Education in 3G to Design the Crisis Scenario: Integrating New Media in Learning about Humanitarian Concerns in Nagorno-Karabakh

Colette Mazzucelli, Amierah Ismail, and Sharon Hakakian Bergman

Over the past year the ethnic conflicts learning community in the Center for Global Affairs at New York University has developed the crisis scenario as an integral component of the graduate course bringing together in-depth knowledge about the context in the South Caucasus and the ability to step into role assignments as participants in a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) emergency session. The learning objective in community is to follow Model United Nations (UN) debate and procedure to negotiate a UNSC Resolution addressing the current plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) years after ethnic violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.

As we elaborate successive designs of the scenario, communications technologies, particularly Skype and Gmail Chat, are used in tandem with Blackboard to enhance student learning. Social networking tools are thereby integrated into the course to create knowledge about the origins of the conflict, to learn about the geography of the area, and to deepen learning through listening to the perspectives of diplomats and practitioners from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the crisis scenario, Model UN experience is an integral part of chairing the UNSC emergency session, which incorporates a sense of urgency to the deliberations. The time limitations cause enough pressure to force “Member States” (MS) to act quickly and efficiently. Their objective to draft a UNSC resolution is meant to promote human security. By incorporating Model UN rules of procedure in the crisis scenario, we introduce a concept that is practiced across the world in diverse scenarios, including genocide, climate change, and technology transfer. Model UN interactions in the ethnic conflicts crisis scenario provide a flexible learning tool, which is adaptable and can be used to teach debate or to engage students. The scenario is just one exercise to assist MSGA candidates in their objective during graduate studies to realize their full learning potential before entering the global marketplace.

The crisis scenario offers MSGA candidates a memorable learning experience, which fosters student-centered learning as participants take responsibility to do extensive background research on the countries, international or non-governmental organizations, and press agencies represented. In order to prepare for the UNSC emergency session, each participant must access speeches, engage in negotiation, and draft resolutions. It is important to be able to retain significant amounts of information as one researches country positions. The acquisition of Model UN experience is integral to the scenario design because there are effective, alternative ways to teach ethnic conflict to graduate students encouraging basic through advanced practical skills that can be used in whatever profession the students choose in the future.

In the ethnic conflicts learning community, a number of weeks are devoted to learning about Nagorno-Karabakh by listening to high-level diplomats. The participants are tasked in the UNSC meeting with bringing peace to the Nagorno-Karabakh region under time constraints amidst the outbreak of renewed violence there. A futuristic crisis scenario emphasizes the potential impact of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as states define their interests in this context. In order to reflect on the evolution of R2P within the United Nations system, learning community members access documentation from the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs (CCEIA), in the form of journal articles, transcripts, and video clips, which are disseminated widely through the Carnegie’s Facebook communications and archived with the wealth of educational resources on the Council’s user friendly website.

The participants in the Security Council scenario during summer 2010 were knowledgeable, on point in their deliberations, and able to use technology to consult across space and in time, thereby including the UNHCR representative who participated via Skype and Gmail Chat from China and an international press representative who communicated from California also on Gmail Chat. Those participants who were co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (France, Russia, and the United States) were able to organize the debate in such a way to provide all Member States the chance to air their grievances and then brainstorm about ways to end the conflict in a manner that aimed to achieve a fair outcome for Armenia, Azerbaijan and, most importantly, the peoples in Nagorno-Karabakh. France, Russia and the United States took the lead negotiating between Armenia and Azerbaijan while the NGO representatives (Amnesty International and International Rescue Committee) were able to give on the spot reports about the humanitarian situation on the ground. The Chinese representative reminded the body of key points and issues that kept falling to the bottom of the priority list and played an essential role in the agreement on the final document, approved unanimously, calling for a cease fire and a peacekeeping mission to be led by UNHCR on the ground.

The scenario design is deliberate in its use of 3G network tools, namely, real time audio, chat, and video connections, to make the learning experience a dynamic one for the participants. Synchronous interactions across continents are an emerging aspect of global affairs education, which makes us reflect on the increasing relevance of human agency in the social constructivist tradition of international relations. In practice, we are rapidly moving beyond first efforts in the academic profession to integrate “user-driven information technologies,” including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, into syllabus design even though many in the profession have not experienced how these social networking tools are transforming higher education. (1) There is a gap across generations in the use of such technologies, which only time can bridge, despite the fact that the pace of change is accelerating in our daily lives.

In order to depict the learning that the crisis scenario offers in its design and implementation, a number of New York University student observations and digital images are incorporated into our initial findings:

“My responsibility was to represent France in the Minsk group. The topics covered included the French position on R2P, IDPs and their relationships with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. We learn a great deal not only about the country each of us represents, but more about other countries as well. We become familiar with each country’s objectives as well as its methods for thriving on the world stage. We also cover topics including IDPs in Karabakh and the ethical as well as human rights concerns that help us to understand the nuances of the conflict.” – Mariana Fazylova

“My work as a journalist on topics ranging from democratic transitions in Africa to feature stories played an integral role in becoming a member of the press for the model United Nations crisis scenario. As a press representative, I provided recommendations to the P5 member states in support of NGO’s efforts to resolve human rights concerns and raise awareness of the plight of IDPs in the Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) conflict. I addressed the MINSK group (mediators of the N-K conflict) by saying, “The importance of civil society to bear witness and provide testimony by implementing a similar platform to Ushahidi, is essential in raising awareness, accountability, and reinforcing the protection of IDPs in Nagorno-Karabakh.” The protection of journalists is also instrumental in exposing unethical actions; therefore, they have an important role in the conflict resolution process.” Students who participated as representatives from UNHCR and the press participating in the final model UN crisis scenario via Skype from China and Gmail voice chat from California set a new paradigm of learning.” – Mariama Keita

“The crisis scenario was exhilarating. It was interesting to take the time to prepare and really step into a role and research what your county or international organization would state publicly, take action upon, and generally how these actors would act and constrain you despite one’s personal views in the exercise. It was a good challenge to work with other parties whose focus was on very different aspects of the conflict as well as dealing with the conflicting stances on particular issues. My approach to the conflict initially was to want to take a creative and strong approach to a resolution that, in my view, made the most sense at addressing the core needs and desires of the respective parties. After hearing from and speaking with real-life representatives, I was forced to face certain realities, which I would not have otherwise confronted. This provided a real stretch to my learning, abilities, and resolve to come up with a more realistic and flexible approach.” – Amy Wright-Parra

“In a world where the number of refugees has increased to more than 11 million in the last two years and the number of IDPs to around 22 million, the crisis scenario focus on refugees and IDPs of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and ethical and human rights concerns was an excellent and very relevant topic. Accordingly, the work of UNHCR is an essential element of the effort of the international community to maintain peace and security in the world. As the UNHCR representative in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis scenario, my role was to monitor and report on the situation of the refugees and IDPs of the conflict, and to ensure that the UN Security Council Resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh includes provision for respect of basic human rights of refugees and IDPs, the return of all refugees and IDPs to their rightful homes, and UNHCR monitoring of the situation. Personally, I benefited from the learning experience and the scenario set up in particular, as the aspects of analysis, research and, most importantly, the simulation of an actual negotiation process are very relevant to my work in the UN. I was in Beijing China for the final crisis scenario meeting. I participated in the scenario via Skype video conference for the meeting discussions and via Gmail chat for the group negotiations. This use of technology in the classroom worked extremely well. I was able to participate and contribute fully to the scenario. This very successful use of technology can serve as an example how through use of technology it has become so much easier to connect, learn, and exchange experiences within a global learning community making the whole educational experience that much more interesting and useful both inside the classroom and out.” – Tanya Rzehak

“By participating in the ethnic conflicts learning community’s crisis scenario as a member of the international press, I experienced the strong impact the international press (as opposed to the local press) could have on a region in conflict. While both sources of press have been restricted from reporting honestly (with some journalists being arrested), both play a very significant role in conveying the plight of the IDPs and victims of the conflict to the rest of the region and the world. The natural partnership between the international press and the NGOs on the ground, however, surprised me, as I had neither seen nor experienced how natural and mutually beneficial the relationship really is, even having studied journalism as an undergraduate student. For the voiceless and helpless IDPs, both the international press and the NGOs are important. Together, however, they can make an even greater impact. It was as a result of the partnership between the international press and the NGOs that we were able to devise a more effective way of gathering, reporting and disseminating accurate news and information. In terms of my studies in Global Affairs and Public Health at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, this crisis scenario was helpful in confirming the significance of partnerships between organizations on the ground in conflict regions and the support from overseas. If I had not been able to participate in the culmination of the crisis scenario, the meeting of the UN Security Council, I would not have learned as much from the exercise. Even though I was not in New York at the time, I participated in the meeting via Gmail voice chat from out of town. I was pleased at how practically and effectively the tool enabled me to participate in the meeting, almost as if I was in the room with everyone else. Contributing to and participating in the ethnic conflicts learning community’s crisis scenario was both a unique and eye-opening learning experience.” – Sharon Hakakian Bergman

During the UNSC meeting, Mazzucelli archived images of participants in the ethnic conflicts crisis scenario on the IPhone 3. Each of these images was posted to a Facebook album for the learning community members and others to access easily. The NGOs (Fritch and Chowdhury), Japan (Schmidt), and the International Press (Keita communicating with Bergman via Gmail audio, video, and chat to California) began their consultations after the opening plenary session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) deliberations. Mazzucelli likewise observed the UNSC member states in caucus (Lucas, Bissett, Vojvodic, Wright-Parra, Fazylova, Kim, and Sokolowski) with the UN Secretariat (Ismail). She watched Japan (Schmidt) join the MS caucus to introduce the NGO/Press draft resolution section with input from Amnesty International (Fritch).

In addition, Mazzucelli appreciated the International Press coordination and exchanges with Keita and Bergman communicating on Gmail. She witnessed the NGOs (Fritch and Chowdhury) briefing the UNHCR representative (Rzehak) on mission in China via Skype. Moreover, Mazzucelli considered ways in which the Minsk Group (Wright-Parra, Fazylova, and Vojvodic) represented by France (Fazylova) made an excellent contribution to the deliberations. She reflected on the UN Secretariat’s (Ismail) contributions in the Chair, which led to agreement under the time constraints among the member states and UNHCR. (Sokolowski and Lucas) Lastly, she captured the digital images of the Press in action (Keita in the image on screen, Bergman on Gmail chat, and Mazzucelli in the background).

The 21st century revolution in communications is one that affords possibilities yet to be imagined. The professoriate continues to customize education for students across generations. Today more students have as their objective lifelong learning in the knowledge society. As technological capabilities encourage the rise of the “global network university,” (2) 4G communications are poised to offer the most successful institutions opportunities to respond innovatively and quickly to the needs of students. Theirs is a search is for high quality, individualized learning at an affordable price in the 21st century “brick and click” environment. Integrating the crisis scenario into the ethnic conflicts syllabus allows the learning community to utilize the new technologies at the heart of higher education’s transformation. The emphasis in learning is placed on the competencies a student can acquire in today’s “classrooms without borders” and the skills he or she is able to perform. (3)

The crisis scenario design is one that looks ahead to when the student’s educational achievements may be acquired through diverse educational providers over the course of a lifetime in which the marketplace demands varied skills to contribute in society. The totality of these achievements will become more important than a traditional degree. (4) Skills acquired in the crisis scenario by intensive exposure and interactions with those outside the university may thus become part of a student’s “educational portfolio,” the “passport,” in Arthur Levine’s analysis of the future of colleges. (5) Concepts and capabilities acquired in practice blend in the experience of a higher education curriculum that allows global citizens to contribute to an increasingly networked workplace environment.

In this context, we recall the words of former Yale University President, Dr. A. Bartlett Giamatti: “Where universities, or those within them, falter is in believing that the formal nature of the University, what I have called its artificial character, necessarily removes them and their inhabitants from the common stream of society; that because universities assert the mind’s capacity, in the best sense, to contrive, they can condescend to or smugly disdain whatever is not encompassed by them. Such an attitude has brought many institutions the scorn they deserve, for they have chosen to be sanctuaries from society and not tributaries to it. To wish only to be removed from the culture, and not to be part of its renewal, is to long for the atrophy, not the exercise, of the imagination and its works. I return to where I began–no university is strong if it is unsure of its purpose and nature, and is unwilling or unable to make vital that nature and purpose for others beyond it. We lose our public trust when we treat as only private our principal obligations.” (6)

These words inspire our thinking about the future of the scenario design as one that, with the capabilities technology allows, will facilitate increased contacts with those NGOs in our area of focus. Their actions have much to teach us in context specific ways about the nature of what has been identified as “grassroots globalization” by New York University Professor Arjun Appadurai. (7) New York University has as its motto “A Private University in the Public Service,” which, when we consider the potential in education during this century, makes us dare to imagine what is presently impossible to achieve. Our experiences to date show us the ways ahead to sustain a learning community in which mediation via computer and IPhone allows Skype communications to nurture exchanges, respecting differences of viewpoints in dialogue, across space and in time.

Such is our experience that it is no longer incredible to conceive of a learning community in which students across the continental United States connected via Skype audio and chat through a Dell Mini computer may join their counterparts in central Asia who interact within the same Skype space via the IPhone 4 on audio, video, and chat in intimate, synchronous exchanges. We witness each day unprecedented ways the dissemination of information, increasingly through mobile phone technology, may be used for destructive and well as constructive purposes. Our responsibility is to build on these initial experiences in scenario design sharing a plurality of views, weighing alternative perspectives, and reflecting on the animosities that poison relationships among neighbors. It is our vocation to take a single step, learning on the journey into the future, and contributing a solid foundation for constructive peace in our world.

Endnotes

(1) Charli Carpenter and Daniel W. Drezner, “International Relations 2.0: The Implications of New Media for an Old Profession,” International Studies Perspectives, Volume 11, Number 3 (August 2010): 255-72.
(2) John Sexton, “Technology and the University,” Big Think (2008), http://bigthink.com/ideas/633
(3) Colette Mazzucelli and A. Nicholas Fargnoli, “Teaching Ethics and International Relations in Today’s Classrooms without Borders,” Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, July 14, 2010, http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/education/001/ ethics/0004.html
(4) Arthur Levine, “The Future of Colleges: 9 Inevitable Changes,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Center for Teaching and Learning, Georgia State University, http://education.gsu.edu/ctl/Programs/Future_Colleges.htm
(5) Levine, “The Future of Colleges,” http://education.gsu.edu/ctl/Programs/Future _Colleges.htm
(6) A. Bartlett Giamatti, The University and the Public Interest, New York: Atheneum, 1981, pp. 19-20.
(7) Arjun Appadurai, “Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination” in Globalization ed. Arjun Appadurai, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001.

Author Biographical Profiles

Colette Mazzucelli (MALD, Fletcher School (Tufts); EdM, Teachers College (Columbia); PhD, Georgetown) has taught on graduate faculty, Center for Global Affairs at New York University, where she is Adjunct Associate Professor of Global Affairs, since 2005. Dr. Mazzucelli is also Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at Hofstra University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences where she designs courses for the Distance Learning Programs. Professor Mazzucelli teaches courses in comparative politics, international relations, Europe in the 21st Century, ethnic conflicts as well as From the Mughals to Modernity: India’s Democracy and Its Discontents. She is particularly interested in the integration of mobile phone learning in the global affairs curriculum. Presently, she is a WFI Fellow at Citizens for Global Solutions. Dr. Mazzucelli is developing the India regional course for the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. In addition, she participates as a member of the Board of Directors, Center for War/Peace Studies and of the UN Chronicle Advisory Group at the United Nations. Her 2009-10 syllabi are featured in a Faculty Spotlight online in Foreign Affairs Classroom webpages. Dr. Mazzucelli’s biography appears in Marquis Who’s Who in the World 2011 and Marquis Who’s Who in America 2011. In 2010, she was profiled in the Council on Foreign Relations Educators Bulletin.

Amierah Ismail currently serves as an international education consultant on alternative educational programs utilizing Model UN programming tools. Ms. Ismail recently received a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs, concentrating on Transnational Security. Prior to graduate school, Ms. Ismail completed her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from American University’s School of Public Affairs. Ms. Ismail has served as Global Classrooms Coordinator at the United Nations Association of the United States where she coordinated Model UN educational opportunities for 19 cities both nationally and internationally. Additionally, Ms. Ismail has served as a volunteer for the National Model United Nations (NMUN) for over 10 years. NMUN is the world’s largest competitive collegiate Model UN Conference bringing together over 4,500 college students from around the world. She most recently served as Chief of Staff for NMUN: China in Xi’an China (2008) and as Secretary-General for NMUN: NY (2007.) Ms. Ismail continues to consult on model UN educational programs at all levels (primary, middle, secondary and collegiate) and serves on the scholarship committee for the parent organization of NMUN, the National Collegiate Conference Association. The NCCA sponsors programs in New York, DC and a rotating international venue each year. For more information on how to get your school or college involved in model UN, (even if it is just in your classroom!) please visit, www.nmun.org

Sharon Hakakian Bergman is the Manager of Academic Programs at New York University’s Abu Dhabi Institute, where she works with NYU faculty to develop academic- and research-based programs in the United Arab Emirates, and to create an immediate intellectual and programmatic link between NYU in New York and NYU Abu Dhabi. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from NYU’s College of Arts and Science in Journalism and Middle Eastern Studies and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts degree at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration on Global Affairs and Public Health. She serves on the boards of the American Jewish Committee’s new generation program (ACCESS), the Museum for African Art and the Hebrew Academy of Morris County in New Jersey.

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