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Tomorrow’s global leaders shine at Model NATO conference

Though born in the U.S., Stephanie Leahy is a student of the world, having lived in countries across the globe throughout her childhood, including Ecuador, India, Mexico, and Bulgaria.

The second-year student took that global perspective to heart as she and two dozen other Northeastern students debated today’s most pressing global issues with other students from American and European universities at the 28th Annual International Model NATO conference earlier this month.

“It’s important to keep an open mind to the different angles countries take toward policy,” Leahy said.  “My upbringing has allowed me to see different sides of issues that affect nations all over the world. It’s an important strength to have, not only at this conference but in life as well.”

The conference, held in Washington D.C. from Feb. 14-17, drew teams of students from higher-education institutions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. At the conference, each of the student teams represented a pre-assigned country, and the proceedings mirrored those of NATO, in which students sit on committees and discuss, debate, and write resolutions on a range of issues such as defense, the global economy, and nuclear planning.

The Northeastern Model NATO student teams represented Latvia and Italy. Both earned first-place honors at the conference, sharing the top spot with the team from the Royal Military Academy of Canada, which represented the United States. The strong showing at the conference builds on Northeastern’s past success; student teams finished in first place and fifth place at the same event last year.

Michael Trudeau and Ginevra Sponzilli served as the student team delegates for Northeastern’s Latvia and Italy teams, respectively. They pointed to many factors that contributed to their teams’ success, including months of intense preparation, superb team chemistry, a great passion for international political debate, and strategic pairings of students on the various committees that maximized the students’ individual strengths and personalities.

Trudeau, a senior political science major who is president of the Student Veterans Organization, noted the array of emerging global challenges that students debated—including cybersecurity. “We really don’t even know what cybersecurity fully involves yet, so it’s challenging to defend against what it could be,” he said.

Philip D’Agati, the Model NATO team’s adviser and an assistant academic specialist in the Department of Political Science, said his students shined throughout the conference.

“No matter what room you walked into, Northeastern students were at the center of the debate,” D’Agati said.

“The university’s mission is so deeply tied to experiential learning and global learning, and Northeastern’s Model NATO program is the living embodiment,” he added. “The university deeply cares about that type of a learning experience, which values understanding the world. Students get that in all of their classes, their clubs, and from their interactions with each other. It’s definitely an edge for us.”

The Model NATO team is one component of the International Relations Council, a student group at Northeastern that also participates in interactive simulations of the United Nations and the League of Arab States. Through these experiences, students learn firsthand the challenges of international diplomacy and develop strong public speaking and negotiation skills.