A strong regional showing earns UHCL a national invitation
Ashley Toman The Signal
The UHCL Model Arab League team competed at the Bilateral Model Arab League regional conference in Houston March 24 and 25.
The team received many awards, which earned them an invitation to compete in the 2012 National Council Meeting in Washington D.C. April 13-15.
The team, made up of 12 student delegates, holds the title of “overall honorable mention as outstanding delegation” for their representation of Egypt, where they competed against 13 other colleges. The experience gives students a taste of what it would be like to work in a diplomatic capacity and gain international exposure.
“The Model Arab League is a simulation of the real-world international organization, the League of Arab States,” said Joshua Hilbrand, deputy director of student programs at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. “Students role-play as diplomats from Arab countries and convene to discuss the most important and pressing issues in the Middle East today. The goal of each ‘country’ is to find workable solutions to these problems while protecting its national interests.”
Tina Halcombe, an anthropology and cross cultural studies student, created the UHCL Model Arab League team in 2008. Since then, UHCL students have continued to take part in Model Arab League and have formally built a permanent student organization out of it, called MALSA, the Model Arab League Student Association.
MALSA is a student-inspired and student-run organization that “seeks to promote and encourage participation in the Model Arab League by UHCL students and support students in preparation for the model.”
“Students who participate in the Model Arab League at their schools provide the student the opportunity not only to learn about the Arab world through policies and politics, but they are also learning about debate,” said Matthew Kocian, Program Manager at Bilateral U.S.- Arab Chamber of Commerce. “It increases networking opportunities and a better understanding of global politics and current events.”
Mike McMullen, associate professor of sociology, serves as one of the UHCL Team’s faculty advisors.
“The MAL is like the Model United Nations, a chance for college students to form a team and represent one of the 22 Arab Countries that make up the League of Arab States headquartered in Cairo,” McMullen said. “Student teams must do research on the country they represent, and then in their council meetings, put forward resolutions that represent the policies of their country.”
MALSA elected and appointed three professors as faculty advisers, McMullen, Dr. Jeff Lash, professor of geography, and Maria Curtis, professor of anthropology and cross-cultural studies.
When competing at the MAL, there are 5 councils that each team must have representation on, which are the Joint Defense, Palestinian Affairs, Political Affairs and Economic Affairs.
“The MAL experience goes hand-in-hand with our Cross-Cultural Studies program,” said Jane Terekhova, UHCL Anthropology student delegate. “It provides students with a deeper understanding of the region’s complexity.
At the National Council, the team represented the country of Lebanon. One of the students, Cindy Steffens, won honorable mention as outstanding delegate for the Political Affairs Committee.
The Houston-based Model Arab Leagues work closely with organizations such as the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce as well as The Institute of Interfaith Dialog.
“The Bilateral Chamber of Commerce is a business organization that promotes trade between the United States and the Middle East/ North African region,” said Aida Araissi, president and founder of Bilateral Chamber of Commerce. “In the interest of building sustainable long lasting commercial ties, we sponsor this conference to ensure that American students are prepared for careers in diplomacy, business, journalism or whatever their vision leads them.”
The students held two bake sales on campus and a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings in order to save enough money to attend the conference.
“I am so proud of them and all of their drive and dedication,” Curtis said. “They competed well at the national level against top schools and got invited back to nationals again next year.”
MALSA is open to all students from diverse backgrounds and majors and benefits those with an interest in the Arab world, as well as those with little prior knowledge.
“Students should join for a number of reasons,” said Juan Garcia, Joint Defense Council delegate. “MALSA will help develop both an awareness of the critical role of Middle East in global economic and political events, as well as a deeper knowledge of the various cultures and individual states.”