Model Student

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International honor caps Model European Union team's first year KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan. 28, 2016)…

Georgia (Jan 28, 2016)

International honor caps Model European Union team's first year

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan. 28, 2016) Kennesaw State University freshman Christopher William “Liam” Combs earned one of eight top honors — only two to American students — at a Model European Union (MEU) simulation competition during the 29th annual EuroSim Conference this month in Antwerp, Belgium.

Combs and six fellow members of Kennesaw State’s newly formed MEU were among 200 students from 20 European countries and the U.S. participating in the competition, which pits participants in simulated policy debates over critical issues — this year on the migration crisis in Europe and how the European Union might respond. It was Kennesaw State’s first time participating in EuroSim. It also was the first time in the history of the competition that a first-time entrant won one of the coveted awards.

Participating in MEU and the opportunity to compete in Belgium were catalysts for Combs’ difficult transition from a full-time job as branch manager for a regional diesel engine rebuilding and distribution facility to a full-time student who struggled academically and financially, and eventually, to an accomplished, confident and contributing member of the Kennesaw State community.   

“There I was in Belgium, representing Kennesaw State University as a freshman who joined the team halfway through the semester and wanted the school to be represented to the best of my ability,” Combs said.

The bridge from Combs’ first semester at Kennesaw State in fall 2014 when he failed all his classes to the shining moment in Antwerp when he accepted a “Best Delegate” award was engineered by faculty members and students who encouraged him to keep going in the midst of academic failure, financial strain and personal setbacks. 

Combs credits Todd Shinholster, instructor of international business in Kennesaw State’s Department of First-Year and Transition Studies, as “a saving grace” who “talked me back and saved my dreams” on several occasions when he was ready to give up. Fellow student and MEU team member Emily Barnes also befriended him when he decided to join the French Club “to become more intertwined with Kennesaw State” and invited him to his first MEU meeting.

Barnes and other members of the MEU team — Caleb Celeste, David Ethridge, Morgan Maddux-Stone, Austin Molke and Nicholas Zingleman — began preparing for the competition shortly after the team was established in fall 2015. They immersed themselves in learning about Europe, the European Union, governmental processes and the procedures and rules of competition. Combs joined them in mid-semester, already in catch-up mode, he noted.

“I felt I was really behind the curve, but I still wanted to be a part of it,” Combs said. “I had a lot to learn and I had to learn quickly to catch up to the team if I wanted to continue in this club, I thought.”

Being late to the club may have helped set him on the path to stellar performance in the competition, however. To prepare, each team member is assigned an alter ego — generally a politician representing a country, government body, party or committee. They researched their alter egos’ positions and simulated the arguments they would make in council sessions, party meetings or parliamentary proceedings.  As a latecomer, Combs was assigned the role of journalist.

“I was unsure of what was going to be asked of me in that role, and no one had a clear answer for it,” he said. “I figured I would be writing and reporting on things, but then I realized that I could potentially have to talk with all the alter egos about their positions. That meant that while everyone else had to learn one alter ego, I had to know them all. What good is a journalist if they don’t know the topic and what questions to ask?”

Combs said he began to dig as deeply as he could on the issues concerning the Syrian refugee crisis and how European Union countries were responding, learning everything he could about existing EU open-border policies. He created public service announcements, did breaking news stories, produced video announcements for various parties, and “to spice it up,” approached people with allegations by anonymous sources to get responses. 

In the process, Combs said he gained insight and understanding for the role of diplomacy, formal procedures, political laws within Europe, being part of a team, evaluating and understanding other people’s values and perspectives and global networking. He also honed his writing, public speaking and negotiation skills.

That is the goal of model simulations, says Tom Doleys, associate professor and director of the Master of Science in International Policy Management program in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs and advisor to the MEU team.

“Kennesaw State has a long and storied history in competitive simulations, Doleys said. “We have highly decorated teams that participate in Model United Nations, Model NATO, Model African Union and Model Arab League. Simulations of this sort have enormous value. Students develop negotiation and public speaking skills. They learn to be active listeners and to be creative thinkers. These are skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

Doleys noted that EuroSim adds another level to simulation competition because students interact with peers from another part of the world, providing perspective that no classroom-based instruction can equal.

“Liam succeeded because he was determined to do so,” Doleys said. “It bears noting that he operated with little clear guidance as to what was expected of the press corps at EuroSim. But what might have been seen as a challenge, Liam turned into an opportunity.”

A few hours shy of being a sophomore and considering a change in major to international affairs, Combs lauds the experience.

“Our intentions were not to win awards, but rather to represent KSU the best we could,” he wrote. “Thank you KSU for giving me this honor to represent you. I am proud to be an Owl.”

— Sabbaye McGriff

Photo by David Caselli




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