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by Dayna Kalakau, staff writer
Say “Georgia,” and most U.S. college students would think of the American state that is home to delicious peaches and the Atlanta Falcons. However, HPU graduate student Shota Mkheidze calls Georgia—the country—his home.

The MBA student represented Hawai‘i’s First Congressional District at the U.S. Model Congress at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this summer.

“ I was honored to represent Hawai‘i this year,” said Mkheidze. “I learned so much and had great experiences.”

Georgia, a Mediterranean country, is bordered by Russia to the north, Turkey and Armenia to the south, and Azerbaijan to the east. Georgia’s history is fraught with political and economic struggles.
The country declared its independence from the former USSR in 1991, and in the decade to follow would be faced with civil war and unrest, the ethnic cleansing of more than 250,000 Georgians, and Chechen-influenced human trafficking across its borders.

Mikheidze earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he double majored in both political science and international relations.

At the University of Florida, Mkheidze had the opportunity to discuss with his professors some of the issues that plagued Georgia, as well as some of its potential:

• its growing economic stability;

• its attractive economic, political, and strategic position in central Asia;

• its desire for entry into the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“ I wanted to get students excited about the issues,” said Mkheidze. “Today’s generation just isn’t active.”

The outcome of such debate was the United States & Caucasus Association for Democracy and Peace, an organization which Mkheidze formed during his senior year in an effort to help build bridges between the United States and Georgia.

Following his graduation from the University of Florida, Mkheidze decided to pursue his master’s degree at HPU. Hawai‘i’s reputation as a melting pot sealed the deal.

“ I chose HPU because of its location in the Pacific,” said Mkheidze. “Hawai‘i’s population is so diverse that it would only give me a better understanding of other cultures and values.”

At HPU Mkheidze again incited political debate between with his professors. This is where he learned about the U. S. Model Congress.

After receiving strong support from his professors, the community, and HPU President Chatt G. Wright, Mkheidze launched his official political campaign, Shota4DC. Mkheidze maintains that the campaign process, which was required of all 12 candidates, played an integral role in his getting to Washington, D.C.

“ I was able to raise enough money to cover my campaign and my stay in D.C.,” Mkheidze said. “The campaign also put me in contact with a lot of supportive influential people.” One of those supportive contacts was former representative for Hawai‘i’s 2nd Congressional District and former U.S. Senate candidate, Ed Case.

The former representative and now-HPU professor acted as Mkheidze’s mentor throughout his campaign, sharing his political philosphy and guiding Mkheidze as he developed H.R. 11, a resolution that aimed to continue U.S. support for the spread of new democracies in Eastern Europe.

“ Mr. Case really inspired me,” Mkheidze said. The resolution was introduced, and it received significant support in the U.S. Model House of Representatives. It also struck Mkheidze on a personal note, since it spoke directly about his country’s future.

“ The resolution was only for the Model Congress,” said Mkheidze, “but its intent was very real.”
Though Mkheidze enjoyed his time as a Hawai‘i representative, he does believe in term limits and is looking for someone to replace him.

“ I want to be a campaign manager, a mentor, anything,” said Mkheidze. “I just want to help someone else do better. It’s my way of giving back.”

For more information about the U.S. Model Congress program, visit www.modelcongress.org.




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