This year, OU students founded the university’s first-ever Model Arab League (MAL) team — and they’re already gaining recognition in the region. At the Southwest Model Arab League Conference in Commerce, Texas earlier this month, the team took home awards for “Outstanding Delegation” and individual “Outstanding Delegate” in three councils. Two International Security Studies majors, senior James Lincoln Ratcliff and junior Peter King, co-founded the OU group and serve as its president and vice president.
“The idea came to me to establish a team following my acceptance into the National Council on US-Arab Relations’ summer internship program,” Ratcliff explains. “While I ended up not being able to do the internship, I found out that there was a MAL conference only three hours to the south. Frankly, I was a little miffed that there wasn’t already an OU team given our strength of program, so I decided to start one myself.”
MAL is a diplomacy situation similar to Model United Nations, focused specifically on the 22 members of the League of Arab States. The purpose of the organization is to allow students to develop leadership skills and gain experience in diplomacy and foreign affairs. Rounding out OU’s 11-person team are Mohammed AlWahdanee (freshman, Electrical Engineering), Cassie Castle (junior, ISS/Arabic), Rebecca Franklin (junior, ISS/Arabic), Danielle Higginbotham (junior), Jared Johnson (senior, Middle Eastern Studies), Youssef Kamel (sophomore, IAS/Religious Studies), Kathryn Lynn (senior, Economics), David Monlux (senior, ISS/Political Science), and Adam Oberlinter (sophomore, ISS/Arabic).
Jared Johnson (left) and Mohammed AlWahdanee won “Outstanding Delegate” in the Palestinian Affairs council.
The Southwest MAL Conference featured two full days of debating, with socials and ceremonies to kick off and end the event. Each university represented one to two countries — with OU representing Jordan this year — and the individual councils each spend the conference discussing four issues related to a particular theme. In addition to the conference’s highest honor of “Outstanding Delegation,” OU individuals won “Outstanding Delegate” in three out of six councils: Kamel and Higginbotham in Social council, AlWahdanee and Johnson in Palestinian Affairs council and Lynn in Environmental council.
“Delegates and delegations are judged on different factors,” explains Ratcliff. “First and foremost, teams need to stay in character; that is to argue and behave as the country they are representing would. Second, a delegation should try to pass as many quality resolutions on the issue as possible incorporating as many countries’ interests as possible. In essence, being a good diplomat.”
Though the team was eager to win, the awards mattered less to the students than the value of the experience as a whole. “I think all of us benefited as individuals in learning how to not just know about an academic topic, but to be able to defend it and forward it in a public and oftentimes hostile environment,” Ratcliff says. And an equally important benefit, he adds, was the bond the MAL participants formed with one another. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie between the teammates. If we weren’t friends before the conference, we are now.”
The students of OU MAL are looking forward to more competition and camaraderie in years to come. Though because many of its members are graduating, the team is looking to recruit more students interested in international affairs and diplomacy in the Arab world. If you’d like to apply, please contact Peter King at Peter.A.Kingfirstname.lastname@example.org.
The College of International Studies offers our congratulations to the OU MAL team, and we’d like to thank James and Peter for creating this opportunity for current and future OU students!