BYU’s Model Organization of American States (MOAS) team recently participated in a national competition in Washington, DC. MOAS is a diplomatic simulation program that allows participating students to gain important skills in diplomacy, public speaking, and research. It’s based on the Organization of American States (OAS), which has roots going back to 1889, though its form as we know it today began in 1948. With the purpose of promoting peace and collaboration in the Americas, it has thirty-five independent state members.
This year’s national MOAS conference was held April 3–7 in Washington, DC, marking BYU’s fifth year participating. “The Secretary General of the Organization of American States kicked off the events with a speech and the sessions of the simulation were held in conference rooms at the Washington, DC Hilton,” says associate professor Evan Ward, who has been involved with BYU’s team from its beginning.
Unlike other model organizations, he says, “we don’t compete for prizes; the ideal is to prepare to represent a country—in this year's case, Paraguay—and pursue the ‘spirit of diplomacy,’ which means to engage as diplomats from that country would in a simulated session of the General Committee of the Organization of American States.”
Each team is assigned to represent a country from the OAS; this year, BYU was assigned Paraguay. “We spent the semester learning about the history, culture, and politics of Paraguay,” Ward says.
At the conference, the students were able to put what they’d learned into practice. “The students paired off and drafted resolutions on issues including the environment, government corruption, education, and violence against women to debate at the simulation,” Ward says. “We had exceptional students and they were all successful in representing the nation of Paraguay and Brigham Young University.”
In addition to presenting at the conference, he says, “we met with diplomats from the Paraguayan Embassy, who gave us a briefing on how Paraguay would act on each of the resolutions the students drafted. It was a highlight of the experience and encouraged some of our students to consider a career in diplomacy.”
The impact of the conference doesn’t lessen when the teams return home. “Our students have gone on to great opportunities, enriched in part by participating in MOAS,” Ward adds. “Our first year, one of our students—now a law school student, Jason Jensen—was elected to the General Secretariat as Vice Secretary. He has helped to teach and consult our team members for the last four years.” Other team alumni have gone on to impressive academic and professional achievements, he says: “One of our students is at Harvard Law School, two have studied in the prestigious Latin American Studies program as MA students at the University of California, San Diego, and others have gone on to pursue careers in immigration law, among other related fields.”
“I love the experience, seeing the camaraderie and cohesiveness of the groups,” Ward says. “As an added bonus, I have the opportunity to learn about and teach the history of a different country in the hemisphere each year!”