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Centered in debate

The 2014 Model NATO Team

Though born in the U.S., Stephanie Leahy is a stu­dent of the world, having lived in coun­tries across the globe throughout her child­hood, including Ecuador, India, Mexico, and Bulgaria.

The second-​​year stu­dent took that global per­spec­tive to heart as she and two dozen other North­eastern stu­dents debated today’s most pressing global issues with other stu­dents from Amer­ican and Euro­pean uni­ver­si­ties at the 28th Annual Inter­na­tional Model NATO con­fer­ence ear­lier this month.

“It’s impor­tant to keep an open mind to the dif­ferent angles coun­tries take toward policy,” Leahy said.  “My upbringing has allowed me to see dif­ferent sides of issues that affect nations all over the world. It’s an impor­tant strength to have, not only at this con­fer­ence but in life as well.”

The con­fer­ence, held in Wash­ington D.C. from Feb. 14–17, drew teams of stu­dents from higher-​​education insti­tu­tions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Bel­gium. At the con­fer­ence, each of the stu­dent teams rep­re­sented a pre-​​assigned country, and the pro­ceed­ings mir­rored those of NATO, in which stu­dents sit on com­mit­tees and dis­cuss, debate, and write res­o­lu­tions on a range of issues such as defense, the global economy, and nuclear planning.

The North­eastern Model NATO stu­dent teams rep­re­sented Latvia and Italy. Both earned first-​​place honors at the con­fer­ence, sharing the top spot with the team from the Royal Mil­i­tary Academy of Canada, which rep­re­sented the United States. The strong showing at the con­fer­ence builds on Northeastern’s past suc­cess; stu­dent teams fin­ished in first place and fifth place at the same event last year.

Michael Trudeau and Ginevra Sponzilli served as the stu­dent team del­e­gates for Northeastern’s Latvia and Italy teams, respec­tively. They pointed to many fac­tors that con­tributed to their teams’ suc­cess, including months of intense prepa­ra­tion, superb team chem­istry, a great pas­sion for inter­na­tional polit­ical debate, and strategic pair­ings of stu­dents on the var­ious com­mit­tees that max­i­mized the stu­dents’ indi­vidual strengths and personalities.

Trudeau, a senior polit­ical sci­ence major who is pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion, noted the array of emerging global chal­lenges that stu­dents debated—including cyber­se­cu­rity. “We really don’t even know what cyber­se­cu­rity fully involves yet, so it’s chal­lenging to defend against what it could be,” he said.

Philip D’Agati, the Model NATO team’s adviser and an assis­tant aca­d­emic spe­cialist in the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence, said his stu­dents shined throughout the conference.

“No matter what room you walked into, North­eastern stu­dents were at the center of the debate,” D’Agati said.

“The university’s mis­sion is so deeply tied to expe­ri­en­tial learning and global learning, and Northeastern’s Model NATO pro­gram is the living embod­i­ment,” he added. “The uni­ver­sity deeply cares about that type of a learning expe­ri­ence, which values under­standing the world. Stu­dents get that in all of their classes, their clubs, and from their inter­ac­tions with each other. It’s def­i­nitely an edge for us.”

The Model NATO team is one com­po­nent of the Inter­na­tional Rela­tions Council, a stu­dent group at North­eastern that also par­tic­i­pates in inter­ac­tive sim­u­la­tions of the United Nations and the League of Arab States. Through these expe­ri­ences, stu­dents learn first­hand the chal­lenges of inter­na­tional diplo­macy and develop strong public speaking and nego­ti­a­tion skills.

– by Greg St. Martin

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