2018-03-09 15:31:25 - Feature
Coe College senior Anne Atkins recently had the opportunity to gain real-world international experience by observing the 68th session of Working Group II of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) at U.N. headquarters in New York City. The externship was provided by the Forum for International Conciliation and Arbitration (FICA), and facilitated by Coe alumnus and trustee Alan M. Anderson, who has been one of FICA’s representatives at sessions of the Working Group for the past three years.
"Through its various Working Groups, UNCITRAL debates, develops and works on various proposed international instruments that subsequently are acted upon by the full UNCITRAL Commission. The instruments cover various aspects of international trade, such as model laws for arbitration of disputes and transparency in international disputes," said Anderson. "Most recently, Working Group II worked on developing an instrument for the trans-national enforcement of internationally mediated settlement agreements."
After participating in earlier UNCITRAL Working Group II sessions, Anderson proposed to FICA that one of its observer appointments be allocated to an undergraduate student as a rather unique learning experience. After FICA approved his request, Anderson proposed to Coe Provost and Dean of the Faculty Paula O'Loughlin that the college select and arrange the externship for a Coe student.
As an international relations major with a minor in German, Atkins has studied abroad in South Korea and Switzerland during her time at Coe. She is also a semi-finalist for a potential 2018-19 Fulbright student award to serve in Germany. After graduate school, she envisions a career as a foreign service officer or with an NGO.
While studying in Geneva, Atkins saw the U.N. externship opportunity when it was announced via email to Coe students. With her keen interest in internationalism, Atkins applied, participated in the interview process and was accepted.
"While I was in Switzerland, we studied diplomacy and we visited the United Nations office in Geneva to learn how it operates, but I never got to witness an actual Working Group session," said Atkins. "I thought it would be appropriate to conclude my semester abroad with this opportunity, because that's what we were studying."
During the three working days she was at the U.N., Atkins was "an observer of the observers." She watched as an UNCITRAL Working Group crafted a draft convention and a draft model law, which they were finalizing when she was there.
"As part of this NGO, I essentially watched the discussions happen, seeing what goes on as they are drafting these instruments," said Atkins.
Anderson served as Atkins' host at the U.N., with the Coe student observing and asking questions of her alumni mentor.
"I thought it was eye-opening to see how terms are discussed, and the importance of diction in these model laws or draft conventions," said Atkins. "The Working Group delegates would go over proposed provisions in these documents and negotiate specific language."
During the deliberations, Atkins learned about the necessity of precise language in international agreements, and how long it can take to get agreement on wording. Atkins also witnessed how the relationships between the delegates and interpersonal communications impacted the discussions.
"It was interesting to see how the different delegates interacted with each other both during the formal sessions that we had and also during breaks," said Atkins. "I also observed how different countries would work together and different delegates would work together and discuss, or not say anything and choose not to participate, and what kind of implications that has in a wider political spectrum."
More than 50 countries were represented at the sessions she observed. Atkins was fortunate to attend the sessions that were close to the end of the multi-year negotiation process.
To complement her full days in session, Atkins carved out time to tour Central Park, Times Square and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She strongly endorses externship opportunities for other Coe students.
"It was a discussion of mediation and international trade law, and I hadn't studied international mediation before this," said Atkins. "Although it took a lot of preparation, it was really rewarding in the end."
Atkins is grateful to FICA for making the entire experience possible for her.
"Alan Anderson provided a really generous opportunity and working with him was awesome," said Atkins. "He made the experience really great."
From his perspective, Anderson agreed it was a positive experience for Atkins.
"I thought it went well," said Anderson. "It seemed like it was an eye-opening experience for Anne."
Along with Coe International Club, Atkins has been involved with the Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and jazz band on campus. She is the daughter of Christopher Atkins and Terese Lambert-Atkins from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Coe College offers superb academics and exciting co-curricular activities in a thriving urban setting that promotes student growth and success. Established in 1851, Coe has a national reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment. Coe's vibrant Cedar Rapids location provides an abundance of internships for students and career opportunities for graduates.