they will be assigned to be a committee for one country that mirrors UN committees and will discuss specific resolutions and present them at a mock General Assembly. The conference will deal with the current topics that the UN is focused on, giving the students opportunity to think about their country’s resolutions in present context.  

Once completed, the course may be taken again every semester that a student wishes. “Sometimes they start off as shy first-year students, and they don’t want to stand up and talk, but over the course they get better—they’re incredibly articulate,” says Boyd. “The most rewarding part is getting to see the student shine and make progress as they learn in front of your eyes.” 

The course also has afforded some students leadership opportunities, like senior international studies major Maria Barnett. She is currently serving as the Secretary General for the Mid-South Model United Nations (MSMUN), a weekend long conference that brings about 300-400 students to the Rhodes campus The college has been hosting MSMUN for more than 30 years, and this year’s event is Feb. 12-14.

For more information about the Model UN at Rhodes, visit here.

By Lizzie Choy ’17