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Queens Students Shine at International Model NATO Simulation

Apr 17, 2024 By Queens University Communications

For more than a decade, Maggie M. Commins. Ph.D., Shelton Professor of Political Science, has accompanied Queens students to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Washington Model Organization of American States conference. This year, however, Commins challenged her students to try something different by participating in the unique educational experience known as the International Model NATO. The event is a simulation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and features students from universities across the globe. Now in its 39th year, the event was held at Howard University.

With the support of Queens adjunct professor and foreign policy expert Dmitry Vovchuk, Commins led fourteen students from her Topics in Model United Nations course to the International Model NATO conference with students representing the member nations of Estonia and Montenegro.

Topics in Model United Nations delves into NATO’s crucial role in tackling global issues like military threats, political instability, and economic challenges. Through the simulation, students gained firsthand experience of how each country’s unique capabilities and limitations shape decisions regarding collective security – the cornerstone of the NATO alliance.

“Representing Queens as Estonia’s head delegate was an enriching experience,” said Natalia Hidalgo ’24, a political science and philosophy major. “As I learned more about Estonia’s values, I realized that while it is essential to defend a country’s integrity, one must also be respectful and conscientious of different ethical values and viewpoints. The biggest lesson? The road to consensus is difficult to traverse, yet possible.”

Students honed their skills through committee work, meetings with State Department officials, and embassy visits. Highlights included an alumni dinner featuring Queens graduates including Ann Brennan, head of the Washington, D.C. alumni chapter.

In addition to the dinner, Queens alumni coordinated visits to Capitol Hill offices, including a tour led by alumni James Johnson ’12, legislative director for representative Frank Pallone, and a meeting with Steve Gonzalez ’09, deputy director for the House Committee on Veteran Affairs, overlooking the Capitol. Students also heard briefings from senior policy analysts at the Pentagon and met with military attaches at the Estonian and Montenegrin embassies.

Queens student James Biggins ‘25, a U.S. Army reservist interested in security policy, was elected vice chair of the military committee. Three students, including Biggins, received Outstanding Delegate Awards.
Hidalgo, who received the Superior Delegate Award, added, “This experience is just one example of how Queens fosters an environment that encourages unique, global learning experiences. During my time at Queens, I’ve used critical thinking, teamwork, and public speaking skills to cultivate humility, open-mindedness, and global awareness.”

“I visited DC when I was about six years old,” reflects student Jasnoor Mundi ’26, a political science major. “Being back as an adult, especially one who is passionate about politics and government, was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve dreamed of becoming a lawyer for a very long time now, but making visits to embassies, government buildings, and offices showed me that there are so many more jobs available in government, and I truly believe that no matter what you think your career path is, exploring other opportunities is never a bad idea!”

Following the International Model NATO simulation, nine students participated in the regional Model Arab League at Converse University in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There, three Queens students earned Outstanding Delegate Awards.

“This is my second international simulation with Dr. Commins, and her brilliant leadership makes these experiences what they are: insightful and unforgettable!” said Amina Begic ’24, a political science major. “It was great to work with such a talented and fun group of students. We all supported each other to get the most out of this experience.”

Commins is looking forward to next year’s International Model NATO and Model Arab League simulations and is excited to build an even larger program in the future.