Several FDU students, alumni and visitors from our partner university in Mexico (CETYS), gathered in the Orangerie on April 2 to discuss how students can get more involved with the United Nations. FDU has had a Model United Nations and other UN-related clubs before, but the groups have been inactive for several years. So a representative from the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) came to the Florham campus to speak with students about their options.
Before getting into the specifics, Donna Rosa, the president of UNA-USA's Northern New Jersey chapter, provided background information on the UN. It is the world's largest organization, with 193 member countries in total. Rosa said that for over 70 years, the organization has provided food, vaccines, humanitarian aid and more to millions of people. She also explained that the UN currently has 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that aim to improve education, equality, the environment, and other important global issues.
Rosa went on to describe the UNA and how it aims to inform the community about what the UN does. UNA-USA was founded in 1964 and currently has 150 chapters and divisions with 22,000 members across the nation. It is part of a larger coalition of over 100 UNAs throughout the world. "We mobilize people and elected officials to support the UN," Rosa said.
UNA-USA advocates for UN funding, human rights, SDGs, and international treaties and conventions. She then showed a video from the organization's website that invited viewers to "join us as we stand beside the UN in building a better world."
Although FDU itself has a long history of association with the United Nations, Rosa described several options for students who want to personally get involved with the United Nations:
Model United Nations (MUN) - Would give students an interactive experience with diplomacy, international relations and other activities that real UN delegates encounter. Rosa said that members of this club would learn about how the international community acts on various topics, while improving their problem-solving, compromise and negotiation abilities.
Global Classrooms: Is similar to MUN but offers these activities as a course rather than a club.
Gen UN: Is a network of youth leaders advocating for global progress, who are encouraged to take action and get involved with the UN on various topics.
Her recommendation to FDU was to join the northern NJ chapter of UNA-USA so that her organization can provide support to students who are interested in setting these programs up. She mentioned contests, meetings and conferences that UNA-USA members can participate in each year, and said that student membership is free.
Rosa also provided several recommendations for activities FDU students could participate in if they were to become a part of UNA-USA. Suggestions included advocacy campaigns and fundraisers for important UN causes and programs, networking events and speaker events.
John Prescott, the chapter's Program Chair, also spoke to students and said that their involvement in the organization would be empowering. "I encourage you to take advantage of this ... free opportunity for you to really make a difference and gain experiential learning," he said.
An FDU alumnus also spoke about his own involvement with the UN in the past. He explained that he and his fellow students were able to attend conferences at the UN and help send a global message to policy makers about the need for environmental action. "It was definitely a really good experience for me to be involved in these types of groups and activities ... it was enriching for me," he said.
Students from both FDU and CETYS were then invited to share their ideas on how their schools could get involved. FDU students recommended making MUN a class or elective first, before eventually establishing it as a club. Since the FDU Vancouver Campus already has a MUN, another student recommended partnering with other campuses and universities on various UN-related activities.
The students also said that events promoting tolerance (such as LGBT, racial and gender equality), celebrating multicultural food, and providing networking opportunities would likely appeal to FDU students the most. Audience members also thought it might be a good idea for the hypothetical student UN group to team up with other clubs when organizing such events at the Florham Campus.
Although nothing definitive was decided by the end of the event, many of the students seemed interested in learning more and getting involved.
FDU students Citlally Garcia and Janique Baltimore found the event interesting and said they hope the university will have a MUN or UNA club in the near future.
CETYS student, Paula Palma, said that "the time is now" to get involved with the organization and that she hopes CETYS and FDU students can team up someday.
Anyone interested in potentially getting involved can contact SOMEONE.