They had some pretty big shoes to fill.
Twelve years in a row, University of Michigan-Dearborn political science Professor Ron Stockton has led a team of students to compete in Model Arab League.
And every year, his teams have left the competition with the top prize.
“We’re not in it for the silver,” Stockton said.
Stockton extended the university’s win streak last month, as UM-Dearborn students took first-place honors at Michigan’s annual Model Arab League conference in Allendale.
As part of the competition, students debated issues related to political and security affairs, as well as social and environmental issues. The trick is that students were forced to debate these particular issues on behalf of a Middle Eastern country.
For UM-Dearborn students, that meant Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
“You’re not necessarily representing a government that you like,” Stockton said. “Twenty years ago, we represented Saddam Hussein and Kuwait. Diplomats don’t get to choose—they do what the boss says.”
Some participants struggle to represent a foreign government with contrasting views. Zach Tasky, however, doesn’t fall into that category.
“I’ve always been a bit of a devil’s advocate, so I’m able to see issues from different perspectives,” said Tasky, a junior political science major.
Tasky, along with Pam Yaacoub and Joe Miszcak, represented Saudi Arabia, and their efforts resulted in the Outstanding Delegation Award.
“These are some really dedicated students who understand the reputation UM-Dearborn has to uphold,” Stockton said.
And a spotless record isn’t the only factor that separates UM-Dearborn from the other universities competing in Model Arab League.
At many universities, students receive college credit for participating in the competition. For UM-Dearborn, participation is voluntary.
“I signed up because I thought it was a good opportunity to get into the mindset of foreign policy experts and figure out how they justify the things they do,” said Tasky, who plans to pursue a career in environmental law. “I had an opportunity to hone my communication skills and learn some background about countries that I didn’t know much about.”
Miszcak graduated in December with bachelor’s degrees in political science and philosophy, but because his eligibility still is intact, he returned to participate in his second Model Arab League competition.
“Last year was the first time I ever spoke in front of a big group of people who aren’t just listening, but they can attack you on every word you say,” said Misczak, who plans to pursue a master’s degree or attend law school. “You really have to stay in character as much as possible so the other delegates can’t call you out.”