KOKOMO, Ind. — As an Indiana University Kokomo junior, Gabe Franks has spent hours reading, writing papers, and studying past and current events.
Putting what he’s learned into action during a Model United Nations simulation showed him just how much he’s learned.
“This is one of the first times I’ve been able to realize what the benefits are of having the research, critical thinking, and communication skills I’ve developed in the last few years,” he said. “Collaborating with like-minded people who are well-versed on these topics, and being able to work with them on a professional level was amazing. I feel more prepared to go into the world and work with peers on this level.”
Franks, Kokomo, participated in the Model UN Conference at IU Southeast as part of a political simulations class taught by Andy Tuholski, assistant professor of political science. He was also one of six IU Kokomo students who received the conference’s top honors.
Franks and Hannah Sandefur received Best Diplomat awards, while Chandler Buck, Lil Horner, and Vivianne Pentland of Kokomo and Kellen Mullins, Peru, also earned recognition.
Tuholski said their success was particularly impressive because none of the students had ever competed in Model UN before this year.
“They worked very hard and are excited about how well they represented IU Kokomo,” he said. “I could not be prouder of this group.”
Pentland said the experience gave her a confidence boost.
“I feel more prepared now, having done this class and this weekend,” she said. “I feel like I was able to apply what I learned in other classes, not just political simulation.”
Teams were each assigned a country in the UN Security Council, and then began learning about the issues impacting their assigned country, to plan how they would respond to those issues.
Some of the topics for debate included the Tigray War in Ethiopia, the conflict between Iran and the Arab states regarding nuclear weapons, and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Pentland represented the United Arab Emirates, and said the experience helped her consider and understand other viewpoints.
“Researching another culture, environment, and location was really eye-opening,” she said. “Up to this point in my education, everything has been very centered around our country’s view. It’s interesting to find out how other countries consider world events.”
Sometimes those viewpoints were challenging, she added.
“It’s difficult on some humanitarian issues when you want to argue your own beliefs, but you have to fully represent what their stance would be,” she said. “It was interesting to learn about other countries’ stances on topics, based on their cultural values. I had to make decisions based on what my country would do, not necessarily what I would represent.”
Sandefur, from Kokomo, said she’s more likely to remember what she’s learned in class from putting it into practice.
“We didn’t just talk about it,” she said. “I was blessed to have an opportunity to write a resolution. This validates the research and hard work we put in, and how well Dr. Tuholski prepared us.”
The Model UN trip was offered through the Kokomo Experience and You, or KEY, the campus’s distinctive experiential learning program. The program’s goal is for students to have a travel experience within their major, to connect them with people, and provide real-world experiences.