Advocates of the United Nations having expertise in UN systems, agencies, and programs.

Charlie Cogan

Charlie earned a bachelor’s degree in History from Carleton College and a master’s degree in African and Middle Eastern History from Northwestern University and was a Ph.D. Candidate in African History for several years before leaving the program to take a job in the admissions office at Northwestern. He has worked in admissions for twenty-two years, starting at Northwestern and then leaving to become the director of international recruitment at Carleton when the college received a multi-million dollar grant from the Starr Foundation to increase its international student presence. When he began, Carleton had less than 1% international students and when he left in 2017 the college’s international student presence was above 10%. At Carleton, he was also a member of the steering committee of the Cross-Cultural Studies minor and served regularly as a guest lecturer. He was also a Designated School Official (DSO) for international visa and immigration matters.

Charlie has also taught college courses in African, Asian, World and US Immigration History and keeps in touch with the students whose applications he reviewed during his 22 years of college admissions work. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and Fulbright Scholar, he keeps his international connections alive through his local Rotary Club (especially international development projects and polio eradication) and as a member of the board of directors of Books For Africa, the nation’s leading shipper of new and gently-used educational materials to Africa. Charlie first joined the United Nations Association of Minnesota in 2000, when he moved to Minnesota. He served for many years on the advisory board and joined the board of directors in 2018, when a change in jobs gave him more flexibility in his schedule. He can speak to issues relating to international education, global healthcare with a special focus on polio eradication, and world history. He is currently enrolled in the mid-career MPA program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi

Mehr “Jay” Shahidi is a business owner and past president of the Minnesota division of the United Nations Association. Born in Iran, he came to the US for higher education and later became a citizen. He studied economics and political science at Minnesota State University, Mankato where he was student body president and received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award for his work on public education, refugee protection, landmines removal, population stabilization, environmental protection,  economic development, nuclear disarmament and peace building.

In 1975, he was accepted into the Ph. D. program in political science at University of Cincinnati, but decided to go into business instead. He created the M.J. Shahidi Business Consulting Company, which has provided management services and advocacy for small business and civic groups.

Jay has been an active member of Amnesty International and done citizen lobbying at all levels of government for over 40 years. In 1999 he began providing fundraising and advocacy services for the American Refugee Committee (now Alight) and served on its Board of Directors for 12 years.

In pursuit of his commitment to democratic exchange and international cooperation, Jay has founded or held leadership positions in over 40 business, civic and charitable organizations, published dozens of opinion articles, and given over 800 public speeches on sociopolitical issues (most of which are related to the mission, agenda and operations of the United Nations).

He has been a Great Decisions Lecturer for Foreign Policy Association and Global Minnesota for over 15 years.

In June of 2019 Jay was awarded the Arnold Goodman Lifetime Achievement Award of the United Nations Association Foundation, to honor his 54 years of advocacy on behalf of the mission, agenda and programs of the United Nations.

Dr. Bharat Parekh

Dr. Bharat Parekh, a native of India, received his BS degree from University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY and MA and PhD in physics from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. This led to a professorship in applied physics at North Dakota State University (NDSU), Fargo.

The establishment of the Minnesota World Trade Center in 1987, and its initial interest to support global research and trade, brought him to Saint Paul, MN. As a consultant, he developed technology ventures between Minnesota and Indian companies and partnership projects for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) proposed in the year 2000 provided him, as a UNA-MN Board member, the incentive to initiate the Minnesota Millennium Initiative which led to numerous advocacy and educational events in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities. Subsequently, MDGs 4 and 5, namely Reduction of Infant Mortality Rate and Improving Maternal Health, became the primary focus for his work towards making a better world. This has led to collaborative projects between a Minnesota NGO, Toddler Food Partners, with select grass-roots NGOs, and academic and medical Institutions in India. This ongoing work is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative, in particular SDGs 3 and 17.   

Dr. Parekh serves on the boards of UNA-MN, Citizens for Global Solutions Minnesota and Toddler Food Partners.

Stuart “Stu” Ackman

Stuart Ackman moved to Australia for a year and a half following his graduation from Occidental College. He worked as both a bookstore and pension fund manager, before traveling onto New Zealand and eventually back to the United States.

He worked in Washington D.C. for a time before continuing his travels, going through Central America to South America and then out to the Caribbean.

In 1978 he worked with two partners to open the first of four Good Earth Restaurants in Minnesota. He is now a real estate broker with his own firm: Ackman Commercial Realty.

He is current president of the Minnesota branch of the United Nations Association of the United States of America, a role he held for three years in the mid-1990s.

Stuart is available for programs and presentations on United Nations 101: The Six Primary Organs of the UN.

Michael Eaton

Michael Eaton

Michael has served as full-time Executive Director of National Model UN (    since 2004 and has helped expand its annual programming to include more than 5,000 college participants. Prior to his current position, he was the Director of Enrollment Services and Marketing for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs ( , an educational nonprofit offering social justice-based off-campus study programs.

He began his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and attended NMUN as a student delegate. He ultimately received his B.A. in Economics, summa cum laude, from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and his M.A. in Nonprofit Management and the scholar award from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Additional honors include being named a Truman Scholar. He is (slowly) completing a doctorate in International Education at the University of Minnesota (ABD).

Michael has served as an adjunct faculty member at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota; a Trustee of the Center for UN Reform Education, a board member and past-President of the United Nations Association of Minnesota, as well as multiple terms on the National Council of UNA-USA.  He is often asked to present a ‘UN 101’ introduction to the organization and its work to domestic and international audiences.

Requesting Speakers:

Please contact our chapter president, Stuart Ackman ( for further information on requesting any of the above speakers.

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