Montana State University

MSU Model Arab League excels at district competition

April 2, 2013

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The Montana State University Model Arab League debate team won more than a dozen awards, including outstanding chair, outstanding delegation as well as five outstanding delegates at the annual Rocky Mountain Regional competition held in Salt Lake City March 21-23.

Seven regional schools and universities represented 14 countries of the real-world 22 member Arab League on five working committees, making for a total of around 100 delegates. In addition to MSU and host University of Utah, the other schools included Brigham Young, Metropolitan State University/Denver, the University of Northern Colorado, the University of Denver and the U.S. Air Force Academy. MSU represented Iraq, Qatar, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

"The Model Arab League program will test every preconceived notion you have in regards to the Middle East," said Rob Ricketts, a junior majoring in political science from Polson who won an honorable mention for his work as the Qatari delegate in the Environmental Affairs Committee. "It is only after competition that you look back and realize that this single class taught you more than four or five other classes combined."

"I nearly dropped the class mid-semester," said Sarah Gilkerson of Bozeman. "But I decided to stick with it because learning about this part of the world became very important to me after my dad was deployed."

Gilkerson subsequently won an Outstanding Delegate award for her work as the environmental affairs delegate from Iraq.

MSU senior Mark Bond won the Outstanding Chair, the highest honor of the conference, for his work on the Palestine Committee.

"I felt honored to have received such a prestigious award," said Bond, a senior in political science from Ennis.

The Model Arab League competition is similar to the Model UN debate society. Students select a country and then various sub-committees to represent in a highly-structured, content-driven manner.   The National MAL competition will be held in Washington April 11-14, with MSU having won the right to represent Palestine.

"This was truly one of the best regional conferences that I can recall," said Joshua Hilbrand of the National Council on U.S./Arab Relations who monitored the event for the national organization. "The level of competency with the rules of parliamentary debate as well as the content driving all discussion was clearly at the national level."

A list of MSU participants in the Model Arab League Salt Lake regionals with any awards received  and Montana hometowns follows:


Environmental: Sandor Hopkins (Great Falls)

Palestine: Mark Bond  (Ennis/Bozeman)               Outstanding CHAIR

IRAQ   DELEGATION                                                Honorable Mention

Environmental Affairs: Sarah Gilkerson (Bozeman) Outstanding Delegate

Palestine Affairs:  Michelle Hicks (Ramallah, Palestine)

Political Affairs:  Michael Grimland (Columbus)      Honorable Mention

Joint Defense:   John Richardson

Social Affairs:   Nicholas Vergara                              Honorable Mention

QATAR DELEGATION                                      Outstanding delegation

Environmental Affairs:  Rob Ricketts (Polson)        Honorable Mention

Palestine Affairs:  Shannon Collaer                            Outstanding Delegate

Political Affairs:  Devon Norden (Havre)                  Outstanding Delegate

Joint Defense:  Luke Howard                                      Outstanding Delegate

Social Affairs:  Conner Gagnon


Environmental Affairs:  Michael Kluever

Palestine Affairs:  Samantha Vandaele

Political Affairs:  John Nesbitt (Belgrade)                Honorable Mention

Joint Defense: Abdeladim Zaazaa (Casablanca)

Social Affairs:  Bonny Birkeland


Environmental Affairs:  Casey Wheeler (Laurel)

Palestine Affairs: Ben Goldstein

Political Affairs:  Valerie Wilson (Great Falls)

Joint Defense:  Andrew Waters

Social Affairs:  Kelsey Flynn                                         Outstanding Delegate


Joint Defense:  McKenzie Ball

Social Affairs:  Lucy Kaul-Anderson


Thomas Goltz