You never know when a class at Western Colorado University and the involvement in a club can result in the launching of a career.
Such is the case of Kristen Companik, ’19, who now works for the Bureau of Counterterrorism in our nation’s capital. In her position, she is responsible for assisting in drafting potential legislation as it relates to counterterrorism. The knowledge of global issues she gained in Western’s Model United Nations has been critical in her role.
Companik’s employment follows an eight-month internship for the U.S. State Department. She prepared research for then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on topics such Middle East peace talks and repatriating citizens during a global pandemic.
Learning through Leadership at Western
She’ll admit she swam in some deep waters during her internship, working with peers from the Ivy League and other renowned institutions. Still, because of Model UN, she said she held her ground, graduating from a small school in the mountains of Colorado that provided her with leadership opportunities.
“I had no idea where it would lead,” said Companik. “I really enjoyed every experience at Western. Fortunately, I took on so many roles, leadership positions as well. Those experiences benefited me greatly.”
Model UN is a simulation of the U.N. General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies where students perform the role of delegates from U.N. member states. By doing so, students learn the art of diplomacy and gain a world view of pressing world topics. The program, led by Professor of Politics & Government Maria Struble, Ph.D., is in its eighth year on the Western campus and has about 10-15 active students.
Doing the Research
This year the students were assigned to represent the country of Greece. By doing so, they immersed themselves in research about the country to best understand its positions on issues such as nuclear nonproliferation, women’s rights, the environment, development and others. Each year culminates with a trip to New York City for a convening of close to 2,000 students from around the world. However, this year’s event will be conducted virtually.
“There are different committees within the Model UN and representatives from come together with delegate with other countries to try to come up with solutions to preset problems,” said Struble, who serves on the National Faculty Advisory committee. “Issues can range from the environment and microplastics in the ocean, to climate change and world health.”
A Challenging but Rewarding Experience
Like Companik, senior Emily Eads took a chance on Model UN and now finds herself helping to draft a position paper representing Greece on the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, advancing responsible state behavior in cyberspace and the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.
“I hadn’t yet taken a class that relied so heavily on research, public speaking and concise ways of writing,” said Eads. “I knew that I would hone in on exercising these skills while simultaneously learning more about the international political sphere. It’s very challenging, but it is also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.”
Being Better and Learning More
The work is intensive, Eads continued, as she has gone through nine drafts of the position paper, something that Struble believes helps students develop their critical thinking and technical writing skills.
It’s not personal, we need to submit good work,” Struble said. “It pushes them out of their comfort zone to be resilient and be successful.”
That is something that has paid in professional dividends for Companik.
“I had the benefit of learning from learning from students all over the world,” said Companik. “We pushed each other to be better and learn more. It opened my perspective on policy and politics and that has only benefited me now.”
Interested in finding out more about global politics? Learn about the global studies program at Western.
Author Credit: Chris Rourke
Photo Credit: Chris Rourke