Student Roles and Responsibilities
Students enrolling in the Model Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be assigned one of four roles, a Senator, a Senator's Aide, a Witness or a Journalist. Each role has specific requirements and responsibilities for the program, and students should have a full understanding of their desired role prior to registration.
If you enjoy being in the middle of the action and taking a leadership position, you will most likely find that being a senator is exciting and rewarding. There are two main components to the role of a senator: preparation and participation. Your responsibilities as a senator include: (a) being knowledgeable about your subcommittee’s topic; (b) accurately portraying the views of your assigned senator; and (c) researching the witnesses who testify at your subcommittee hearing in order to ask them thoughtful and informed questions. If you are chosen to be a senator, you will need to keep in mind that your job is to represent your senator’s viewpoints, not your own personal opinions.
As you think about whether you would like to be a senator, keep in mind that you will be responsible for completing the following tasks before the Model Senate Hearing takes place:
Attend two preparation sessions at the World Affairs Council offices;
- Research your assigned senator (www.senate.gov/~foreign). Contact your senator to find out his or her viewpoint on the issues. If your senator does not respond, you can research his or her position on similar issues and then infer what his or her viewpoint on these particular issues would likely be;
Research the witnesses who will testify at your subcommittee hearing and prepare two thoughtful questions to ask each witness. Complete the Witness Questions worksheet and send it to the World Affairs Council;
Research your subcommittee’s assigned topic and complete the Policy Strategy Analysis worksheet;
Produce a draft resolution and bring it to the scheduled preparation sessions.
All Senators will be paired with a Senator's Aide from their own school to help prepare for the program, including drawing up lines of questioning, speeches and background research.
If your school has been assigned a senator role, an additional student can serve as the senator’s aide. Senators’ aides play an important role in the Model Senate Hearing because they assist their senators with everything from researching topics to advising them on how to vote.
A senator’s aide:
- Assists his or her senator in completing the Investigating the Topic and Witness Questions worksheets before the scheduled preparation session;
- Compiles background research, draws up lines of questioning and helps Senators craft speeches;
- Sits with his or her senator during all Model Senate Hearing sessions and serves as an advisor during witness testimonies, witness questioning, and resolution voting.
If you are interested in being a senator’s aide, talk with your teacher, who is responsible for selecting students for this role.
Witnesses play a key role in the Model Senate Hearing because they are experts on the topics that the subcommittees discuss, and their expertise is the basis for formulating the resolution that will become U.S. policy. Witnesses testify about their knowledge of the topics and offer their perspectives about future possibilities (hypothetical events, trends or policies) related to their assigned topics that the U.S. may soon face. They also answer questions about their testimony from senators. Examples of witnesses include high-level government officials, leaders of foreign nations, ambassadors, foreign ministers, State Department officials, scholars, think-tank analysts, corporate executives, and journalists.
If you are chosen as a witness, you may share this role with another student, but both of you should participate fully in preparing for and delivering your witness testimony.
A witness must:
- Research his or her assigned role and his or her writings and position on the topic;
- Write a draft of his or her proposed testimony and submit it to Council staff by the assigned deadline;
- A witness’s testimony consists of a two to three-minute (approximately two double-spaced pages) prepared statement that addresses key facts or issues about the topic that should be shared with the subcommittee. It includes the following components: 1) a short biography of the witness; 2) background information about the topic; and 3) future possibilities related to the topic that the U.S. may encounter and his or her recommendations for how the U.S. should shape its foreign policy decisions accordingly. See the Writing an Effective Witness Testimony worksheet for assistance in preparing your testimony.
- Read prepared testimony during the morning session and respond to senators’ questions;
- Listen to the other testimonies and record notes and observations on the Recording Witness Testimonies worksheet; and
- Submit one or two statements that summarize his or her testimony that senators can use to write the resolution;
Just as the media cover the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, student journalists report on what takes place at the Model Senate Hearing.
A journalist must:
- Carefully observe a subcommittee’s morning session, working lunch and afternoon sessions, interviewing senators and witnesses if time allows;
- Write an article and/or take photos summarizing the day’s events; and
- Send a copy of the article and/or pictures to the World Affairs Council; journalists may have an opportunity to be published on the Council’s website.