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Students Simulate the G20 Leaders’ Summit

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Photo of Mya Zemlock and Mitchell Lenneville standing beside each other, outside.

Model G20 is the type of program that attracts students to American University. Not only is MG20 unique to AU, but it also offers experiences and connections that aren't available to undergraduates at other institutions. 

Model G20 is a pioneering, first-of-its-kind program designed to expose undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals to the world of international diplomacy. It is modeled after the G20, or Group of Twenty, an international forum for Heads of State and the leaders of different international organizations. The program was designed by experts and practitioners including SIS Professor and MG20 Associate Director Andrew Spath and Ambassador and MG20 Executive Director Cecilia Nahon, who previously served as the Argentine Ambassador to the United States and the Argentine Sherpa (top representative and lead negotiator) in the real-life G20. These experts also collaborate with students through the program.

Ambassador Nahon's experience and leadership have led to the creation of a hyper-realistic simulation of the G20 Leaders’ Summit held each year in the AU School of International Service. The G20 operates with a unique rotating "presidency." This year's host is Argentina and as the Model G20 Argentine "Sherpa" (responsible for the simulation) and the Summit General Coordinator (responsible for logistics), we had to work as a pair to manage this year’s event. We led a team of undergraduate students to research and specialize in different policy areas, multilateral negotiations, and hospitality. Participants from around the world met to debate climate change and energy, international trade and tariffs, migration and refugees, global tax cooperation, gender equality, and the future of work. 

The weekend was a huge success. There were a record number of registrations, with over 180 delegates from 15 different institutions all across the United States, as well as American University students from SIS, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Kogod School of Business, the School of Public Affairs, and the Washington College of Law. According to our feedback, participants: felt that the "tone of the conference was really kind"; praised the "brilliant regulation of debate"; and were "impressed by how professional and realistic it was." They enjoyed being pushed to negotiate as a team and went on to describe the event as "incredibly chaotic, but in a good way." 

People also loved our exclusive event at the Argentine Embassy on Saturday night, which included dinner, dancing, and remarks from the Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission. We heard directly from participants that participating in the Model G20 had taught them a lot about themselves, that they had been positively pushed outside of their comfort zones. Most importantly, they told us in overwhelming numbers that they had gained a positive perspective on the School of International Service and its graduate degree programs. 

The experience was a huge success for the student staff as well. Our staff was able to meet with diplomats and leaders from different countries and organizations, work closely with professors, develop some expertise in certain types of policy, and grow their skills as negotiators. One of the highlights for our staff was participating in a private policy briefing at the Argentine Embassy several weeks before we released our comprehensive 60-page background guide. Another was receiving a behind-the-scenes tour of the Embassy in preparation for our exclusive event.

As we reflect on the last year of working to make the 2018 Model G20 Summit a reality, we are thankful for the hard work of our student staff, the friendships we gained, and the skills we polished. We are also delighted that American University has programs like the Model G20, which allow us to create close working relationships with professors like Ambassador Nahon and Professor Spath — all while creating something completely unique. We are thankful for the ongoing support of SIS and we can't wait to see how the program grows and changes in the coming years. 


To learn more about MG20, visit our 
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