For 25th year, GVSU hosting Michigan Model Arab League

Grand Valley is marking the 25th anniversary hosting the Michigan Model Arab League, a conference that attracts college students from across the state and region.

This year's conference, which is February 17-19 at the Eberhard Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, will continue the mission of developing students' leadership and discourse skills while more deeply teaching them about the countries in the Arab League, said Majd Al-Mallah, professor of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Al-Mallah, organizer of the conference and coordinator for GVSU's Arabic and Middle East Studies programs, said the Arab League is one of the oldest international organizations, even older than the United Nations. 

Majd Al-Mallah smiles in a posed photo.
Majd Al-Mallah

At the student-centered conference, students represent a specific country in the Arab League and play the role of diplomat, he said. They will divide into committee groups to discuss topics – joint defense, political and Palestinian issues and social issues – and work to develop solutions to those agenda items.

"It gives them an activation of skills that they will utilize for their life and for their work moving forward," Al-Mallah said. "And it teaches them about the Arab world and the region in a more complicated, more nuanced way, where they understand a region that is frequently misunderstood."

Among the life skills students learn is the art of negotiation, collaboration and diplomacy, critical thinking abilities and enhanced public speaking capabilities, Al-Mallah said. 

He said the conference attracts students from a wide range of majors. Indeed, this year's secretary-general for the conference, Fin Lindberg, fits that description as a biomedical sciences major.

Lindberg, who has been involved with the conference for three years after starting as a delegate, said course work in the Middle East Studies minor, particularly a sequence that delved beyond the headlines, helped pique her interest in the event.

She agreed with Al-Mallah that the conference helps hone critical skills that will be useful professionally.

"It’s a fantastic way to learn how to resolve problems and get great leadership experience. It also helps you bolster your confidence in public speaking," said Lindberg, who has plans to become a physician and noted this experience will be important to her when talking to patients and others.

Al-Mallah said Grand Valley's longtime commitment to this conference is a point of pride as well as a good opportunity for high-impact learning.

"This is the very essence of experiential learning," he said.


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