The 1970s brought many new and exciting changes to the Winthrop campus such as the transformation to co-education in 1974 and the first Model United Nations Conference in spring 1976.
Under the direction of Dr. Melford Wilson, political science professor, and Alan Rash, the first student coordinator, Model United Nations I was on its way. On April 14-16, 1976, some 200 high school students from North and South Carolina came to Winthrop representing some 50 nations to debate the issues of giving Panama the canal, seating Vietnam as an official representative, and giving the Palestinians a homeland.
On December 1, 1978, Ken Holland rose to the floor in the SC House of Representatives and hailed Winthrop College for the implementation of the new Model UN Program. The following year the Assistant Secretary General of the UN commended Winthrop’s program as the best organized in America.
An early supporter of the new program was Geoffrey F. Bruce, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN. Bruce was instrumental in aiding Rash and R. Wilson in the formation of the Model UN program at Winthrop. He accepted an adjunct professorship at Winthrop to help Dr. Wilson begin the program.
The Geoffrey F. Bruce Award was established in honor of his hard work to get the program off the ground. In his opening speech at Model UN I, Bruce said one of the major benefits of the Model UN program is it “will help you immensely in deepening your understanding of international politics, of the United Nations, and of your own interests as Americans. You will come to understand the interests and goals of other nations.”
The Winthrop Model UN is unique in several ways. It was the first program of its kind to combine participation of the college students and high school students. The college students, who act as delegate chairs, are also enrolled in a Winthrop course on the United Nations.
From the UN class, students are selected for the Secretariat, which plans and runs the following year’s conference.
Since its conception, the Winthrop Model UN has expanded to represent 65 nations. A simulated Security Council has also been added. The International Court of Justice was later included, but cancelled a few years ago due to evaluations and restructuring. The Model League of Arab States began several years ago and proved quite successful. Unfortunately, due to staffing problems, the Model Arab League was cancelled. The Year 2000 marked the inauguration of the Model Organization of American States, which proved to be an exciting committee. For the 2006 conference, the Secretary General developed the idea of the UN Reform Committee. To date more than 2,000 Winthrop students and 10,000 high school students have participated in these conferences.