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KPU underdog team of three wins big at model UN competition

Small, inexperienced team wins four awards despite facing stiff American competition
Lorne Putman, left, Bobby Gardner, Jemma Heathcote pose for a photo with the awards won at the Model UN in Portland, Orgeon. (Submitted photo: KPU)

Three students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) came away from the recent Northwest Small (model) UN in Portland, Oregon as big winners, despite facing some stiff competition.

Jemma Heathcote, Bobby Gardner and Lorne Putman were going up against teams with five times more students and had years of experience, while the KPU team had no previous experience competing in university-level model UNs.

But that didn’t stop them.

The trio represented Germany and, using their knowledge from their political science classes, came away with four awards. The team won the Best Delegation award. Gardner won the Distinguished Delegate and a Position Paper award. Heathcote also won a Distinguished Delegate award.

“This experience gave me pride as a KPU student and a Canadian. With hard work we managed to compete with big American universities and come out on top,” stated Putman in a KPU release.


Heathcote, a North Delta resident led the team as club president.

“We were all pretty nervous but excited,” Heathcote said. “We ended up doing much better than we could have ever imagined.”

Heathcote said the experience bonded the team and gave them the opportunity to meet other university students from all over the U.S. with shared interests. She said the other teams were welcoming and helpful in getting them started at their first competition.

“We definitely grew and flourished during that weekend,” she said.

Heathcote told the Now-Leader that KPU had a vibrant model UN club years ago but it had fizzled out. A KPU professor had been trying to get it started again for years. Her previous experience starting a debate club at KPU helped her revive the model UN club.

“I took it upon myself to do the research and create a team and now we’re here.”

The model UN club now has more than 30 members. The club is planning to hold a model UN conference of its own in the next few weeks.

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Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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