Aaron Holtz’s passion for international relations began on Sept. 11, 2001, as he watched planes crash into the World Trade Center in New York City on a television at Mesa Community College. After watching the chaos on the screen, he walked to his next class taught by Brian Dille, Ph.D., professor of political science.
“No one knew what was going on,” Holtz said. “I went to Dille’s class and he pulled down the map and started talking about Afghanistan. It was amazing. I thought, I’m in the know and I have something to grab onto as to why this is happening while everyone else is still freaking out. I loved that feeling. That’s what really set me on the path of wanting to be involved in international relations and world affairs and learn more.”
Today, Aaron Holtz is the senior policy adviser for Human Rights and Gender Equality for the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations. In April, he will serve as assistant executive director of the 68th session of the Model United Nations of the Far West (MUNFW) conference in San Francisco. Holtz will help organize the student-led event while injecting a little expertise and serving as an example of the opportunities available to students who participate in the Model UN.
“There’s a direct line between my time at MCC and what I am doing now,” said Holtz, who attended MCC from 1999 to 2005. “I was involved in Model UN for a number of years and through that was able to secure an internship at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through one of the board members.”
Holtz advanced through the ranks and is now a senior policy adviser, doing substantive work for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
Holtz credits Dille, who has served as director of the Model UN organization at MCC for 18 years, for helping him obtain the internship at UNHCR.
“I rank Dille so highly as a person and as a professor,” Holtz said. “He helped set me on my course. Dille recognized that spark I had and helped me to develop it while at MCC. He was very instrumental with helping me with my internship and I respect him incredibly.”
Model United Nations is a simulation program for college students in which they participate in model sessions of the United Nations to advance their understanding of the principles and means by which international relations may be maintained. The program helps students develop a greater understanding of the nations of the world, the relations between them, their policies and the nature of their work in the United Nations.
This year’s conference is chaired by MCC. As a community college, MCC is consistently one of the top delegations that regularly beats university teams. Holtz said MCC will bring back notable participants from past years to chair this year’s committee and provide mentoring.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Holtz said. “It teaches such an important package of skills that apply uniquely to the UN but also broadly to life. You develop the skills of collaborating and engaging with people. That is what life is all about--convincing people what you need or want but making sure they will not be mad at you in the end. Dr. Dille always says ‘diplomacy is the art of letting you have my way.’”
Holtz is grateful for the pathway his career took and highly recommends the experience to others.
“Model UN set me on a cool trajectory that I never would have imagined,” Holtz said. “I would have never thought I’d be working representing the United Kingdom at the United Nations. It links directly back to my time at MCC.”
For more information on the conference, visit http://munfw.org/. For more information on Political Science and Model UN programs at MCC, visit https://www.mesacc.edu/programs/political-science and https://www.mesacc.edu/departments/social-science/model-un.