Model U.N. studentsMay 15, 2018 — After graduating from CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) in 2017 with a degree in Psychology, Karina Casarez is now with the Peace Corps, living in the Bago region of Myanmar in a small town called Paungde.

“Sometimes it's still incredible for me to believe I'm here when I remember sitting in your classroom and hearing about Peace Corps,” Casarez told Professor of Global Studies Andrea Grove, Ph.D. “I was also able to travel to some pretty amazing places around the country, such as one of the most famous pagodas, Shwedagon Pagoda.” 

Casarez is among 11 CSUCI students who have qualified for the Peace Corps since CSUCI was founded, a number that recently earned CSUCI recognition from the Peace Corps as one of the top volunteer-producing minority-serving institutions.

“This is really phenomenal because they are getting applications from Ivy League Schools and they are choosing our students for this honor,” Grove said.

Many of the students who succeed in the extremely competitive qualifying process first got a taste for international affairs through CSUCI’s Model United Nations (UN) program, which is in its 10th year at the campus.

“Students in the Model UN program have an interest in not only understanding the world better, but trying to resolve the problems of the world,” said Political Science Lecturer Christopher Scholl who worked with the Peace Corps in Dominica. “The Model UN gives them a taste of doing that. In some regards, the Peace Corps is the next logical step.”

United Nations conferenceThe Model UN is a series of three conferences a year in which teams from middle schools, high schools and universities from all over the country come together and emulate what actually goes on in an actual United Nations conference.

Teams of delegates are assigned to represent a specific country and advocate for that country until a resolution is reached.

“Chris and I try to choose a mix of developing countries in different regions and a European country,” Grove said. “Sometimes the students find themselves having to make arguments that are very different than their personal views. We try to get them to see the world from different perspectives.”

Graduating senior Maria Barrios is a triple major in Global Studies, Political Science and Chicana/o Studies. Barrios was intrigued with the Model UN and got involved in 2014.

“I’ve always been interested in global topics and because I immigrated from Mexico, I saw all the things going on there and how that compared with things going on here,” Barrios, 22, said. “The Model UN experience really just took me further. The hardest part was realizing some countries don’t have much power, but they are the ones that need the most help.”

Model UN students do research on whatever the topic is for that conference such as maternal health, poverty, sustainable agriculture practices, etc.

“The students do research on the topics chosen by the conference,” Grove said. “They go to the conference and interact with students studying other countries. They do research, negotiations, speeches with the final goal being to write resolutions.”

CSUCI’s group of 15 Model UN delegates excelled at all three of the 2017/2018 conferences, taking home a total of four Distinguished Delegate and six Position Paper Awards as well as recognition for Political Science graduating senior Michael MacDonald’s role as a rapporteur, a type of leader at a Model UN conference.

At the end of their experiences, the UN students write a reflection paper. One paper, written by History major Atticus Reyes read, in part:

“The Model UN demands you try your best to comprehend a country’s reaction to a global issue, whether it be attempting to understand Ethiopia’s involvement in the global climate change policy, or Turkey’s participation in the World Drug Crisis. The experience has enabled me to look at these extremely complex issues very carefully, and not simply with my western perspective.”