Sunday, February 17, 2019

Model United Nations

When I learned that our high school has a Model UN club, I was overcome with joy and excitement (seriously, no kidding), much like when I learned that all of our juniors are required to take personal finance and civics.

See, I was a total slacker in high school. I wasn't involved in anything. But I'd like to think that I made up for it in college, and then some. And one of the many clubs and co-curricular activities I was involved in during my college years at Cardinal Stritch University was Model UN. I absolutely loved it.

Model UN, at least when I took it at the college level, had two components to it - it was a club, but it also doubled as a course that you could take for anywhere from one to three credits at a time. There was a "lifetime" max of credits you could earn for the class - I believe that number was capped at four.

I was a political science major, and many of my fellow students involved in Model UN were political science or history majors. Once in a while, we would have a few students from other majors join us, which I highly encourage - so much of what you can learn by participating in a Model UN program is easily transferable to other majors, careers, and life situations. We'll come back to this more later.

Anyway, the general gist of how Model UN works is this: Your school's club members/classmates work together as a team to research a country - current political and economic trends, its overall history and culture, any current disputes with other countries, any internal strife going on, its current form of government and its leaders, any noteworthy trade deals, etc., etc. - and then represent that country at an interactive simulation with other schools representing their own countries. In some cases, where the club/class is really large, your school may represent two or even three or more countries.

Now, the real United Nations has many different committees, and so the Model UN simulation mirrors that fact in order to deliver an experience that is as authentic as possible. What this means is that, while your club/class is all working to represent the same country, you're not going to be with all of your schoolmates during the simulation. You'll be broken up into your own specific committee assignments. Formal dress attire, at least for us when we took it, is required.

My Model UN club/class at Cardinal Stritch participated in the Midwest Model United Nations (MMUN) conference, held in St. Louis every February. I was an undergraduate student for a total of six years, from 2001-2007, and I was involved in Model UN for five of those years.

The conference took place over several days at the St. Louis Union Station. What a great opportunity for learning outside the classroom, networking (I still keep in contact from time to time with both my Stritch classmates and a few others that attended other schools), and even a little fun and sightseeing! The Union Station in St. Louis houses a hotel, conference center, and multi-level shopping mall all in one. The famous St. Louis Arch is nearby, and plenty of beautiful scenery and things to do surround the area.

To add even more fun and variety to the simulation, there would be one night during conference when "emergency" sessions would be called in the middle of the night for certain committees and councils. We always knew in advance that this would happen at some point during the conference, but we would never know which night! Our hotel room phones would be called in the middle of the night, and we would be expected to get dressed and head down to our assigned conference rooms as soon as possible to deal with a crisis of some sort.

Now, I was saying earlier how I really encourage all students to participate in Model UN, regardless of major. So much is transferable to other majors, careers, and situations that are bound to come up in life and work.

In closing, here are some of the skills and dispositions you're learning or building on by participating in Model UN:

Research - How to identify and utilize quality sources when seeking information and preparing to make decisions.

Negotiation, diplomacy, and compromise - Necessary skills for success in the business world, for building trust and relationships with co-workers and superiors in any work environment.

Communication - Also a vital skill for success in just about every work and life situation possible. The need to communicate clearly, effectively, and confidently cannot be overstated.

Learning more about the world and current affairs - Great for fields like business, economics, law, sociology, to name a few.

Public speaking - You'll have plenty of opportunities to work on this classic fear.

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