Department News

Department hosts 58th Arkansas Model United Nations (AMUN) conference at UCA

The Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies hosted the 58th Arkansas Model United Nations (AMUN) conference at the University of Central Arkansas on November 17-18, 2023.  Some 500 delegates from 27 high schools in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma participated in the conference.  Gabriel Mince served as Secretary-General, and  Sarah Fulmer served as Deputy Secretary-General of the conference.  Several UCA students, as well as students from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, University of Texas-Dallas, and Oklahoma State University, served as committee chairs, co-chairs, and legal counsels.  Dr. Mark Elrod served as AMUN Conference Coordinator, and Dr. Mark Mullenbach served as AMUN Faculty Advisor Liaison.

During the opening session held in Ida Waldran Auditorium in Main Hall on Friday, November 17th, UCA President Houston Davis gave the welcoming address to the participating delegates.  In addition, six students nominated by their faculty advisors gave delegate speeches during the opening session, including Avery Thomsen (Bentonville-West High School), Jillian Bradshaw (Conway High School), Pranav Neupane (Haas Hall Academy-Bentonville), Daniel Taft (Conway High School), Daniel Hiles (Rockhurst High School), and Lake Nall (Pulaski Academy).

During the closing session, the nine students who were elected Rapporteurs in their respective committees were recognized for speeches, including Omar Ghalayini (European Union), Avery Ferguson (Mexico), Solomon Naraine (Slovenia), Mary Caroline Grimes (Mexico), Michaela Stevens (Kazakhstan), Dylan Mercer (Slovak Republic), Nora Shitandi (Mozambique), Sophia Bogart (Belgium), and Caleb Bowman (Germany).  In addition, the Outstanding Delegates for each of the committees were recognized during the closing session — European Union (Har-Ber High School) – DISEC; Saudi Arabia (Haas Hall Academy-Bentonville) – ECOFIN; Greece (Bryant High School) – SOCHUM; Jordan (Pulaski Academy) – Novice GA Committee; Guatemala (ASMSA) – ECOSOC; Mexico (Conway High School) – HRC; Slovenia (Rockhurst High School) – Council of the EU; Mozambique (Har-Ber High School) – Security Council; USA (Pulaski Academy) – Historical Security Council; and Morocco (Haas Hall Academy-Bentonville) – MICJ.

Following the conference, the delegation representing the United States of America (Pulaski Academy) was presented the Outstanding Delegation award.  The delegations representing the Russian Federation (Haas Hall Academy-Fayetteville) and Slovenia (Rockhurst High School) were presented the Outstanding Delegation Runner-Up awards.  Twelve additional delegations were presented the Outstanding Delegation-Honorable Mention awards, including Azerbaijan (Pulaski Academy), Greece (Bryant High School), Iceland (Haas Hall Academy-Rogers), Jordan (Pulaski Academy), Kenya (Pulaski Academy), Lebanon (Rockhurst High School), Mexico (Conway High School), Nigeria (Pulaski Academy), Pakistan (Pulaski Academy), Poland (Pulaski Academy), Slovak Republic (Conway High School), and Ukraine (Bentonville High School).

UCA students participate in 13th Arkansas Collegiate Model United Nations (ACMUN) conference at ASU

Nineteen UCA students representing the UCA Model United Nations (MUN) student organization participated in the 13th Arkansas Collegiate Model United Nations (ACMUN) Conference at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro on Friday, November 3, 2023.  The group, which included Julien Mrad, Jaycie Sturdivant, Dice Ferguson, Makenna Goss, Gabriel Mince, Ryan Webb, Laura Carrillo Rodriguez, Cooper Horton, Emily Temple, Lauren Clark, Abby Bunch, Mitchell Davis, Jaylan Harris, Aissata Diare, Lillie Webb, Allison Hellard, Jenna Taylor, Aminatou Adeniji, and Kyle Urban, represented the countries of Albania, Algeria, Brazil, Costa Rica, Czechia, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan.  The conference included simulations of the UN Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC), UN Human Rights Council (HRC), UN Security Council, and the Council of the Arab League.  Dr. Mark Elrod and Dr. Mark Mullenbach, faculty members in the Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies, served as the faculty advisors for the UCA students.

The following UCA students were recognized for their performances at the 13th ACMUN Conference: Julien Mrad – Outstanding Delegate (Security Council, Albania); Dice Ferguson – Honorable Mention (Arab League, Algeria); Makenna Goss – Outstanding Delegate (ECOSOC, Brazil); Gabriel Mince – Honorable Mention (Security Council, Brazil); Emily Temple – Honorable Mention (ECOSOC, Czechia); Lauren Clark & Abby Bunch – Honorable Mention (Human Rights Council, Czechia); and Mitchell Davis – Outstanding Delegate (Arab League, Egypt).  In addition, the delegations of Brazil (Makenna Goss, Gabriel Mince, and Ryan Webb) and Czechia (Emily Temple, Lauren Clark, and Abby Bunch) were selected as Best Delegations-Honorable Mention.

Department alumnus selected as a 2023 Arkansas Money & Politics 100 Top Professional

Itzel Velazquez, who graduated from UCA with a BA degree in International Studies and Political Science in 2019, was selected as one of the 2023 Arkansas Money & Politics 100 Top Professionals. Itzel earned a master’s degree in higher education administration at Loyola University in Chicago in 2021, and she is currently the Kiva Hub-Capital Access Manager for Forge Fund in Little Rock.  In 2019, Itzel was one of 262 students across the U.S. who were named as the 2019-2020 Newman Civic Fellows by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

Department presents 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award

The Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies held a reception for alumni, students, faculty, and other guests in Buffalo Alumni Hall on Tuesday evening, September 12, 2023.  President Houston Davis welcomed UCA alumni, faculty, and students to the event.  Members of the department faculty, including Dr. Heather Yates, Dr. Kim Hoffman, and Dr. Gizachew Tiruneh, highlighted the department’s bachelor degree programs, including the BA/BS in Political Science, Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA), and BA in International Studies.  The department also offers minors in Political Science, Public Administration, International Studies, and Legal Studies.  Dr. Clay Arnold presented the department’s 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Justice Cody Hiland of the Arkansas State Supreme Court.  Justice Hiland, who graduated from UCA with a bachelor’s degree in public administration in 1993, previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas from 2017 to 2020.

In July 2023, Justice Cody Hiland was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Arkansas Supreme Court by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  He graciously accepted the award and spoke of the life-long drive that the values of public service has given his career. He remarked that “public service has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? And inherent in the idea of public service is the idea that we’re helping other people. I don’t know if there’s a greater calling in life than serving our fellow man.”

Distinguished Alumnus Justice Cody Hiland

Justice Cody Hiland and Dr. Clay Arnold

Dr. Mark Mullenbach announced the establishment of the Student Experiential Learning Fund (SELF) that will provide small grants to students in the department who are participating in experiential learning activities outside of the classroom, including internships, academic service learning, research, academic conferences and seminars, and study abroad.  Dr. Mullenbach encouraged department alumni and others to generously contribute to the SELF, which will be administered by the UCA Foundation.  He stated that the “primary goal of the fund is to ensure than no student in the department is unable to participate in an experiential learning activity because they don’t have that extra $100 or $300 in their budget.”

Left to Right: Dr. Mark Elrod, Willis Arnold, and Dr. Mark Mullenbach

Dr. Mary Beth Sullivan announced the establishment of an undergraduate student online journal, which will give undergraduate students in the department the opportunity to publish their research.  Dr. Sullivan announced that a call for papers will be issued in the spring.

Left to Right: Dr. Bailey Fairbanks, Dr. Mary Beth Sullivan, Dr. Kim Hoffman, Dr. Heather Yates, and Dr. Joseph Howard

Dr. Hyo-Won Shin was introduced as the department’s newest faculty member.  Dr. Shin, who was hired to replace the retired Dr. John Passe Smith, specializes in comparative politics and Southeast Asian politics.

Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies alumni


UCA students commemorate 2023 Constitution Day

As part of UCA’s commemoration of Constitution Day, some 33 students in U.S. Government & Politics courses taught by Dr. Mark Elrod recited the U.S. Constitution in Baridon Residential Hall on Wednesday evening, September 20, 2023.  Dr. Elrod is a lecturer in the Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies.  The U.S. Constitution was signed by 38 delegates representing the 13 original U.S. states in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.  The U.S. Constitution officially entered into force on June 21, 1788.

Department alumnus awarded scholarship for the Georgetown University Cyberfellows Program

Kenny Vo, who graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in May 2022 with a B.A. degree in International Studies and a B.S. degree in Cybersecurity, was recently awarded a prestigious graduate scholarship from the Georgetown University Cyberfellows Program.  Starting in Fall 2023, Kenny will be pursuing a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in the Security Studies Program (SSP) at Georgetown University in Washington DC.  The SSP is one of eight master’s degree programs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  The mission of the SSP is to “teach a new generation of analysts, policymakers, and scholars to think critically and act responsibly in the face of the 21st century’s most pressing national and international security problems.”  The Cyberfellows Scholarship covers all of the costs of the graduate program, including tuition, fees, and health insurance.  In addition, the scholarship provides an annual stipend of $34,000 for graduate students and an allowance of $6,000 annually for textbooks, travel, and professional development.  Upon completion of the graduate degree, individuals who are awarded the Cyberfellows Scholarship are obligated to work for the federal government in a cybersecurity position for at least two years.  Kenny is interested in working for the U.S. Department of Energy to help secure the country’s critical energy infrastructure, but he also want to “continue cultivating interdisciplinary knowledge within the fields of cybersecurity and international relations.”

Department hosts 2023 International Affairs Summer Camp at UCA

The Department of Government, Public Service, and International Studies hosted the fourth Arkansas and the World: International Affairs Summer Camp at the University of Central Arkansas on July 9-14, 2023.  Previous summer camps were hosted by the department in 2017, 2018, and 2019.  Forty-four Arkansas high school students participated in a unique, interactive learning experience designed to enhance their understanding of international relations, diplomacy, and international organizations.  The students participated in educational workshops on international relations, the United Nations, and fundamentals of Model United Nations.  The students also represented assigned countries in interactive simulations of the UN General Assembly, including several committee and plenary sessions held throughout the week.  The students competed in two rounds of a Global Trivia Competition on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  The students participated in the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) Letters of Hope project on Wednesday evening.

The summer camp was funded by an Academic Enrichment for Gifted/Talented in Summer (AEGIS) grant awarded to the department by the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE).  Dr. Mark Mullenbach, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies, served as Summer Camp Director.  Abby Mattingly, an International Studies and Political Science graduate of UCA, served as Assistant Summer Camp Director.  Eight individuals, including Coumba Soumare, Gabriel Mince, Lia Wilson, Julien Mrad, Cooper Horton, Allison Swindell, Hayden Rogers, and Aminatou Adeniji, served on the summer camp staff as resident assistants/counselors.  Guest speakers during the week-long summer camp included Jennifer Smith, Communication & Fundraising Coordinator, Heifer International; Willis Arnold, Volunteer Coordinator, Clinton Foundation; Christian Olson, former Deputy Commissioner and Chief Examiner, Arkansas Securities Department; Natalie Larrison, Director of Humanitarian Projects, Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF); and Mouaz Moustafa, Executive Director, Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF).

Department alumnus honored with a James W. Foley Freedom Award

Mouaz Moustafa, who graduated from UCA with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in International Studies in May 2008, was honored with a James W. Foley Freedom Award (humanitarian award) presented during a ceremony held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on May 3, 2023.  Since 2011, Mouaz has served as Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to advocating for and providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians impacted by the civil war in Syria.  The SETF also seeks accountability for war crimes committed by the Syrian government.  The James W. Foley Freedom Awards are sponsored by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.  In August 2024, James W. Foley, a freelance video journalist, was killed in the Raqqa region of Syria by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Following his death, the foundation was established by James Foley’s parents in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Department holds the 2023 Pi Sigma Alpha induction ceremony

The Department of Political Science held its annual induction ceremony for the Alpha Beta Theta Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, on Thursday, April 20, 2023.  Dr. Clay Arnold, Chair of the Department of Political Science, announced the 2022-2023 inductees, including Makenna Goss, Allison Hellard, Donavon Millington, Phoenix Vu, Noah Walker, and Richard Ware.  Jaycie Sturdivant served as president of the chapter in 2022-2023, along with Madeline Kittler (Vice President), Madalyn Dowell (Secretary), and Aaron Conrad (Treasurer).  Speakers during the induction ceremony included Dr. Kim Hoffman, Director of the Public Administration Program, Dr. Gizachew Tiruneh, Director of the International Studies Program, and Dr. Mary Beth Sullivan, Associate Professor of Political Science.  The department also honored the 2022-2023 Outstanding Students: Political Science – Madalyn Dowell, Emma Davis, and Nicole Vincent; Public Administration – Aaron Conrad and Madeline Kittler; and International Studies – Allison Hellard and Coumba Soumare.  Dr. Heather Yates served as Faculty Advisor for UCA’s Pi Sigma Alpha chapter in 2022-2023.

Department hosts the Arkansas High School Model Arab League (AHSMAL) conference at UCA

The Department of Political Science and the UCA Model United Nations (MUN) student organization hosted the Arkansas High School Model Arab League (AHSMAL) Conference in the UCA Student Center on March 10-11, 2023.  The conference was sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) in Washington DC.  The AHSMAL conference, originally known as the South Central States Model Arab League (SCSMAL) conference, was previously held at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville from 1996 to 2010 and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock from 2011 to 2020.

More than 150 students from ten high schools, representing the 22 member-states and several observer states of the League of Arab States, participated in the conference.  UCA graduate, Sarah Fulmer, served as Secretary-General for the Conference.  UCA student, Gabriel Mince, served as Assistant Secretary-General, and UCA student, Julien Mrad, served as chair of the Council on Social Affairs.  Dr. Mark Mullenbach and Dr. Mark Elrod of the Department of Political Science served as faculty advisors for the UCA MUN student organization.

During the closing session, outstanding delegation awards were presented to the following delegations: Algeria (Pulaski Academy), Eritrea (Pulaski Academy), Sudan (Pulaski Academy), and the Syrian National Coalition (Conway High School).  In addition, distinguished delegation awards were presented to the following delegations: Egypt (Haas Hall Academy-Bentonville), Morocco (Bryant High School), Oman (ASMSA), and Yemen (Haas Hall Academy-Fayetteville).