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Seton Hill Model UN Team Honored with Group, Individual Awards

Seton Hill University’s Model United Nations team and sophomore Paris Szalla were both honored for their work at the recent Model United Nations Conference in New York City. 

The team of eight students received an Honorable Mention Delegation Award for their work representing the country of Mauritania at the conference. Szalla, a political science and global studies major from Pittsburgh, Pa., received the Outstanding Position Paper in Committee award for the paper she submitted to the conference on policies for expanding the electricity grids of developing countries, facilitating knowledge transfer on development and supporting external debt sustainability.

Szalla and the other members of the Seton Hill team, including Carrie Ellis, a junior political science and global studies major from Ligonier, Pa.; Brianna Franzino, a freshman global studies major from Greensburg, Pa.; Mark Nealon, a sophomore political science major from Dunmore, Pa.;  Ariana Scott, a freshman political science and sociology major from Leechburg, Pa; Gina Scarsellato, a senior sociology major from Canonsburg, Pa.; William Weber, a senior political science major from Elizabeth, Pa.; and Scott Woodstuff, a sophomore political science major from McMurray, Pa.; had immersed themselves in the culture and politics of the Western African country of Mauritania beginning last fall as they prepared to represent the nation at the Model UN conference.

The students won the Honorable Mention Delegation Award for their excellent negotiation and diplomacy skills during their Committee work. Students work in Committees at the conference to negotiate agreements on human rights and common security issues with delegates representing other countries. Topics on sustainable development included plastic waste removal in the oceans and protecting marine life; combating human trafficking; nuclear energy and safe use of nuclear power; gender diversity in the United Nations; international collaboration on cyber security; electrical grid development in developing nations; and combating climate change in developing nations.

"The Model United Nations Conference allows students the ability to practice their negotiation, speaking, and writing skills with a group of up to 5,000 peers from universities across the world. They work together to develop actionable policies that would realistically be approved by national governments at the UN," said Roni Kay O'Dell, assistant professor of political science and global studies and Model UN advisor. "At the conference, each of the students represents a particular country and works with a team of dozens of country delegates in debating, negotiation, and writing a resolution that specifies how national governments can cooperatively work to solve common security and human rights problems."

The National Model United Nations Conference, held each spring at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, is a simulation of the United Nations in which college students practice diplomacy, communication, negotiation, research and writing skills. The simulation lasts four days and mirrors the United Nations committees that meet in New York every fall to collaborate and coordinate over issues of international concern.

"Model United Nations gave me the opportunity to hone the leadership skills that I have developed over the course of my studies,” said Ellis. “I am grateful for the opportunity to meet students from around the world who I can learn from and help me broaden my horizons." 

"The Model United Nations Conference was an amazing experience that allowed me to meet students from all around the world and gained exceptional leadership and professional skills in the process," added Franzino.

"Returning for my second year of Model UN made for a better experience as a delegate in this conference,” said Szalla. “I was more confident in my ability to use my leadership skills I have developed in my classes and in my preparation for the conference. I feel Model UN is the perfect complement to my political science studies." 

"This year's Model UN conference was an amazing experience where I learned about so many different cultures, made new friends, and obviously learned more about the work of the United Nations,” said Scarsellato. “This being my second year at the conference, I was able to get a more well-rounded idea of the different committees and how the conference works as a whole. I acquired so much knowledge and made connections that will last a lifetime." 

"At the conference, the greatest experience for me was being able to develop my negotiating skills. I am planning to go to law school after I graduate and being able to negotiate with other attorneys is one of the skills that I had not really developed through school, but I was able to develop through Model UN," Weber said. 

"The Model UN conference helped me to better my communication and collaboration skills with fellow students from around the world," said Woodstuff.

"This conference was an absolutely amazing experience and helped me both personally and professionally,” said Nealon. “Professionally, this conference taught me how to organize within a large group of different individuals and reach a common goal. Personally, I was able to better my understanding of people from all over the world and better facilitate how to find common ground among them." 

"The Model UN conference was very influential for not only my educational experience but my experience as a student at Seton Hill as a whole,” said Scott. “It was amazing to meet different students for all over the world and interact with such different personalities. This conference also helped me solidify my passion for human rights and activism."

Photo: Seton Hill students Mark Nealon, Paris Szalla, Gina Scarselatto, Briana Franzino, Ariana Scott, William Weber, Carrie Ellis, and Scott Woodstuff at the Model UN Conference.