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Students, Alums Praise International Relations Club

Club Hosts High School Model UN Conference

Model UN students
High school students at the Model U.N. Conference caucus to reach an agreement in committee.

By Sandra Seitz

UMass Lowell’s International Relations Club (IRC) hosted the eighth UMass Lowell Model United Nations Conference for high school student teams on campus in early April. 

The IRC (founded in 1984 by History Prof. Emeritus Dean Bergeron) is one of the most successful clubs on campus and has traveled to compete at conferences in Antalya, Turkey, Geneva, London and Vancouver, to name just a few. Students have won more than 100 individual Outstanding Delegate awards and 15 Best Delegation awards.

The high school conference pulled together three “generations” of model leaguers – the high school students, UMass Lowell students and UMass Lowell alumni who are teaching and directing model league programs at their schools. 

“UMass Lowell has a world-renowned program,” says IRC alumnus Zachary Simmons (’99 M.A. history, ’00, M.Ed.), who brought a team from Haverhill High School. “All the high school programs started from here, from students who participated and who stay in touch with Dean Bergeron.” 

“You have to get involved internationally,” says Simmons about the importance of model league programs. “There’s a ‘reality’ to the simulation experience that is not true of social networking. You’re dealing with real world issues, speaking person to person, trying to put together a consensus and make a difference. Those contacts and friendships last a lifetime.”

UMass Lowell senior and IRC member Joseph Le agrees. 

Le, a political science major and history minor, says, “I have friends across the world, in Pakistan and Canada, Israel and Australia. And I have learned to be comfortable with public speaking – whether to groups of 15 people or 500.” 

Le was the U.N. Secretary General (hence lead organizer) for April’s high school Model U.N. that hosted 130 students from seven participating high schools. 

“The (high school) advisers give us good feedback about the event and we encourage the high school students to have fun, to enjoy the learning experience,” says Le, who himself participated as a Lowell High School student and plans to pursue a career in which he can teach and mentor. 

All 16 IRC members worked on the event, serving as moderators of U.N. Committees and helping to evaluate performance. Supervising were Political Science Assoc. Prof. Ardeth Thawnghmung, faculty adviser of Model U.N., and Jason Carter, adjunct professor of political science. The Dean’s Office of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences sponsored the conference.

Student teams came from Whittier Technical High School in Haverhill, Presentation of Mary in Methuen, Timberlane High School in Plaistow, N.H., Lowell High School, North Andover High School, Reading High School and Haverhill High School. 

The Best Delegation award went to Whittier Tech, which has won it for the past three years. Outstanding Delegation, or second place, was awarded to North Andover High School, and Honorable Mention to Haverhill High School. Judges also gave 24 individual awards to delegates.