Group Photo, Week B, 1981

Major changes have swept the world -- and SUNIA -- since this unique organization was formed more than 60 years ago. Let's take a look back to learn how this inspiring summer program got started and evolved into an interactive experience that remains relevant to today's students.  

Our first stop is the year 1952 when Second World War memories were still fresh and the  prospect of a global nuclear war was terrifyingly real. Teaching students about the United Nations and the role of diplomacy in preserving international peace was the goal of summer camps throughout the country. These were launched with the support of the United Nations Association of Canada. In Alberta, the Banff International Affairs Summer School welcomed its first students at the Banff Centre, where it would operate until 1974. At that time, high school social studies teachers volunteered as counsellors and professors from the University of Alberta served as lecturers. While this format proved popular for many years, the exclusive focus on classroom lectures saw registrations gradually dwindle in Alberta, along with other provinces.

Let's jump ahead to 1972 when the program's survival was at stake and a group of counsellors who still believed in its value made revolutionary changes. This group, under Director Glen Rollans, was drawn from recent program participants who recognized that change was essential to attract new students. They charted an independent course for the organization that allowed the program to explore a broader and more appealing range of issues and topics related to international affairs and development.

A short hop ahead to 1975  allows us to drop in on a reinvogorated organization hosting its first camp in a new home. Director Jay Herringer led the move to the Goldeye Educational Centre, leaving behind the high costs and increasing population pressures of Banff for the new site that retained a magnificent Rocky Mountains setting. A more appealing program was created by adding simulation games focused on issues like development and immigration, as well as a full day Security Council meeting. Guest speakers from the United Nations and the Canadian Department of National Defence shared first-hand experiences and insights. To balance the physical with the mental, recreational programs allowed students to enjoy hikes to the top of Mount Baldy, Goldeye Lake, games and campfires.

Students Outside at Goldeye, 1984

Mock Security Council, 1978

Today, long after all the other programs have shut down, SUNIA continues to be a beacon for high school students who want to expand their world view, meet people who share their interest in global affairs, and enjoy a wonderful week in the mountains. Volunteer counsellors, who are all recent program participants, bring new energy and ideas to the organization each year. As an independent, volunteer-run, non-profit organization with no religious or political affiliations, SUNIA is able to tackle a wide range of international issues through lectures, special presentations, small group discussion groups, and most importantly, interactive simulations.

Over the last 64 years, thousands of students from across Alberta, Canada, and the world have enjoyed the unique, interactive, and cutting edge SUNIA experience. Register today to become part of the SUNIA legacy.