By Dr. Joan E. Supplee, The Ralph L. and Bessie Mae Lynn Professor of History and director of the Baylor Model Organization of American States Program
The Baylor Model Organization of the American States (MOAS) team chartered unfamiliar water this past week with the very first Washington Model Organization of American States (WMOAS) e-Model. On March 12, WMOAS officials cancelled the WMOAS conference in Washington, D.C. due to COVID-19 and announced that conference was going to take place online.
Traditionally, the Washington model gives students the unique opportunity to debate critical international issues in the same halls where the Western Hemisphere’s oldest regional political organization discusses those same issues. In addition to their diplomatic duties, students would visit one of the Latin American Missions to the OAS, hear addresses by the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez, take a private tour of the United States Capitol and have a briefing from the Senate Foreign Relations staff. But not this year.
Instead this year, Baylor MOAS represented the Delegation of Peru at the WMOAS e-Model hosted by Frostburg State University. Team members forged diplomatic consensus and a spirit of Inter-American cooperation as they exchanged ideas and cultures with students from universities from not only the United States, but also Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina — and they did it all virtually.
When the quarantine hit, students were working on the final draft of their team paper highlighting Peru’s position on the agenda topics and their individual resolutions. Despite social distancing and a second week of spring break, they continued with those tasks. On March 20, they submitted eight out of 10 planned resolutions to the Faculty Review Committee. After overcoming technical difficulties, the Committee accepted the final two resolutions at the model.
Faculty and students then pivoted in their preparations to face the new e-Model requirements on the Microsoft Teams platform. Each of the five committees — General, Hemispheric Security, Integral Development, Political and Juridical Affairs and the Special Committee on Climate Change — had a team meeting site for synchronous meetings and individual channels within the site for asynchronous discussions on the approved draft resolutions. The Faculty Review Committee approved all of Baylor’s resolutions, but students still had to convince two other delegations to support them before debate in the synchronous sessions.
The channels opened on Sunday, April 5, for students to review, comment on and support resolutions as well as uploading videos of their proponent speeches or speeches supporting other delegation’s resolutions. All of Baylor’s resolutions received the necessary support before the first synchronous committee session. Those sessions ran two hours each day for synchronous online debate, but students had to check in regularly with the resolution channels to stay engaged with the asynchronous discussions during the model.
At the end of the final synchronous session on April 9, students voted on the resolutions and uploaded explanations of all of their votes. In the final tally, all 10 of the Baylor resolutions passed, one of them unanimously. The entire team agreed that the e-Model was an intense, but valuable experience.
This year’s team was led by head delegates Gabriela Fernández Castillo (sophomore, international studies and psychology, México City, México) and Trevor Allred, (senior, international studies, Houston). Representing the Delegation of Peru in the General Committee, Fernández and Allred joined head delegates from other schools in tackling the thorny issues of diversity, renewable energy, and the border crisis in the Hemisphere.
Representing Peru in the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs were Hadee Zabad (senior, economics, Beaumont) and Camryn Lutes (sophomore, political science, The Woodlands). Zabad and Lutes joined delegates in discussing promotion of freedom of speech in the Hemisphere and Electoral Observation Missions — an OAS initiative to ensure free and fair elections in all member states.
Lawson Sadler (senior, University Scholar, San Antonio) and Noah Engelhardt (freshman, University Scholar, Waco) sat on the Committee for Hemispheric Security. This committee handled critical security topics including public health threats, urban public security, and fighting terrorism and organized crime.
The Committee on Integral Development addressed issues related to fostering income equality, reducing the digital divide, and empowerment of women in entrepreneurship. The Peruvian delegates on this committee were David Bryant (junior, history, Denton) and Christian Gervasi (junior, political science, Hingham, Massachusetts).
New to the conference this year was the Special Committee on Climate Change in the Americas. In this committee, Naomi Polete (senior, political science, Austin) and John Dagley (freshman, political science, Houston) debated protection of marine life, implementation of the Paris Agreement, and promotion of low carbon economic growth.
Helping the administrative side of these committees were two rapporteurs — Payton Vinet (sophomore, computer science, Spring) and Logan Butler (freshman, University Scholar, Evansville, Indiana). Serving on the Committee for Integral Development and Special Committee, respectively, they assisted the chairs in facilitating debate and parliamentary procedure, earning the gratitude of both chairs and delegates in the process. Makayla Gorden (senior, anthropology, Midland) served as the public information officer and Dr. Joan Supplee, the Ralph L. and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair in History, was the faculty advisor.
While team members missed the trip to Washington D.C., they all agreed the e-Model brought with it new skills and experiences. In addition to the tools needed for a normal model — research, debate, networking and parliamentary procedure — students learned how to produce their own speeches online and use the online channels to forge alliances and friendships across the hemisphere. They practiced reading a room virtually and managing time zones.
Between working hard online all day during the week, to gathering every night on WebEx for team meetings, to sharing skills mastered, the Baylor MOAS team members are proud of the work accomplished, and relationships built. As Organization of American States Secretary-General H.E. Luis Almagro explained in his video addressing conference participants, “Your presence and work this week are encouraging for those of us who are on the frontline of Inter-American affairs. It gives us hope knowing that younger generations believe in diplomacy.”
Team members look forward to sharing their experiences with fellow students, faculty and administrators when circumstances permit. They wish to thank the Baylor community for believing in and supporting these kinds of unique engaged learning experiences.
The members of the Baylor MOAS Team took a “team picture” for the WMOAS E-Model (shown at top). Team members in the picture include (top-left to bottom-right): Hadee Zabad, Camryn Lutes, Trevor Allred, John Dagley, Lawson Sadler, David Bryant, Logan Butler, Dr. Joan Supplee, Payton Vinet, Noah Engelhardt, Makayla Gorden, Gabi Fernández, Naomi Polete and Christian Gervasi.