New club launched to create awareness of global issues

During the fall 2007 semester, the St. John’s Model United Nations (Queens Chapter) was created with the purpose “to reshape the way our students think about global issues, how they communicate and interact with those who are different from them, and what they value as it pertains to global justice,” said Reggie Barnes, Director of Multicultural Affairs.

This initiative has been titled the Global Awareness Project (GAP) and was created by the Division of Student Affairs.

Daphné Vanessa Pierre, Secretary-General of Model UN, articulated the two major focuses of the club. She stated, “This organization has two components: the debate/conference aspect and the programming aspect,” Pierre said.

“Specifically, students interested in global issues and coordinating events would be interested in the programming element of this organization,” she said.

According to Barnes, the goals of the initiative include equipping students with the tools which will allow them to be responsible global citizens, preparing them to integrate and engage in our globally diverse world, joining students with faculty in service and studying abroad, and understanding the interrelation of international bodies that address the problems in the world.

The Global Awareness Project and these four goals are all centered on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

These eight goals were created in 2000 by the United Nations in the hopes of eradicating extreme poverty all over the world by 2015.

Barnes encourages students to visit the United Nations website to learn more about the U.N.’s global commitment.

Specifically, St. John’s Model United Nations aims to increase the awareness of the MDGs as addressed by the General Assembly and other agents of the United Nations.

Currently, at least 50 students university-wide have expressed serious interest in this chapter. “We’re encouraged by the numbers of committed students and expect this number to increase as we create more structured opportunities offered on a consistent basis,” Barnes remarked.

In addition to promoting international awareness, Barnes added that “This group will provide opportunities for students who are interested in global affairs, government and politics to articulate their ideas, raising awareness for issues affecting the global community.”

In terms of campus programming, Barnes said that throughout the semester the club “[will] co-sponsor various global justice initiatives including guest speakers, films, and mock debates on international issues.”

And according to Pierre, “Students interested in advocacy for international issues, the United Nations System, and learning to effectively debate or speak publicly would be attracted to the conference element of St. John’s Model UN. This allows our organization to appeal to a wider variety of students.”

Although this initiative was created by the Division of Student Affairs, the programs offered are open to all members of the St. John’s community.

There are also several student groups on campus under the GAP initiative. Like the Model UN club, these groups are taking a stand in support of the Millennium Development Goals. These groups include GASA (Global Awareness Student Association), which will provide our campus with the general programming of GAP, STAND (Student Anti-Genocide Coalition), and ONE Campaign.

The thread interweaving each of these programs and the overarching Global Awareness Project is their focus on the MDGs.

Currently, more than 300 St. John’s students have expressed interest in at least one of these student groups.

Barnes concluded, “Our goal is that this initiative can become instrumental in supporting the University’s priority for global education. Hopefully this [initiative] can change the University’s culture to become more cognizant of addressing global issues as it produces responsible global citizens.”