SFA’s Model EU team captures success at the Midwest Model European Union competition

NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Five members of Stephen F. Austin State University’s Model European Union team earned top three individual placements during the 2024 Midwest Model European Union April 10-12 in Bloomington, Indiana.

Emilee Cude of Kyle earned first place in the Justice and Home Affairs Council; and Gavin Willsey of Lakeway and Mia Bradley of Lufkin tied for first place in the European Parliament. Benjamin White of Humble and Briley Smith of Nacogdoches earned third place in the European Commission and European Parliament, respectively.

Hosted by Indiana University, the MMEU competition is the second oldest and largest intercollegiate simulation of the European Union in North America. The purpose of the competition is to increase awareness and knowledge of the EU, its institutions and its processes, according to Dr. Steven Galatas, SFA associate professor of government and Model EU faculty advisor. SFA’s team has been named Best Delegation – the top honor – at the previous two competitions.

“Our students showed a great sense of poise and commitment in this competition, which is regarded as the largest Model EU program in the country,” Galatas said. “The students developed a greater understanding of the EU’s global role and the critical importance of the United States and EU relationship in ensuring peace and stability both in Europe and worldwide.”

The simulation models the legislative bodies and administration of the European Union.  Students use bargaining, negotiation, public speaking and diplomacy skills to pass legislation. In most legislative bodies of the EU, a unanimous vote or a weighted majority is needed. Students addressed issues such as climate change, immigration and asylum, the Russian-Ukrainian war, artificial intelligence regulation, and the Israel-Hamas war.

“I’m no stranger to representing SFA, but I seldom get to do so outside of state lines,” Nathan Lyons said. “Being able to represent SFA at Midwest Model EU carried significant responsibility and honor. As SFA won Midwest Model EU the two prior years at this competition, there was certainly pressure on our shoulders, but carrying our SFA values with us allowed for a fun, friendly and competitive experience.”

SFA’s team represented Italy during the competition, which was chosen through a lottery system. Since SFA’s team was named Best Delegation during the 2023 competition, they received the first pick. In preparation, the team met regularly to review EU legislature processes and research the country’s positions on important or critical issues facing the EU today.

SFA students who represented the Italy delegation included Casper Dirkx of Spaarndam, Netherlands, who served as prime minister of Italy in the European Council; Dacoda Burkholder of Rice, foreign minister of Italy in the Foreign Affairs Council; Lyons of Lufkin, economic minister of Italy in the Economic and Finance Council; Jaden Parker of Texarkana, environment minister of Italy in the Environment Council; Cude, justice minister of Italy in the Justice and Home Affairs Council; Hayden Thacker of Lake Jackson, vice chair of the European Commission and commissioner for the Economy in the European Commission; Willsey, president of the European Parliament and member of the European Parliament from Italy representing the Lega Salvini Premier Party; and Bradley, member of the European Parliament from Italy representing the Lega Salvini Premier Party.

Additionally, three SFA students formed a joint team with Texas Woman’s University to represent Portugal. Students included Matthew Bryan of Schertz, who served as economic minister of Portugal in the Economic and Finance Council; White, European commissioner for cohesion and reforms in the European Commission; and Smith, member of the European Parliament from Portugal representing the Socialist Party of Portugal.

“Participation in Midwest Model EU taught me that the European Union is not as complicated as it seems, and how crucial compromise and collaboration are to getting legislation passed efficiently,” Smith said. “Students should consider joining Model EU because it is a fantastic opportunity to gain confidence, practice speaking skills, collaborate with others, to make friends from other schools and build connections and relationships between members on the team.”

The competition also presented opportunities for students to hear from guest speakers, including representatives of the Belgium Embassy in Washington, D.C., and Walter Goetz, head of the European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. Goetz spent time with the students who were assigned to the European Parliament, offering significant insight and advice on deliberations.

“Model EU is one of the highlights of my academic year as you bond so much with fellow political science majors over the course of five days, learn a lot about the EU, is a great place to network with other undergraduates, and you learn to defend your ideas and put the material you learned from class into real-life practice,” Dirkx said.

Interested in participating in Model EU? Contact Galatas for information at galatasse@sfasu.edu. For more information about SFA’s Department of Government, visit sfasu.edu/government.