By Katharine Webster
The university’s Model United Nations program marks its 30th anniversary during Homecoming Weekend with a reunion celebration on Oct. 23 and the launch of an endowed fund to support its activities. The Dean Bergeron and Joyce Denning Endowment Fund will also provide scholarships and grants to individual students majoring in history and political science.
The fund honors Bergeron, a professor emeritus of history and political science and founding adviser for the International Relations Club and Model UN program on campus, and the late Prof. Denning, his friend and colleague on the political science faculty.
The two enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration from the time Denning arrived on campus in 1967, two years after Bergeron, until her death two years ago. Bergeron credits Denning with encouraging him to experiment with different teaching techniques, including the Socratic method, her favorite, and the Dewey model of “learning by doing” that came to include the Model UN program.
“Their office was a sanctuary for both students and faculty and a place where ideas were hatched, challenged and nurtured,” says Jason Carter, now faculty adviser to the IRC/Model UN program. “They have had a profound impact on all who took their courses and on all who have known them.”
In fall 1984, Kathy Curtin, a work-study student majoring in history, asked Bergeron if he would help her put together a team for the National Model United Nations competition at Harvard University the following spring. He agreed, and the team went to Harvard to compete. They got crushed—but they got better.
Today, the university’s team is internationally recognized for its rigorous preparation and strong debate skills, building on the foundation provided by Bergeron and Denning, who also advised Model UN. Over the past two decades, UMass Lowell students have brought home more than 100 individual and numerous team awards, while representing more than 100 countries. In the past year alone, our students won seven individual awards and honorable mentions and a Best Delegation Award at the Northeastern Regional Model Arab League, as well as four individual awards and three honorable mentions at the Scottish National Model UN at the University of Edinburgh.
The International Relations Club also organizes a three-day Model UN League conference for high school students. The conference, first held in 2005, now draws more than 150 high school students from schools around New England—and the club hopes to expand it. Teachers praise the conference as the highlight of the year for many of their students.
Because attending Model UN events can present a significant financial burden to students, Bergeron endowed the new fund this year in honor of Denning, building on a scholarship fund they started in 1995.
We invite alumni of the IRC/Model UN program to our reunion celebration on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Allen House on South Campus. (Event registration required
.) And we encourage all those alumni whose lives were touched by Bergeron and Denning to consider contributing to the Dean Bergeron and Joyce Denning Endowed Fund to provide support for the Model UN program for decades to come.