MU Student Highlights Involvement at the U.N.

gucAlexandria Fitzgerald, a senior communication major and U.N. Student Ambassador for the Uni­versity, presented a session entitled, “Bringing the U.N. to MU” as part of the 12th Annual Global Under­standing Convention on April 9, 2013.

Fitzgerald explained how her presentation sought to reach out to the campus community in hopes of inspiring students to get involved with the United Nations, the world’s largest, most prominent and leading international organization.

She explained that the Uni­versity’s Institute for Global Un­derstanding (IGU), formerly the Global Understanding Project, is committed to promoting the United Nations and carrying out their mis­sion by focusing on human rights, economic development, equality and peace.

“From annual trips to the U.N. Headquarters in New York City; bringing students to U.N. events, conferences and briefings; par­ticipating in the Model U.N.; and sponsoring U.N. speakers on cam­pus, both the IGU and the Univer­sity are fully committed to their in­volvement with the organization,” Fitzgerald said.

The University, through the IGU, is a member of the United Na­tions Academic Impact Initiative (UNAI), she explained. UNAI is “a global initiative that aligns institu­tions of higher education with the United Nations,” the UNAI website explains.

Through this partnership, the Institute for Global Understanding works through UNAI on particular global initiatives that align higher education institutions with the U.N. The IGU actively supports ten uni­versally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, literacy, sus­tainability and conflict resolution.

Their goal, according to the IGU website, is for participating uni­versities to actively demonstrate support for at least one of those principles each year. Some of those principles include, “a commitment to the principles inherent in the U.N. Charter; a commitment to hu­man rights including freedom of inquiry, opinion and speech; and a commitment to educational oppor­tunity for all people regardless of gender, race, religion or ethnicity.”

Additional principles focus on commitments to higher education in which global citizenship, ad­vancing peace and conflict resolu­tion, addressing issues of poverty, promoting sustainability and inter-cultural dialogue are all achievable through education.

According to the U.N. website, the stated aims of the U.N. are simi­lar to those of the IGU in that they promote and facilitate cooperation in international law, security, eco­nomic development, social prog­ress, human rights, civil rights and liberties, political freedoms and the achievement of lasting world peace.

The U.N. was founded in 1945, shortly after World War II, to re­place the League of Nations, stop wars between countries and to pro­vide a platform for global dialogue. Since 2011, the U.N. has gained 193 member states.

Through the IGU and UNAI, the University gets to be a part of that process. The UNAI is a program that is open to all institutions of higher education that grant degrees or their equivalent. According to their website, the goal of UNAI is to associate the United Nations with institutions of higher learning throughout the world.

“The U.N. is the supreme inter­national organization of the world,” Fitzgerald said.

“Their involvement with the Uni­versity is a result of the Institute for Global Understanding creating a position aimed at acquiring a larger audience and promoting the organi­zation on campus,” she explained.

“It was created to get students involved. The program ties together the U.N. and Monmouth academ­ics,” she said.

Throughout the presentation, Fitzgerald encouraged the campus community to get involved with the IGU because, as she said, “not many people know about some of the great opportunities offered by our University.”

Fitzgerald explained that she is a member of the U.N. Student Al­liance, an organization, “which al­lows pathways towards careers in the United Nations.”

Fitzgerald then reminded the au­dience that in a globalized world that is so focused around social me­dia and technology, it is important to know how to network.

She explained that through the U.N. Association of New York, an organization that educates Ameri­cans about the work of the United Nations, students will encounter careers, internships, scholarships and networking skills that will em­power them to get involved in their world.

Fitzgerald added that the IGU at our University is a recognized NGO (non-government organiza­tion) that is required to send an an­nual review for admittance into the U.N., adding to the institute’s cred­ibility.

In addition, graduates and un­dergraduates alike must go through an interview process in order to be considered or accepted into the U.N. Student Alliance. In this orga­nization, students collectively try to solve world issues in a classroom-like setting.

Fitzgerald explained that, while most of student involvement with the U.N. is serious and focused on making the world a better place, it is also an unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

She explained how she was able to meet many worldly officials and celebrities interested in further­ing the U.N.’s cause. “The U.N. gives students a chance to put their dreams into place.”

She described how she was able to meet U.N. Security General Ban Ki-moon and received a signed copy of his book, “Building a Bet­ter Future for All.” She has also met students from other colleges around the country.

Fitzgerald explained that while many students worry about the tough times they might encoun­ter when trying to find a job after graduation, the U.N. is concerned bettering the working environment for emerging students and provid­ing a place for them to shoot for the career of their dreams.

Towards the middle of her pre­sentation, Alexandria asked each attendee in the room what their goal would be for the world if they were provided the power and resources to change it.

Audience members voiced a vari­ety of goals, including world peace, food sustainability, housing and de­velopment, protection for women, medical care, combating homeless­ness, clothing, more opportunities for the underprivileged, religious equality, drug enforcement, clean water, stem-cell research, science/ food development, and mental health.

Fitzgerald then explained what led her to her decision to get in­volved with the U.N. “Dr. [Nancy] Mezey (of the Political Science and Sociology Department) inspired me to get involved. She encouraged me to attend an actual U.N. confer­ence. It was then that I finally real­ized how important it was to take advantage of the opportunities that the University offers,” she said.

She continued, “Many people pay a lot of money to go to these conferences and require high secu­rity clearances, so it was amazing that I could take advantage of such a great opportunity to attend the U.N. with the school.”

Fitzgerald explained that the University provides many oppor­tunities that students are unaware of. She explained how students throughout the campus community can contact the IGU, get a guest pass, and attend a U.N. conference if they desire to see what the U.N. is all about.

Concetta Davi, a senior business marketing major who attended the presentation, said, “I think Alexan­dria did a great job representing the U.N. at her speech. I found the pre­sentation to be informative because not many students at the University know about Monmouth’s involve­ment with the United Nations.”

Davi explained that as a guest of the presentation, she felt that she was able to hear and understand everyone’s views and goals in life – something she doesn’t get to do everyday.

“Alexandria’s presentation brought knowledge about the pro­gram to students, a knowledge that may open many doors for those who would like to peruse oppor­tunities at the United Nations. Her motive to make everyone involved in her presentation kept the pre­sentation interesting and alive un­like most presentations where the speaker just focuses on what they had to say,” she said.

In regards to student involvement with the U.N., Concetta said, “I think its important for students to be aware of the United Nations and what their duties are because most of what goes on in the world affects everyone.”

She continued, “I think if more students knew about the oppor­tunities that the University could offer them at the U.N., they would want to get involved and get their voices heard.” However, Concetta expressed, “I do think the school as a whole should be more aware of the Institute for Global Understand­ing and the opportunities that they offer.”

Geoff Cleopfil, a graduate stu­dent in Public Policy, explained, “Alexandria’s presentation definite­ly was important as the IGU and the programs that it offers have such little advertisement on campus.”

He said, “The U.N. has a tremen­dous presence throughout the globe with peacekeeping efforts, aid to developing and war-torn countries, and working to preserve historical landmarks and buildings.”

However, he mentioned, “I feel that the U.N. is handicapped by the fact that it has so many interests competing with one another, and even if a country agrees with a U.N. policy, they really aren’t completely required to follow it.”

According to Susan Bucks, co-chair of the Global Understanding Convention this year, “Monmouth University is a partner with the United Nations Academic Impact Initiative, which has the goal of in­creasing awareness about the pur­pose U.N. activities. It is vital that young people take an active role in the future of the U.N.”

Bucks, who also attended Fitzger­ald’s presentation, explained, “Dur­ing her session for the 2013 Global Understanding Convention, Alex­andria explained her role as a stu­dent representative from MU. With great enthusiasm, she encouraged students to make their voices heard at the U.N. and suggested ways they can get involved.”

David Goldenthal, a senior po­litical science major and member of the Model U.N. team, said, “I think that Monmouth’s involvement with the U.N. is a great thing for the Uni­versity. For political science ma­jors, and specifically IR students, I believe that there aren’t too many opportunities to experience and ex­pand their understanding of inter­national relations currently offered here.”

He explained how the U.N. is a great place for students from all disciplines to get involved with charitable and humanitarian efforts through all of the programs they of­fer.

Goldenthal said, “I think it is also a great tool for non-political science majors simply because it opens stu­dents who might otherwise be con­centrated to one discipline such as chemistry or business to be more well-rounded by getting a greater understanding for how the world works on an intergovernmental level.”

However, Goldenthal explained that while U.N. presence around the world is in many ways a good thing, he believes that everything has its weaknesses.

He said, “The U.N. serves a pivot­al role in the world where countries have a forum to discuss pending is­sues ranging from human rights to nuclear weapons. The U.N. helps to facilitate the solution of many is­sues around the world which would, in the absence of the U.N., remain at large.”

He went on to say that there is only so much that the U.N. can do as an international organization. Although, Goldenthal stated, “The U.N. provides a forum where these issues can be discussed and coun­tries such as the U.S. and China can begin to address this issue outside of the U.N., but the planning begins there.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Alexandria Fitzgerald