More than 100 alumni representing 30 years of University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Model United Nations delegations that won awards at National Model United Nations competitions gathered May 31 to celebrate three decades of the program success.
The reunion took place at the new UW Oshkosh Alumni Welcome and Conference Center and brought together alumni representing different Model UN generations – graduates who have gone on to pursue incredible careers and amass an array of experiences around the globe. Most credit their success to the elemental skills Model UN instilled in them.
The National Model United Nations each year involves 5,500 students from 200 universities in over 40 states and 44 countries on five continents in an academic competition at United Nations headquarters in New York. Students negotiate and write documents dealing with current issues from the real world, emulating the work of United Nations delegates who gather from points around the globe.
“The real skills that you learn doing something like this have everything to do with your public confidence, speaking before people, leadership, consensus-building and, particularly, critical thinking on the fly,” said Brynley Lee, the founding student president of UW Oshkosh Model UN in the mid-1980s who, with teammates, launched an unparalleled streak of national success that started getting the attention of others.
Now living and working in Southern California, the Model UN reunion stop represented Lee’s first time back to UW Oshkosh in about 20 years. He is a strategic adviser to executive leaders and business owners, providing interim CEO services.
“I’m in the business of building teams,” Lee said. “I hire people a lot… Give me the thinker who can change course on a dime, who is adaptable to the climate, the situation, the scenario. That’s what you learn in these Model UN sessions.”
Like Lee, several Model UN alumni returned to campus for the reunion from points around the nation and globe. Alumni husband and wife duo Brian Rettman and Marialyce Mutchler returned in from Tanzania, where Rettman serves as the Coordinator for Tanzania of PREPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program he heads is the fourth largest AIDS program in the world.
Dr. Kenneth J. Grieb, Coordinator of International Studies and Faculty Adviser for the UW Oshkosh Model UN said that the 30 years of the program’s success clearly demonstrate that UW Oshkosh students and International Studies majors compare well “and indeed stand well above students from other universities around the world in their knowledge of international affairs and procedures.”
In 30-plus years, at least 15 Model UN students Grieb knows of have served as leaders of the institution’s student government — Oshkosh Student Association presidents. Many graduates go on to pursue graduate studies and careers in law, government, relief work, international policy development… the list goes on.
“This is certainly a point of pride for UW Oshkosh which contributes to the University’s academic reputation,” Grieb said, citing the value of Model UN’s “skill-building process.”
“(The reunion) reflects the very excellent people,” he said. “So many of them have done so well in their careers. So many say the Model UN skills ‘helped me to advance in my career.’ Yes, it’s really satisfying to see so many of them together and interacting.”
UW Oshkosh and Model UN alumna Carolyn Hansen, who was a student in the late 1960s, now carries two business cards with her — one for her New York law practice and the other for her natural healing science consultancy.
A UW Oshkosh Model UN pioneer, Hansen is the alumna Grieb credits with helping nudge him toward his role as adviser for a then-embryonic program that would go on to enjoy stunning success. Hansen earned law degree at the University of Michigan and in Belgium before globe-trotting as part of corporate counsel jobs.
“I spent six years flying around the world, representing Johnson Wax,” Hansen said, noting she would go on to help the company establish its Affirmative Action plan. She then ventured east while working in the pharmaceutical industry, ended up advising the U.S. Department of Commerce on issues as pivotal as the North American Free Trade Agreement. And, for good measure, she spent time in China, learning Mandarin and setting up a law firm there while also helping found a sustainable development agency and, eventually, learning meditation and becoming a teacher.
As with other alums who attended the reunion, Hansen’s career reflections took a backseat to Model UN war stories. She said she recalled her UW Oshkosh Model UN team, in the late 1960s, developing and pushing a controversial resolution at a Midwestern competition to end the Vietnam War.
“We got China, Russia and others to sign on,” she said, grinning. “It passed.”
During his visit to the reunion, Adam Wolf, a 2013 UW Oshkosh graduate and Model UN team alum, said he was in the midst of interviewing for a job as an ethics analyst tasked with assuring overseas purchasers of U.S. military equipment are on the up and up.
A graduate of Oshkosh Lourdes High School, Wolf credits his Model UN experience with not only keeping him in the running for the new job opportunity but also with helping him find a path at UW Oshkosh after a couple of years of, academically, wandering.
“Public speaking, interpersonal skills — that’s what goes well in the workforce,” Wolf said.
“This past fall, I interned in New York with an UN-related organization and this summer,” he said. “I’ll be going to Budapest for a writing-related competition there. And I owe a lot of that to everything I learned in Model UN — the ability to write, the research and the knowledge.”
- Model United Nations team extends national winning streak to 30 years (UW Oshkosh Today, May 1)
- The Model of civic engagement, civility and success (Engage Magazine, Sept. 2012)
- UW Oshkosh Model United Nations