Model Arab League Offers Students a Chance ‘Walk in Shoes of Arab Diplomats’

June 13, 2019
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WC Students Traveled to Washington, D.C., and Morocco for Unique Competition

Wilmington College students have an opportunity to delve into the international affairs of the dynamic and often times perplexing Arab world through a unique hands-on learning opportunity.

The College is affiliated with the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ Model Arab League (MAL), which offers simulated summits that dig deep into the politics and history of the Arab world.

PICTURED: Brandon Middleton (LEFT) and Alec Robinette confer while representing Jordan at the Model Arab League’s Ohio Valley Regional in February.

This past 2018-19 academic year was a milestone in the College’s involvement as several students received excellence awards at the regional level and the team competed in both the nationals in Washington, D.C., and International Model Arab League hosted by International University in Rabat, Morocco.

Dr. Marlaina Leppert-Wahl, associate professor of political science, who serves as faculty adviser, said Model Arab League is yet another manifestation of WC’s hallmark for offering hands-on learning opportunities outside the normal classroom environment.

Going to Morocco is definitely that!

“What do our students learn through Model Arab League participation?” she said. “Research, diplomacy, oral communication, critical thinking skills, leadership skills and the art of reasoned argument and spirited debate.”

The WC contingent was assigned the country of Jordan going into the Ohio Valley Regionals, which comprises colleges with MAL programs from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

In preparation, students took a two-hour course focusing on how to optimize their Model Arab League experience. They researched the greater Middle East region and the roles of various countries on issues affecting the Arab states. They specifically delved into how Jordan relates to other countries in the region, as well as its relationship with Israel and the United States.

“Each student is assigned to a particular council interested in such areas as the environment, economy, social issues, refugees, and women and children,” she said, noting it essentially reflects same way that the real Arab League operates.

“They’re looking at current topics that, as a body, they’re going to pass resolutions and solve problems,” she added, noting that a topic like the environment would require knowledge of water security and how to protect the environmental infrastructure, while social issues might cover preventing human rights violations or the role of state-sponsored media.

“These students research issues and try to work together in a diplomatic setting.”

Indeed Model Arab League is not a traditional competition – no group of students representing a country actually wins. Rather, it’s an exercise in presenting researched facts in a convincing manner from the perspective of one’s assigned country.

“Our students learn firsthand what it feels like to be in the shoes of Arab diplomats. They gain a deeper knowledge of the Arab world and its people,” Leppert-Wahl said. “As our students gain this information, they also gain an empathy for the Arab world.”

While it’s not a competition, Model Arab League recognizes individual excellence through special awards. At regionals, Michael Smith and Jaden Profitt were named Outstanding Delegates for their work representing Jordan on the Joint Defense Council, while Eric Lundquist and Malik Pettiford were recognized as Distinguished Delegates on the Economics Council.

After advancing from the regional level in February, Wilmington College students partnered with those from Ashland University at the national MAL in Washington, D.C., in April. Leppert-Wahl likes the idea of WC students networking with other schools in the region. The previous year, they teamed with Western Kentucky University students. They also were joined in the nation’s capital with teams ranging from Brigham Young, American and George Mason to West Point and Georgia State universities.

The Jordanian Embassy invited the WC contingent to visit for a quick immersion into that nation’s culture and challenges.

The International Model Arab League is held each fall and is something Leppert-Wahl hopes WC students can attend in alternate years, while participating in both the regional and national MALs every year. Three students and an alumna traveled with her to Morocco for the 2018 event, which featured, among others, students from the Netherlands, Sweden, Egypt and Morocco.

The College’s Lew Marcuson Travel Fund assisted with their travel expenses, which Leppert-Wahl described as “a godsend.” Also, funding came from Student Government Assn., the Peace Resource Center and Office of Diversity & Inclusion. “We rely on other’s generosity.”

She said WC’s Model Arab League team is not limited solely political science majors; rather, all students with an interest are welcome. “It’s nice to see students from across the campus involved with this,” she said. “Everyone has something they can bring to the table and they gain things they can take with them — it’s a win-win.”

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