United Nations Association establishes chapter on campus

Left to right (top): Dylan Mills, Treasurer; TJ Browning, Secretary; Shannon Forhshay, VP; Marco Sanchez, UN Foundation Youth Engagement Coordinator (bottom): Olivia Murtagh, Sergeant at Arms (Event Coordinator) and Elizabeth Smith, Founder and President all play fundamental roles within Mississippi State University’s new on- campus chapter of the United Nations Association.

The Mississippi State University campus chapter of the United Nations Association recently celebrated its first year as an official group on campus.

According to their website, the United Nations Association of the United States is a movement designed to raise awareness and support for the United Nations. The organization has more than 20,000 members, with the majority of them under the age of 25.

The United Nations Association, also known as UNA, established a chapter at MSU this past academic year. Like Model UN, UNA focuses on advocacy for the UN as well as sustainable development.

MSU’s UNA chapter was founded by junior political science major Elizabeth Smith. Smith, who is also involved with the Pre-Law Society, Stennis-Montgomery Association and the College Democrats, said she wanted an organization that dealt with a wide range of issues.

"There was no organization that brought together issues and made them cohesive," Smith said. "I feel like UNA fills that gap, because it covers a broad spectrum. I think it’s user friendly in that sense."

For Smith, another goal in founding the UNA on campus was to shine light on global issues for Mississippians to see.

"We make (the global issues) relevant to the Mississippi State and Starkville community," Smith said.

Smith said the idea for founding the UNA was presented to Smith while she was interning in Washington D.C. last summer. While there, she met someone who worked for the United Nations and he proposed starting a UNA chapter at MSU, as the University of Mississippi already had a chapter.

"The more I learned, I just became more passionate about it," Smith said.

Smith said she learned more about the UNA through attending the United Nations Global Engagement Summit in New York, an event she hopes future executive board members will continue to attend.

"I hope that they get enough funds and make that an annual trip," Smith said.

As president, Smith oversaw the organization’s guest speakers, coordinated the group’s trip to New York and organized meetings with the executive board for the members.

One of the UNA’s activities this year was running a booth at MSU’s International Fiesta. Since the university has no Italian student association, Smith said the group served tiramisu.

Even though Smith is stepping down as president, she will still be involved in the organization she helped found. 

She hopes to see consistent membership within the organization and future executive board members remaining passionate in their positions.

"It takes people to become interested in an issue and become passionate about it," Smith said.

Carolyn Holmes, assistant professor of political science, is the faculty advisor of UNA. She teaches classes in politics of the developing world, with a specific focus on African politics, as well as general politics.

As faculty advisor, Holmes said she helps with the administrative aspect of the club and advises the executive board.

"I do logistics in the background," Holmes said. "I’m just in the supporting capacity. I think it’s important for the students to do the agenda setting."

Holmes said she was approached by Smith to be the faculty advisor for UNA. The UNA is the first campus group for which Holmes has served as leading faculty advisor.

"(Smith) was really the driving force behind it," Holmes said. "She approached me with proposal in hand, so that’s how I got involved."

For senior political science major Shannon Forshay, UNA has given her an opportunity to get involved on campus.

"I loved the individuality and customization of UNA," Forshay said. "The 17 sustainable development goals have a facet for someone to get involved or do a project based on almost anything, making everything we do very member based."

To learn more about MSU’s chapter of the UNA, they can be found on Instagram.

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