By LEANNE EVANS
While most St. Lawrence students spent the past week in the Canton, students involved in the Model Organization of the American States had the exciting opportunity to go to Washington D.C. St. Lawrence was proudly represented by this group of students, where the week was spent fostering diplomatic leadership skills along with 33 other colleges across the hemisphere acting as delegates. Each school participating in this event represented a different country and put forward proposals that were debated and voted on throughout the week in Washington.
“This experience will reverberate and shape you in ways you will see further on in your life,” said Joan Androfer, President of the Institute for Diplomatic Dialogue in the Americas. The Model OAS event proved to be unlike any other learning experience, as the students were actively engaged in competitive debate and parliamentary procedure with a diverse group of students. Cooperation was one other engagement that was reinforced throughout the week, where students had to approach each other to get other countries to sign on to their proposals and then vote in favor of it. Chair of the MOAS Faculty Council, Mark Sachleben, said that this experience is not a competition; rather it is all about working together.
The students who participated in the model are bringing back to the St. Lawrence community with them a unique experience that cultivated an irreplaceable set of skills and unforgettable memories. “I learned so much about how diplomacy actually works and how SLU graduates are actually touching the lives around the world. It was a great experience and we walk away with a better understanding of the politics of Latin America,” said student delegate Emily Blech. Student delegate Patrick Vernallis said, “I can’t think of another forum where so many international students representing many diverse nations could work with SLU students,” and also added “I don’t think there is any way to replicate this experience while on campus.” Just an important as the life skills acquired during the trip, many students made friends and thus established connections all over the world.
This model not only benefitted the students, as Professor and MOAS advisor Shelley McConnell said “By reviewing the policy proposals submitted by the 34 participating universities I get a broad update on hemispheric affairs, and then turn around and teach on those issues in my other courses on Latin American politics.” Students who did not attend the Model OAS will be benefiting from the experience for years to come with the knowledge Professor McConnell is bringing back with her. Even more benefits are to come for the MOAS and SLU, where McConnell was offered to join the board that runs the model. “It’s an honor to have been invited to join the board of directors of the Institute for Diplomatic Dialogue in the Americans (IDDA), which runs the Model OAS. No doubt the fine performance of the St. Lawrence students helped garner that invitation in what is just our second year.”
McConnell, along with organizing and advising the trip, also set up a meeting with the Embassy of Guyana. There, the St. Lawrence’s delegation was able to briefly speak with Bayney Karran, the Guyanese ambassador to the United States. Karran offered incite on what issues Guyana focuses on in the actual OAS. More time was spent speaking with M. Deborah Yaw, the alternative representative to the OAS, who spoke more in depth on the perspectives of Guyana. “Diplomacy is not a straight and narrow path,” she said to the group when explaining the complexity of multilateral relationships in the OAS. In addition, the St. Lawrence students visited the Committee on Hemispheric Affairs, a prominent NGO and spoke to the head of COHA, Larry Burns.
The Model OAS proved to be a great success for St. Lawrence. During the remainder of the semester the MOAS will be spreading initiatives across campus to foster more interest. The goal is to make the MOAS a staple to St. Lawrence. In the hopes of returning next year, the team is already considering which country they would like to represent.