BYU’s Model Arab League team has just completed a successful season of competitions.
The Model Arab League (MAL) is a diplomatic simulation program based on the Arab League, a regional organization of twenty-two countries in the Middle East. Sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, the MAL program hosts a number of competitions for participating teams: regionals are held each February and typically held at one of the participating universities, and nationals are held each March in Washington, DC. Each team is assigned a country to represent, and spends the months leading up to the competitions preparing to present resolutions on issues related to their country. Teams are judged based on their representation of and arguments for their country.
BYU’s team is formed through a class held each winter semester (IAS 354R), where students learn about the country they will be representing and those they’ll interact with, as well as participating in mock debate sessions to prepare for the competitions.
At this year’s competitions, “the team did very well,” says Joshua Gubler, the faculty advisor for MAL and faculty coordinator of the Kennedy Center’s Middle East Studies/Arabic program. “We gathered a number of awards in competition at the regional level,” and at nationals, “our team received quite a bit of respect and represented—which was in this case Libya—quite well.”
He says, “The Model Arab League is a fantastic learning opportunity—first, because you get to learn a tremendous amount about the region. You learn a whole lot about the country that you’re representing because you get to understand their economic policy, their foreign policy, their domestic issues. And if you’re going to represent or play that country very well, there’s quite a bit to learn.” That is enhanced by the team’s experiences at nationals: “We actually will go in and sit in the embassy or the consulate of whichever country it is, and talk with diplomats there who will answer questions and fill in details to things that we might not have been able to understand ourselves.”
“The second big piece of the experience,” Gubler continues, “is learning to make compelling oral arguments . . . you’re asked to stand up and give persuasive speeches on whatever topic it is you’re trying to argue for, and so students learn to think quickly on their feet. They learn to make arguments in a succinct, powerful, persuasive manner. Then they also learn how to write in a compelling manner as they draft these resolutions. So it really is a complete package type of an experience.” He adds, “My belief is that these types of extracurricular learning experiences help make the classroom experiences more beneficial and are just an integral part of a good education.”
Sam Ames, the 2023 team’s head delegate and MAL’s 2024 national chair of the economic affairs committee, says, “I got involved with MAL in 2021 as I thought [it] would be a good fit for me, given my previous experience with MUN and my interest in Middle Eastern politics. Boy, was I right! MAL has shaped my understanding of the international relations of the Middle East, and my experience was a major contributing factor in helping me obtain an internship position with the National Council on U.S.–Arab Relations in the summer of 2021.” He adds, “MAL has also been a great help for me to develop public speaking, policy writing, negotiation, and leadership skills that are hard to develop in a typical classroom setting.”
Interested in joining? “To participate,” Gubler says, “you simply have to have an interest in this kind of experience—one which is deep immersion learning about the Arab world and the countries that inhabit it.”
Ames urges, “Any student who is hoping to learn more about the politics of the Middle East is welcome to join our team; no matter your previous skill or knowledge level, everyone has the potential to go far with this program. We also encourage students who are studying political science, international relations, or Middle East studies to join and apply their classroom knowledge while also developing the soft skills employers are looking for.”
Contact Joshua Gubler to get involved.