UHCL to host Houston regional Model Arab League conference

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For the first time, the University of Houston-Clear Lake is set to host the Houston regional Model Arab League. The three-day event, Feb. 17-19, is expected to bring together approximately 150 participants from seven Texas schools of higher education.

Model Arab League is a program that provides students with hands-on experience in understanding the politics of the Arab World. Prior to the conference, student participants research an assigned country, based on a preset agenda with specific topics, in order to construct resolutions at the Bilateral Chamber Regional MAL.

“It is a blend of research, public speaking, collaborative teamwork and practicing the skills one would need in crisis management and diplomatic settings,” said Maria Curtis, associate professor of anthropology and cross-cultural studies at UH-Clear Lake. “You would need to think quickly on your feet, know how to interact professionally and efficiently, and maintain a professional demeanor while negotiating with allies and other countries with whom you have more strained ties.”

Curtis is co-advisor of the university’s Model Arab League Student Organization, along with Mike McMullen, professor of sociology and cross cultural studies. UHCL recently launched an undergraduate minor in Middle Eastern Studies. In December 2016, Curtis and five UHCL students traveled to Oman to participate in a study-abroad program.

This year marks the first time the Model Arab League conference will be hosted at UHCL, which has taken part in regional and national MAL competitions since 2008.

“There has been lots of preparation for the conference,” said McMullen. “We coordinate locally with the Bilateral U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, and nationally we coordinate with the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.”

The schools set to attend the conference include the University of North Texas, University of Houston-Downtown, University of Houston Honors College, Texas A&M University, Houston Community College and Texas State University. The conference opens at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, with a reception to welcome participants and their faculty sponsors, as well as representatives from the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations, the Arab American Bilateral Chamber of Commerce of Houston and the Arab American Cultural and Community Center. The reception will feature contemporary Arab music, a debke folk dance group and light Middle Eastern refreshments. The public event will be held in the Garden Room and Atrium I of the Bayou Building, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston.

The conference program begins Saturday, Feb. 18 and ends Sunday, Feb. 19, with an awards ceremony.

McMullen said that in previous years, UHCL students have won a total of eight individual awards as delegates at the regional events and in 2012 took a team award as Best Delegation.

For more information on the Model Arab League and the Bilateral Chamber Regional MAL, contact Curtis@uhcl.edu or mcmullen@uhcl.edu.

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