UW-Green Bay students prepare for global summit

More than 200 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students will participate Monday, April 19, in the annual UN Global Summit.

The summit will take place 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Phoenix Room and the 1965 Room. The public is welcome and invited to watch as students address some of the most pressing issues facing the planet.

In keeping with UW-Green Bay’s Common Theme — “Realizing our Sustainable Future” — the focus of this summit is global sustainability in areas such as the economy, environment and equity.

Students divided into teams of six will represent 38 nations — some large, some small — some that are already superpowers and some that are emerging nations. All confront issues that require alliances with other nations.

The students come from the classes of political science professors Katia Levintova and Sara Rinfret. When they begin preparing for this assignment most students have limited knowledge of the nations they’ll represent. But as they prepare for the summit they begin to understand the issues that are important to “their” nation.

“There are very few political science majors (among the students), so the learning curve is quite steep,” Levintova says. “But it’s great to see how they begin to care about their country and how they want to create alliances to address major issues.”

Both say it’s satisfying to see students come to understand that the issues confronting one nation may be shared by another, or legitimately conflict with the needs of a third country. They begin to understand that global issues aren’t simple headlines, but complex stories.

And just like the real United Nations, these disputes can become emotional. A nearby room is reserved as a quiet room where delegates can meet and yelling is not permitted.

In a related matter, teaching assistants who have helped Rinfret and Levintova prepare for Monday’s summit, will be raising funds to aid the victims of the Haitian earthquake.

When the summit concludes, students will write papers about the experience and demonstrate what they’ve learned about global issues and politics.

“I’m sometimes amazed at the level of sophistication that develops,” Rinfret said. “Our goal is to help them understand the importance and process of forming global alliances.”

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