York to the Power of 50: World Bank simulation tests students’ diplomatic mettle

More than 50 York University students sharpened their debating and diplomatic skills Nov. 29 by participating in a World Bank simulation exercise.

Hosted by York International and the York University Foundation, the event brought students from various Faculties together with business leaders in an exercise designed to simulate negotiation and consensus building within a global framework.

Left: Simulation inventor Nigmendra Narain, at the podium, presents the scenario and gives instructions to participants gathered at The Underground restaurant

Breaking into 10 groups, participants were presented with a fictitious international development problem and assigned to represent the interests of one of the many involved stakeholders, such as government, industry, environmental group or indigenous people. With only two hours to tackle the complex issue, they drafted their debating positions and worked to build cooperation. Alliances were formed, passionate debates broke out and sensitive negotiations filled every available moment.

Mohamed Gilao, a community business leader and donor to York, said he was impressed with the sharp intelligence and skills of York students. He worked with a group of students and afterwards applauded the exercise for bringing students from various backgrounds together. “It’s important to discuss how students can influence the world in issues of globalization,” he said. He noted that the number of participating international students demonstrates how well respected York must already be around the world.

Left: Henry Blumberg (LLB ’82), Blumbergs managing partner, one of many business participants

In opening remarks, York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said, “Now more than ever, universities are global institutions. We have a role to play in the many challenges facing the world today – challenges like pandemics, climate change, poverty, racism and extremism to name a few. At York, our ultimate goal is to train students to be citizens of the world. Our students are connected to the world because they come from the world.”

Left: Business participant Gary Singh, Canaccord Capital VP

Since inventing the World Bank simulation exercise in 2000, Nigmendra Narain, a PhD student in political science at York, has hosted more than 30 simulations at other universities. The outcome may turn out differently each time, he says, but students always learn valuable lessons about leadership. Narain, who has been involved in York International activities since 1998, said the event is “an opportunity to see the world through other people’s eyes.”

York International helps organize foreign exchanges, internships and events like the World Bank simulation. “International experiences tend to be transformational,” Paula Wilson, York’s acting associate vice-president international and associate dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, told students participating in the World Bank simulation. “They can have a deep impact on your life and how you view the world. They also help you develop a variety of general skills that are valued by all employers.”

Left: Students participate in the World Bank simulation

After the simulation, Susan Mullin, York University Foundation’s vice-president development, talked about the $200-million York to the Power of 50 fundraising campaign and how internationalization is an important campaign thrust.