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Chris Van Aller
Name: Chris Van Aller
Position: Political Science Professor

Chris Van AllerChris Van Aller2
World War II affected Political Science Professor Chris Van Aller’s family so much that he has spent his academic career studying how to prevent conflict and understand it better.

He sees a lot of value in the United Nations and its work to promote peace, unity and cooperation.

For the past 20 years, Van Aller has served as faculty advisor to Winthrop’s Model United Nations, a program that brings high school and college students together to enact the international organization founded in 1945.

During the opening activities in March 2016 for Winthrop’s 40th anniversary for its program, Van Aller outlined the devastating impact on his family during the 1940s. They include:

• His father was badly wounded at Normandy, serving as a Dutch marine.
• His grandfather, an admiral in the Dutch navy, was captured by the Germans and spent five years as a prisoner of war.
• His Dutch grandmother hid Jewish children from the Nazis in her home.
• His father’s sister risked her life to carry Resistance records through German check points.
• Another aunt lost her Norwegian fighter pilot boyfriend to a crash.

“If the Model United Nations had existed earlier, all of these events may not have happened to my family,” Van Aller said.

He firmly believes that the United Nations helped prevent World War III during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 by providing a neutral area for unofficial negotiations. During the 13-day standoff, U.S. and Soviet Union leaders engaged in a tense, war of words over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba near the U.S. border.

Van Aller teaches a Winthrop United Nations course in the fall and then spends the spring semester with the college students coordinating and organizing the three-day event for high school students. High school students are assigned countries, draft up resolutions based on the perspective of the country they represent and then come to Winthrop where they work in different committees, much like the real United Nations.

For many high school students, this is the first experience talking in front of large groups and learning to use a diplomatic approach to resolving problems.

“We talk about ‘Why is war glamorized?’” Van Aller said. “We know there are some problems and faults with the United Nations but it helps keep countries in check. It is an alternative to something far worse.”

Last Updated: 4/29/2016

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