Shannon Collaer, a sophomore at Montana State University from Idaho Falls, Idaho, has been selected to travel to Saudi Arabia following the fall semester as a member of an U.S. Model Arab League delegation.
"The opportunity to spend even 10 days in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not only help expand my Arabic, but also allow me to gain first-hand insight into that important actor in the Arab world," said Collaer, who is majoring in both history and religious studies.
Collaer was a member of MSU's Model Arab League team that represented Bahrain in last year's Model Arab League competition in Washington, D.C. The MSU team won several awards in the competition, debating teams from such schools as Georgetown, Northeasten and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Collaer was invited to attend a U.S. State Department-funded intensive Arabic language summer program in Tunisia following the national competition.
Collaer said as a result of her experience with the MSU Model Arab League class, directed by Thomas Goltz, adjunct professor, she plans a future tied to the study of Arabic and the Middle East. She is now "committed to gaining fluency in modern standard Arabic, as well as expanding my dialectal ability," to enable her to communicate successfully with government officials, news sources, as well the people of the Middle East. Eventually, she hopes to do humanitarian work in some of the more rural areas of the Middle East, particularly in the arena of women's rights. This is a delicate process given traditional tribal roles, but I ultimately hope to preserve the beauty that lies in traditional culture while expanding the rights of women, which will ultimately empower the society as a whole; the incorporation of women into the economy, the intellectual sphere, etc, improves the lives of their children as well.
Goltz said he is "proud as punch" of Collaer's accomplishments. He added that MSU has been invited by the national MAL organization to represent the pivotal country of Palestine at the spring 2013 competition on the basis of MSU's past-performance. Collaer said she plans to be a part of that team.
"Palestine is so central to all real Arab League issues that the school representing it has a real chance at bringing home national gold," Collaer said. "The very fact that MSU has been given this honor and that I was selected to represent MSU on the study tour of Saudi Arabia speaks volumes about the MAL program at MSU."