By Carly Mallenbaum '11 Com
Public Relations Intern
Captain Jack Sparrow, the Greek god Zeus, and Emmy Award-winning journalist Charles Bierbauer will all be at University Park this weekend.
Fact and fiction will collide this weekend as the 2009 Penn State Model United Nations Conference will have teams representing historical eras and characters, both real and invented, debating conflicts. Before pirates or Greek gods face off or any of the debates begin, Bierbauer, former CNN White House correspondent and now dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina, will address the conference during Friday's welcoming ceremonies. Bierbauer's appearance also marks a return to his alma mater—he graduated from Penn State in 1966 with a degree in Communications. He also earned a master's degree from the University in 1970 and has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus and Alumni Fellow.
Hosted by Penn State's International Affairs and Debate Association, the conference is bringing together students from Cornell University, the University of Scranton, York College, Kutztown University, and Penn State. From Friday through Sunday, participants will debate as members of one of five different "crisis" committees: 18th Century English Royal Court, Brethren of the Coast (which includes the pirates of the Caribbean), CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, Pantheon of the Gods (which includes Zeus), and Security Council of 1963. Committee members must resolve a conflict or "crisis" through debate—while staying in character.
With the Schreyer Honors College serving as one of the program’s sponsors, a number of Schreyer Scholars are participating in the event. Lucianna Hayden, a senior Scholar majoring in finance, is in charge of the Brethren of the Coast. Lucianna said her group will feature Red Beard and other pirates who will take on the Royal Court of England. The committee members will dictate what happens in the debate, but Lucianna and the rest of the student staff of the Model UN got to create the committees and initial conflicts.
"We tried to think outside the box," she said. "We wanted committees that are historically feasible, entertaining, and challenging."
According to Schreyer Scholar Casey Crisman-Cox, a sophomore majoring in political science, the debates can get pretty intense.
"I got thrown out of a conference once," he said.
Casey shouldn’t be thrown out this year, though, because he won’t be debating. As the chair of the Security Council of 1963 committee, he'll be facilitating what he has been working on for almost a year.
"We started laying out what we were going to do at the end of spring semester last year," he said. "Then we brainstormed over the summer."
Casey is devoted to the club because he finds it a useful model for a career in politics. Model UN, he says, shows "not only how individual countries influence decisions, but how certain idiosyncrasies effect policy."
Although the Model UN Conference is the perfect event for a political science major, Lucianna says that participation is very diverse.
"We have engineers, business majors, and people studying meteorology," she said. "We have a huge variety of people because the topics are so varied."
Several of the organizers said that Bierbauer's remarks will touch on his decades of experience in covering U.S. policy and his analysis of present-day issues. Schreyer Scholar Sakiba Khan, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, is looking forward to hearing Bierbauer speak.
"I'm really excited because we didn’t actually expect him to say yes to us. He's a pretty big deal."
Sakiba, the Secretary-General of the Model UN, says that Bierbauer will share stories about the presidents he has covered throughout his career and will discuss the economic issues President Barack Obama is up against.
"The topics are really cool," Sakiba said. "He will talk about globalization and what the future will be like."
The conference is sponsored by the Penn State International Affairs and Debate Association and the Schreyer Honors College. Opening ceremonies will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday. For more information, visit the Model UN Web site at www.clubs.psu.edu/up/psun/PUNC/mission.html.
It’s not too late to get involved in this weekend’s conference. E-mail Sakiba at PennStateUNConference@psu.edu if you want to participate.