|Katie McDonald ’14 Summarizes her European Union Simulation Experience
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Over the past few years, LVC juniors and seniors have been offered the opportunity to participate in a unique Disciplinary Perspectives course in which students are provided with the opportunity to attend a simulated European Union parliamentary session in Washington, D.C. With the generous donations of Dr. William J. McGill H’98, senior vice president and dean of the faculty emeritus, and his wife, Ellen, students are able to experience this trip at no cost, making it a beneficial experience that does not affect our “student wallets.”
A group of students from many colleges and universities come together while representing different member states within the European Union. Each student independently represents an actual member of his or her member state. During the simulation, students debate and resolve an issue that is currently happening within the European Union; this year’s focus was on the Eurocrisis that is occuring within the EU’s economy.
At the recommendation of Dr. Philip Benesch, associate professor of political science, 12 LVC students attended the event representing the United Kingdom. Benesch, being a native of the United Kingdom, was able to put his personal experience into teaching this class and prepared us to thoroughly act our parts as true Brits.
“The idea is the students go to the conference to play a role of a politician or a diplomat and they argue from that person’s position and negotiate with other governments or politicians to achieve a policy result,” Benesch explained, noting that students learn valuable tactical skills in the process.
“Students have to rapidly become acquainted with a particular role,” he said. “They learn to represent that point of view, which may be remarkably different from their own point of view. It develops strong interpersonal skills and negotiation skills. They have to work with students from other colleges, and—in character—navigate the policy options and political tensions that will come with the territory. Many students come out of their shell to speak before a couple of hundred people in the plenary session. The students develop confidence and the ability to articulate, advocate, and negotiate. And of course they have a great time.”
During the visit, we had the chance to not only conduct the simulation but to also visit the United Kingdom Embassy and talk to a government member about the UK and what is currently happening within the country. We visited with U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Representative Charlie Dent, as well. We also happened to meet Edgar Morgan ’63, the LVC alumnus who actually founded the D.C. European Union Simulation Program back in 1992.
“I was in France when the Maastricht Treaty was signed, which led to the creation of the European Union (EU) and the single European currency, the euro,” noted Morgan. “I returned to Washington, D.C., and began asking ‘What are we doing in the U.S. about what is occurring in Europe? This is a bloc that could greatly benefit the U.S.’”
Many students who take the European Union Simulation class are political science majors like Morgan was, but not all. The class is not solely intended for this particular study, it is an experience that can be beneficial for students of any major, and it was for me as a business administration major.
“Lots of people involved with the program were political science or foreign studies majors,” stated Collin Straka, senior economics major. “I am an economics major, but I learned a great deal about the politics and history of the European Union. I have a more holistic view of the situation in Europe after this experience.”
We prepared for the simulation throughout the school year by learning about the history, culture, and current economic situation of the European Union – and we had a leg up because we were representing Dr. Benesch’s native country. Specifically, we focused on how the individuals that we would be representing in the simulation would react to certain issues that the EU is currently facing.
When we returned from D.C., we met with the McGills and Mr. Morgan as a group to reflect on the experience and to thank them for allowing us to have this immersive political experience. View photos from the entire experience on the LVC Facebook page.