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Scotlight: Sabrina Harris

Sabrina Harris ’19 discusses the opportunity to attend the Athens Democracy Forum, what she learned and how Model United Nations has changed her life.

You just got back from Greece after being invited there for a conference! What did that entail? 

It was part of the Athens Democracy Forum. It was put on by The New York Times and was a place for multisector stakeholders, so people from the private sector [such as] business owners, governmental representatives and non-governmental organization (NGO) and civil society organization (CSO) representatives, to discuss and analyze the different problems facing democracy today.

How was the conference?

It was really phenomenal. I was fortunate enough to be grouped with 20 other individuals who all attend liberal arts schools all over the world, and 17 of us were from different countries so it was really diverse in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation [and] nationality. 

We did a lot of close group work together, talking about different themes that were addressed by the Forum. The conference itself [lasted]  three days and it [consisted of] people from the Times, CSOs and academics discussing these four themes that were the basis of the conference. It was really interesting because the Forum itself was very homogenous in the type of people that were there, as it quite literally was the liberal elite. It was interesting to be part of a student group that differentiated from that, because there was a lot of talk about giving marginalized identities voices. 

Obviously, [I was] immensely thankful to be a part of it. It was a life changing opportunity but at the same time, I think that’s something in the future that they should work to do better on.

How did you get invited to a Model United Nations (MUN) conference on such a global scale?

Every school within the Global Liberal Arts Alliance is allowed to nominate two students that they feel would be best suited to participate. I was fortunate enough to be nominated by the political science department and from there, I had to apply and be chosen by members of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance. They tried to prioritize different types of diversity. [The students] helped contribute to public papers that will be published by The New York Times about everything that happened at the conference [and] the solution ideas that were proposed. I’m really hoping that this will continue in the future. 

How has doing MUN here at Wooster impacted you? Would you say it has changed your life?

Absolutely. It’s really shaped my research interests. As of now, [for] my Senior Independent Study, I’m looking at how the internal dynamics of international organizations affect the ability for women to attain high-level leadership positions. 

MUN has taught me how to be a better public speaker, it’s taught me how to be more confident in my research and my analysis and honestly, [it has helped me in] getting to know the world and working with people from all over. It really forces you to reconcile your own positionality and understand how others can view the same issues.

Who were you most excited to see speak?

I spoke on the panel with Thulisile Madonsela; she helped write the South African constitution after Apartheid, so I was a really big fan of her work based on what she’s done for transitional and social justice.

Is there anything you learned at the conference that you think Wooster students should know?

I think Wooster students should know that it’s really easy to get caught up in the things we do have wrong on our campus, but there is so much value to a liberal arts education. 

As I’ve kind of entered into the professional world more, between interning for the UN last summer and this experience and just seeing how the skills we learn in the classroom can translate, I’m really grateful and proud to go to this school. It’s just been really special to be a part of an institution that does prioritize the things that it says it does, this opportunity included in that. 

I hope that this continues because this is the second year they’ve brought a student delegation and this is the first time that somebody from Wooster has ever gone, so I’m hoping that we will be able to have ourselves represented on a more global stage.

Interview by Abby Everidge, a Staff Writer for the Voice (Photo courtesy Sabrina Harris).

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