Vancouver students practice diplomacy at World Model UN


Delegates from across the world debate at WMUN. (Photo courtesy of Jobin Mojtabavi)

By Kenna Caprio

Four Fairleigh Dickinson University Vancouver Campus students — Alejandra Collantes-Franco, Laura Rodriguez-Romero, Peter Mate and Lucas Pereira-Da-Cunha  — traveled across the globe to compete at World Model United Nations 2015 in South Korea this spring.

“We had four students from four different countries representing FDU with strong international knowledge and problem-solving skills at World Model United Nations (WMUN), which is organized by Harvard University and attended by about 2,400 delegates from universities around the world,” says Jobin Mojtabavi, director of student services, who accompanied the students on the trip. “WMUN provides students with exposure to issues and problems around the world as they work cooperatively to find global solutions.”

At the conference, which focused on the Millennium Development Goals — real goals established by the United Nations — the Vancouver students represented Costa Rica.

“The Millennium Development Goals are a global framework to benefit the world and at risk populations in the future,” says Mate, a freshman from Canada, who is studying communications and international relations. The goals cover a wide variety of issues including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality rates, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and more.

At WMUN, the students have to model their positions and actions on each nation’s actual behavior within the United Nations. For instance, Costa Rica cares deeply about environmental and sustainability development and protecting rainforests and ecosystems.

“It’s very intense,” says Mate. “Some people have been doing Model United Nations for years and they’re some of the most professional people I’ve ever met. You have to think on your feet and do a lot of diplomatic wrangling and lobbying.”

Senior Pereira-Da-Cunha of Brazil — who is studying business — agrees, and adds how important it felt to be “in the middle of people with such a global mindset” and a part of “something bigger.”

In between all of the geo-political debating, social events and cultural excursions are built into the conference schedule. The students and Mojtabavi explored the cities of Seoul and Goyang and sampled Korean delicacies. They even visited the Gangnam District, known for its shopping in Seoul, and made famous by the popular “Gangnam Style” video on YouTube a few years ago.

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Vancouver students Laura Rodriguez-Romero and Alejandra Collantes-Franco sample Korean fare on a break from WMUN action. (Photo courtesy of Jobin Mojtabavi)

A committee comprised of Vancouver students and staff selected the WMUN team. Each applicant, all members of the Model UN Club on campus, gave a presentation on a specific global issue — poverty, world hunger or refugees. Collantes-Franco, a senior originally from Ecuador who is majoring in international business, served as head delegate, having attended National Model United Nations in New York City in 2014.

To prepare for their role as representatives of Costa Rica, they met with the country’s honorary consul in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The students also met on a weekly basis to conduct research and strategize.

“We want students to have the opportunity to share their ideas with people from all around the world, and hear their opinions as well,” says Collantes-Franco. “WMUN opens so many doors on intellectual, personal and social levels. I am in touch with WMUN friends from Pakistan and Malaysia. And who knows, maybe in the future they will become important people who change the world!”

“It’s really important for students to interact with other people, open their minds to different ideas and be aware of what’s going on in different parts of the world,” says Rodriguez-Romero, a junior originally from Colombia and majoring in business administration with a concentration in international business.


Vancouver students Lucas Pereira-Da-Cunha, Laura Rodriguez-Romero, Alejandra Collantes-Franco and Peter Mate show off their WMUN certificates. (Photo courtesy of Jobin Mojtabavi)