Student Makes Strides at Model United Nations Conference

Olivia LaBarge (left), FCLC ’19, received an Honorable Mention at the Model United Nations Conference. (JILLIAN JAYMES/The Observer)

By Kyle J. Kilkenny
Staff Writer

With the recent Presidential election and subsequent inauguration of a new administration in Washington, a great number of college students have become more engaged in the political process. However, some Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students have begun to look beyond the United States and have debated solutions for issues plaguing our world.

FCLC’s Model United Nations (MUN) team was formed in Spring 2015, and began meeting and competing during the Fall 2015 semester. Since then, Fordham students from New York and California to Spain and Israel have represented the University at six different conferences in cities across the U.S. Led by Club President Narae Kim, FCLC ’17, MUN has quickly become a fixture at Fordham’s Manhattan campus, and by all accounts has had quite the year.

As veteran of my high school’s MUN travel team, I have been fortunate enough to attend three of these conferences where students, simulating countries and committees found in the real United Nations, debate current events and issues plaguing the world. I’ve represented member-states such as Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Benin, debated universal contraceptives, amnesty in war-torn areas, and even cyber terrorism. I’ve also participated in what MUN-ers call “crisis committees,” set in fictional or historical periods and settings, such as my Macbeth-themed committee at the University of Pennsylvania’s November 2016 conference in Philadelphia.

Many other students continue to find success in Fordham’s Model UN program and beyond. FCLC MUN is currently celebrating a massive success for the club: the first award presented to a delegate of FCLC’s team. The charismatic Olivia LaBarge, FCLC ’19, took home an Honorable Mention for her role as the Minister of Hydrological Services in New York University MUN’s “Futuristic Sudamericano” committee. Having served as the Club’s Secretary for the past three semesters, and as Fordham’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Youth Representative to the UN, LaBarge continues to be involved in and outside of the committee room. When asked what this unprecedented accomplishment meant to her, LaBarge replied, “It was really exciting! I’m humbled and honored to represent FCLC MUN in this way.”

LaBarge excitedly described the beginning days of the club just as she arrived to Fordham, and her role in making sure all students had the tools to build confidence and succeed. “As part of the E-Board, Gladys Bendahan [the Club Treasurer, FCLC ’19], Narae Kim, some veteran delegates and I have been working really hard to train our delegates in the skills that they will use in conference, as well as valuable life skills like public speaking, negotiating and creative problem solving.”

With an MUN club at both Fordham’s Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses, the Fordham University Impact Initiative’s partnership with UNDPI/NGO, and the newly-created Fordham University Model United Nations Conference for high school students, there are more opportunities than ever to learn about international politics and the issues facing the world today at the University. John Luke Venables, FCLC ’19, joined LaBarge and the FCLC MUN team at New York University Model United Nations Conference (NYUMUNC),  where he represented the Count of Flanders, Republic of France in a historical committee. “My experience at NYUMUNC completely reinforced my reason for joining the club,” Venables said. He continued, “I wanted a community of passionate, globally aware students with whom I could debate global issues and solutions and that’s exactly what I found at MUN.”

However, with Kim’s graduation later this month, LaBarge’s upcoming year abroad in France, and a host of other opportunities to other current E-Board members, FCLC MUN will be led by a completely new group of officers for the coming academic year. A seasoned MUN vet and newly-elected Club President Marianne Alemayehu, FCLC ’19, is optimistic about the club’s future. When asked what her goals are for Fall 2017, she replied, “I would say training the incoming MUNers and growing as a club in terms of members, speaking and debating skills, and being highly recognized not only by Fordham, but also in national conferences, which will hopefully lead to international conferences in the future!” With Alemayehu’s leadership and LaBarge and her departing team of officers’ guidance, delegates like Venables will have ample opportunities to get their debate on.

When asked what MUN means to them, both Venables and LaBarge had words of hope and encouragement. “These conferences give you the opportunity to work side by side with other students from around the country on complicated geopolitical issues. MUN creates individuals who excel at conflict resolution and compromise, two valuable traits in today’s political climate,” said Venables. LaBarge, now not only a leader in club meetings, but also a role model for future FCLC MUN delegates looking to make their voice heard in the committee rooms, concluded, “We set out to practice with real-world issues, so that the team is well-informed on global current events, and can debate the issues our world is facing today with well-thought out, respectful arguments.”

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