The recent Peacekeeping Conference on the Gainesville Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG) presented a prominent scholar from the Carter Center and provided students on the UNG Debate Team an opportunity to polish their communication and critical thinking skills using international topics. The UNG Peacekeeping Conference was made possible by a grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
Maureen Erinne, a Doctoral Fellow at the Carter Center and a doctoral student in international conflict resolution at Kennesaw State University, presented the keynote presentation, "The Art of International Peacemaking" to students and faculty members.
As part of the conference, 28 UNG students competed in a mock peacemaking competition, and 35 either competed in or judged an intramural debate competition. The peacemaking competition involved two cases, one involving Palestinian and Israeli water rights in Jerusalem, and the other involving China's effort to broker an oil deal between North and South Sudan.
"The top seven students involved in the competition will receive small stipends from the USIP grant," said Dr. C. Thomas Preston Jr., the principal investigator of the grant and a communications professor at UNG.
Fernando Gonzalez, student leader of the UNG Debate Team, said that events such as the debate and peacekeeping tournaments are essential for developing critical thinking, analytical skills, confidence, communication skills, and problem solving.
"My dream job is to become an international business affairs lawyer," Gonzalez said. "All of these skills tie closely to my desired profession, and I know that these events give me an edge over my fellow competing colleagues from all around the world. As a student, these characteristics are crucial in creating the perfect environment to allow open-mindedness to flourish."
Gonzalez added that having the peacekeeping tournament in tandem with the Peacekeeping Conference provided a reality check to the debaters.
"Throughout the tournament, students are fueled by ambition to compete at their highest level, and that can sometimes drown out the entire purpose of the practice," Gonzalez said. "It is far easier to see the gravity of global dilemmas when students are actively engaging with them in imagination. The conference acts as a tool to make the students realize that the simplest imaginative concept is not merely a mind-captivating game; it can be a glorious or horrific reality elsewhere."