KSU’s Model Arab League scores in nation’s capital
Students’ diplomatic instincts and savvy land them on Embassy Row
(Apr 23, 2009) — A couple of bold‚ smooth moves netted 17 members of Kennesaw State’s Model Arab League
a two−hour tea with Syria’s ambassador to the U.S. at his Embassy Row home in Washington‚
D.C. and a favorable showing at the national competition held there last month.
KSU’s team represented Syria in this year’s Model Arab League contest in which competing teams from universities throughout the country represent countries in the League of Arab States. Two of each team’s members are assigned to participate on a committee with members representing other Arab League countries to write resolutions in the areas of social affairs‚ economic and political issues‚ joint defense‚ global environment‚ the Arab Court of Justice and the Arab ministers of justice. The teams are judged by peers‚ judges and competition alumni on how well they represent their respective countries.
Coming off an impressive win — the top award as “outstanding delegation” — at the Southern regional competition at Converse College in Spartanburg‚ S.C.‚ in early March‚ team captain Abdullah Burgeba‚ a senior majoring in international affairs‚ contacted Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha via e−mail and letter‚ asking for an audience.
Burgeba had met Moustapha briefly last December when the ambassador participated on a panel hosted by Atlanta’s Istanbul Center‚ KSU’s partner in the ”Year of Turkey.” That chance meeting gave him the introduction he needed.
“The ambassador’s cultural affairs liaison set it up right away‚” Burgeba said. “We really didn’t expect to get invited to his residence.”
Meanwhile‚ with the invitation extended‚ team member Jeffrey Drennan‚ a junior majoring in political science and next year’s captain‚ made the rounds at Kennesaw State‚ soliciting letters from President Daniel S. Papp‚ Linda Morrisson‚ faculty adviser to the Global Society‚ the umbrella student organization for the Model Arab League‚ and one signed by all the team members.
“We wanted to make a nice presentation to the ambassador from our campus‚” Drennan said. “Everyone obliged.”
During their meeting in a basement den at Moustapha’s residence‚ KSU’s team members took turns asking questions to elicit his views on issues being presented by the various committees — the renewal of free trade agreements halted under the Bush administration and peace agreements with Israel among them.
“He was very frank‚ honest and humble‚” said Drennan‚ who served on the committee dealing with the issue of free trade. “We used his analogies and the information he gave us in every speech during the competition.”
Drennan said he was unclear on Syria’s position on the renewal of free trade agreements with the West prior to their meeting. The ambassador clarified it for him: Syria would like to improve relations and reduce trade barriers with the West.
“The Model Arab League is a great chance for students to see Arab affairs through Arabs’ eyes‚ Drennan said.
The KSU team fared well at the national competition‚ with two members — seniors Jonathan Edmond and Rebecca Gallegos — winning outstanding delegate and committee chair awards‚ respectively‚ and Eric Holmes winning the court case at the Arab Court of Justice.
Burgeba‚ who plans to graduate in May‚ takes some measure of pride in the way things turned out. He not only finessed the meeting with the Syrian ambassador this year‚ but also scored the team a meeting with the Lebanese ambassador when KSU’s team represented that country last year.
“It doesn’t always work that way‚” he said. “This experience has been a chance for me as an international affairs student to use the skills of negotiating‚ networking and building relationships that we’ve been learning.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.