Students Experience World Politics Firsthand at Model NATO

Six students from the College of Liberal Arts will represent The University of Texas at Arlington next week at the annual Model North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conference in Washington, D.C.

The students, led by Sociology professor Dr. Bob Kunovich, will attend as delegates from Poland in the event slated for Feb. 17-20.

“This is an active learning exercise,” Kunovich said. “[The students will] get a firsthand look at the challenge of working in a multi-national organization. It’s easy to criticize groups like NATO, but once they get a firsthand look, they’ll appreciate the work that goes into it. The simulation will make it as realistic as possible.”

The UT Arlington team will represent Poland on five committees, including four subcommittees and the North Atlantic council. Students will begin the conference with a visit to the Polish embassy in D.C., then jump into a mock NATO session. Kunovich said his students will need to be well-versed in the history and issues of Poland and be ready to act quickly once the sessions begin.

“It’s their jobs to learn the rules of order and how to behave,” he said. “They have to know about Poland and that country’s political and military interests. They’ll be drafting language for a resolution for each of their committees, and then those get passed to the NATO council for approval. At one point, there’s a crisis thrown in and the students will have to deal with that.”

UT Arlington’s involvement in this national event began two years ago when Dr. Lonny Harrison, assistant professor of Modern Languages and Russian section head, organized a handful of students who were interested in world issues.

“We started it with student initiative, and we put a team together of students interested in international affairs,” Harrison said. “There’s always been a high level of interest and sometimes we have to turn students away.”

Harrison’s first delegation represented Lithuania, then last year the group was assigned to Poland. Kunovich has made several trips to the eastern European country over the past decade and said he was pleased to be working with Poland again.

Both professors stressed the importance for students to move out of the classroom and textbooks and experience real-world scenarios.

“This is an opportunity to learn the operation of NATO and how it functions. But it’s much more than that,” Harrison said. “Because it’s a model or simulation, they’re actually participating in real situations and summits. The conference encourages them to stay in their roles throughout the weekend. It’s a very official atmosphere, and strictly regulated. When you’re in a role like that, the expectations are very high that you’ll perform well. Being there and getting caught up in the excitement of the conference, it’s easy for students to get immersed and not realize it’s an exercise.

“The value with that kind of hands-on experience is you get to live the educational experience rather than just learning about it from a textbook. Students come back with … a greater understanding of how these multi-national alliances work and deal with issues that impact the world.”

The UT Arlington team includes undergraduates from Anthropology, Philosophy, Political Science and Modern Languages as well as one Political Science graduate student. The trip to D.C. has been underwritten by the Charles McDowell Center for Critical Languages and Area Studies; the Office of Graduate Studies; the Office of the Provost; and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

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