UN simulation course teaches students politics, communication skills

Daisy Aguilar

After taking several courses with an international background, 31-year-old international relations student Chris Breino is prepared to be part of a winning team this semester.

Although Breino is new this semester to the United Nations simulation course at Sacramento State, he is ready to take on the demanding work to prepare him for the upcoming Model U.N. conferences.

Since the start of Sac State’s U.N. simulation course in 1977, high-achieving students have been recognized for outstanding work in simulated Model U.N. sessions during the fall and spring semesters.

“This class is unusual in that there’s a tremendous research hurdle to overcome early in the class,” said Steve Iverson, government professor and advisor of the U.N. simulation class. “Essentially the research hurdle is over early on but it requires a greater commitment and greater effort.”

This semester, 16 students in the course will represent the country of South Africa and are preparing to attend the American Model U.N. Conference in Chicago in November.

Brieno said he heard the course required rigorous research but wanted to apply everything he learned throughout his major.

“I have a lot of work but no regrets,” Brieno said. “I thank all my professors who helped me get ready for this point.”

Students can only be enrolled in the course with instructor permission since it is a program requiring months of intensive preparation.

Iverson said he looks for students who have been successful in their classes, have a good grade point average and understand the need to prioritize research before the semester begins.

“That’s part of the reason for instruction permission only,” Iverson said. “It’s really to find students who are excited in engaging in this research effort and understand expectations in terms of the scope and depth of research.”

After being selected, student delegates research assignments on issues in the country they represent and strategize to come up with solutions.

Students are assigned committees where they are given two to three issues to research and prepare for the conference.

Students have been successful in conferences winning several awards year after year.

Some of the awards include Outstanding Delegation, Distinguished Delegate and Best Overall Delegation both in the Chicago and New York conferences.

In the Chicago conference, students compete with other schools throughout the nation, while the New York conference is international.

International relations major Erica Porter, 22, has been in the U.N simulation class for three semesters and said she enjoys the New York conference more because of the exposure of different countries.

“You got to meet students from all around the world,” Porter said. “You also got to hear their perspectives on the issues we were discussing and hear what they thought about America and what was going on in their own country”.

On occasion, high achieving students from the fall class will be asked to be part of the spring class to attend the New York conference.

Some students said they are more than prepared for the conferences because of the way Iverson challenges them to think of issues objectively throughout the semester.

“He knows what he’s doing and he’s extremely good at getting students to look at issues critically,” said 23-year-old Edward Stanfield. “He’s not afraid to challenge you. Even if he agrees with you, he’ll still challenge you so you can be even better.”

Stanfield was in the class between fall 2011 and spring 2013.

His success in the program has placed him in Sac State’s Model U.N. Hall of Fame.

“It’s one of the most rewarding experiences throughout my time in college,” Stanfield said. “I can’t imagine anyone taking that class and not being a better student after doing it.”

Despite the demanding course, students said it helped shape them into better students and have a better understanding of how the U.N. works.

They learned better communication and public speaking skills, how to do intensive research and writing and have had the opportunity to network.

“It really pays off,” Porter said. “I have excellent research and writing skills because of this class.”