Increasing Model UN’s global reach

UM's Model United Nations team. Photo: Evan F. Garcia/University of Miami

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

UM's Model United Nations team. Photo: Evan F. Garcia/University of Miami

Increasing Model UN’s global reach

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
The University of Miami’s Model UN is working to expand its membership and reputation with its first conference this fall.

Pranav Chugh was once a quiet, introverted adolescent. But once the New Jersey native got involved with the Model United Nations in seventh grade, he began to transform into a more confident and eloquent young man, who now serves as president of his fraternity and a head delegate of the Model UN team at the University of Miami.

Chugh now spends at least two to three hours a day writing background papers on foreign policy issues, coordinating travel for the top-25 ranked UM team, or training new members on how to debate critical issues tackled by the actual United Nations daily.

He and his team members say the benefits of their organization outweigh the time and money they spend to compete.

“Model UN forces you to do things that are out of your comfort zone, and helps you in other areas, like time management, temperament and persuading others of your viewpoint,” said Chugh, a junior political science and psychology major. “It sounds abstract, but the skills you learn will stay with you for your whole life.”

This year, UM’s Model UN team is branching out in new ways. Not only have they increased their membership from about 20 delegates to 45, but they are hosting UM’s first on-campus Model United Nations conference this week, called 305MUN. There are 70 students registered to compete from colleges around the nation and even some delegations from universities in Asia and Africa, said the group’s Secretary General, Andrea Wright, who is organizing the conference, along with Chugh and his co-head delegate, Hayden Boilini, a senior political science and economics major.

Wright, a senior marine science and geology major, first got involved with Model UN three years ago because she was interested in discussing environmental issues like climate change and water scarcity. Although she had no prior experience in Model UN, Wright has now served on committees where she deliberated disarmament and national security policies, as well as social, humanitarian, and cultural problems across the globe.

“It’s a great way for students to meet other people from all over the country and the world, but it also builds teamwork and adaptability,” Wright said. “That is all really important for future jobs and for people interested in international relations and politics. It gives them a really direct experience outside of the classroom.”

UM’s Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education William Green helped open the conference Thursday night and voiced his support for the efforts of all students involved in Model UN.

“What’s wonderful about Model UN is it is comprehensive learning at its best,” Green said. “You can’t be effective at Model UN if you’re ignorant — this is a student activity that requires a knowledge base, and you have to know how to explain what you know to someone else who may see it differently.” 

Founded in 2002, UM's Model UN is currently training its newest delegates to bolster the team, so it can attend even more conferences than the typical five that they attend annually.  Ultimately, this may improve its ratings, Chugh and Boilini said.

Model UN teams are ranked based on how many of their delegates attend conferences, and how well they perform. The winning delegates at each conference receive a gavel, which is worth three points, but the final weight of those points is based upon the reputation and tenure of the conference. UM’s team carefully applies its travel funds to attend the conferences that will yield the most impact.

By hosting their inaugural college conference this week, the UM team cannot compete, but team members will judge each committee session and decide which delegates perform the best. The students hope that the conference will elevate UM’s strong reputation on the Model UN circuit, which includes top teams like University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Florida International University.

“If you host a good conference, people will hear about it. The Model UN circuit is very connected, and delegates like to share their experiences, so the word spreads quickly,” Boilini said. “We have spent over a year preparing for this conference, so when it happens, we hope it will be something that people remember and understandably want to come back to.”

But they are not pinning their hopes on this week’s conference alone. For the past eight years, UM has hosted a high school Model UN conference in the spring called MICSUN that regularly attracts nearly 500 student participants each year, from local schools and countries as far away as Colombia and India. One of the most popular committee sessions is one that is run entirely in Spanish, Chugh said.

“We use it as a training ground,” Chugh said. “And the energy they bring is amazing.”

To learn more about UM’s Model United Nations Conference happening this week, visit https://www.305mun.org/