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Fisher Students Experience Policy-Making Process through EuroSim Program

February 25, 2016

Six St. John Fisher College students recently traveled to Antwerp, Belgium, to participate in EuroSim, a simulation of the policy-making process in the European Union.

Students at desks raising pieces of paper during a EuroSim event.

The conference brings together more than 200 students from 20 colleges and universities in the United States and Europe, immersing students in real-world policy agenda-making. Led by Dr. Sebastian Lazardeux, Fisher students Samantha Call, Michael LaBella, Rob Little, Patrick Lupynis, Nick Shaffer, and Leah Sharp, spent four days learning about the role and impact of the European Union in global issues, and gaining a greater understanding of how decisions are made within the European Union.

The simulation program, which has its roots in the Rochester area, was first held at the College at Brockport in 1988. Under the leadership of Dr. John Harman, professor of political science, Fisher became a founding member of the program’s consortium in 1990, and has remained involved in the organization for more than two decades. When Lazardeux joined the College in 2012, he assumed responsibility for Fisher’s involvement in the program, and has since participated in four EuroSim conferences.

This year’s conference focused on migration into the European Union; in studying these issues and experiencing how policies are created, Lazardeux said that students hone communication skills including public speaking and negotiating.

“Students get a better understanding of the functioning of the European Union institution, gain professional skills, and become appreciative of different cultures,” Lazardeux explained. “It also helps students build self-confidence and shows them that they are more ready for the professional world than they think they are.”

For Call, a junior studying political science, the experience was an opportunity to see what European students thought of the issue, which has become a pressing one in both Europe and North America.

“The migrant crisis has been all over the news and it was interesting to see what the European students thought of the issue—being so close to it,” Call said.

Lazardeux said that Call’s position during the simulations was essential to her legislative committee and that she was very active during negotiations, often successfully defending the point of view of her political party. Throughout the process, Call said she learned the importance of clearly communicating ideas while navigating the challenges of negotiating with those who hold completely different ideological backgrounds.

“As the conference went on, I realized that I had to speak up in order to get things done and that I didn't need to wait for others to get things started,” she explained. “When I started to take a leadership role, I found it much easier to have my ideas implemented.”

Similar to Call, LaBella, a junior studying political science and legal studies, also gained diplomatic skills over the course of the simulation.

“There was a learning moment where I realized that, given my situation, having to put my opinion in every conversation would never get anyone anywhere,” he explained, noting that his main role was important in keeping his coalition together. “I found out that the most efficient solution was to actually sit back, follow my party lines, and make sure to keep our majority coalition together in order to get something passed.”

In addition to the simulation, the students were able to explore Belgium, visiting the European Parliament in Brussels and attending a gala in a 400-year-old city hall in Antwerp.

The next conference, which will celebrate the program’s 30th anniversary, will be held in Brockport in March 2017. Students will take the course, Politics of the European Union, and a linked one credit class to prepare for the conference. The classes and program is open to all majors. For more information, email slazardeux@sjfc.edu.

From left to right: Samantha Call, Leah Sharp, Mike LaBella, Nick Shaffer, Rob Little, Patrick Lupynis.

From left to right: Samantha Call, Leah Sharp, Mike LaBella, Nick Shaffer, Rob Little, Patrick Lupynis.