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Northeastern’s new top ‘Model’

A team of 25 North­eastern stu­dents placed first in the 31st annual National Uni­ver­sity Model Arab League Conference in Wash­ington, D.C. last month, besting del­e­ga­tions from two dozen col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Canada, Egypt, and the United States.

The team’s first-​​place finish in the nation’s cap­ital is the latest achieve­ment in a highly suc­cessful 2013–2014 season, during which the Model Arab League club placed first at the north­east regional con­fer­ence and second at the south­east regional conference.

At the sim­u­la­tion in D.C., each stu­dent team rep­re­sented a pre-​​assigned member state of the Arab League. The proceedings mir­rored those of the 59-​​year-​​old polit­ical orga­ni­za­tion, with stu­dents sitting on com­mit­tees and discussing, debating, and writing res­o­lu­tions on today’s most pressing issues in the Arab states.

North­eastern stu­dents rep­re­sented Sudan. Of the 22 who com­peted, 21 received awards, including both council chairs.

Brie Bar­baro, SSH’14, was named the out­standing del­e­gate on the polit­ical affairs com­mittee, where she devised solutions to the civil war in Syria. She attrib­uted the suc­cess to intense prepa­ra­tion, for which she spent sev­eral hours per week reading policy state­ments, writing mock res­o­lu­tions, and debating the issues in the university’s Model Arab League class and club.

“We are really well researched,” said Bar­baro, a fifth-​​year inter­na­tional affairs major. “We are able to speak confidently and author­i­ta­tively about very tech­nical topics.”

Stephanie Leahy, SSH’16, agreed with Barbaro’s assessment of the team’s success. “We perform so well because we have such extensive practice and mock debates each week,” said Leahy, a third-​​year political science major who served as the team’s head del­e­gate. “We approach the con­fer­ence in a very pro­fes­sional manner and look at the com­pe­ti­tion as an oppor­tu­nity to show people what we know.”

The Model Arab League club is one com­po­nent of the university’s Inter­na­tional Rela­tions Council, a stu­dent group for those inter­ested in for­eign policy, inter­na­tional affairs, and effec­tive debate. Through par­tic­i­pa­tion in inter­ac­tive simula­tions of the League of Arab States as well as NATO and the United Nations, IRC mem­bers dis­cover the chal­lenges of inter­na­tional diplo­macy while developing strong public speaking and nego­ti­a­tion skills.

Northeastern’s first-​​place finish in the national com­pe­ti­tion marked the 10-​​year anniver­sary of the appoint­ment of Philip D’Agati as the team’s fac­ulty adviser. D’Agati, an assis­tant aca­d­emic specialist in the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Science who co-​​chairs the council’s com­mittee on emer­gent leaders, praised the university’s Model Arab League program, noting that it “pro­vides stu­dents the oppor­tu­nity to syn­the­size com­plex ques­tions, policy inter­ests, and real world issues into imple­mentable policy solutions.”

The pro­gram, he added, “opens the door to many lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties, which build off the expe­ri­ences the stu­dents have in the Model Arab League pro­gram and strengthen the stu­dents’ abil­i­ties to per­form in all sorts of circumstances.”

Take Bar­baro, for instance, whose expe­ri­ence has helped shape her career path. Last month, she passed the Foreign Service exam, the first step to ful­filling her dream of becoming an officer. Next fall, she will enroll in Northeastern’s one-​​year master’s pro­gram in secu­rity and resilience studies.

“Being part of the Arab League pro­gram enabled me to gain a lot more con­fi­dence in my public speaking ability and has devel­oped my lead­er­ship capacity in the club and in a room full of unknown people,” she said. “I now have so much more con­fi­dence in my ability to rep­re­sent a country, which is nec­es­sary if I want to suc­ceed in the For­eign Service.”

– By Jason Kornwitz

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