by, Megan LaCreta, Staff Writer
The Manhattan College Model United Nations team recently triumphed at the 2021 National Conference during the week of March 28. Despite facing unprecedented challenges this semester, the team brought home the Outstanding Delegation award— the highest honor awarded in National Model UN— for the first time in the college’s history at the New York conference.
This semester, the 14-student team represented Iraq at the conference, which was held online due to the pandemic. Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., chair of the political science department and Model UN advisor, made the decision to run the course virtually in order to properly prepare for the virtual conference. However, the online format came with its own challenges. Chasek noted that it was more difficult to create the team mindset online.
“It was tough for our delegation to become a team, because we were never in the same room all semester. In fact we were never in the same country all semester,” Chasek said. “Usually we do a lot of team building exercises through the semester because we are a team, and that was a little more complicated to do without being in the same place.”
Carolina Perez is a senior political science and international studies major, and was head delegate for the Manhattan College team, alongside fellow senior Luis Garcia. Perez said that, while the online conference ran very smoothly, the students this year missed out on interacting with Model UN participants from different schools from around the world.
“It definitely was different than other years because you have a more social aspect, because you’re able to see people in person and network with people,” Perez said. “But it was great that we had chat functions and everything so even though we weren’t in person it was still very similar to the actual conference itself.”
While the social aspect is fun, Model UN is a lot of hard work. Esha Jan, a junior political science and international studies major with a minor in Arabic, expressed the amount of work that goes into the Model UN course, as well as participating in the conference.
“You need to submit a position paper for your committee to the National Model United Nations before the conference on your country’s position on the different topics and what the country is proposing, which requires extensive research,” Jan wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “You need to learn about writing resolutions, negotiating and have to work on your public speaking skills.”
Perez agreed, saying “Even though the paper we write is only two pages, it is the most research that you do for any paper, aside from my senior seminar paper.”
Students taking the Model UN course begin their research over the winter break, and start the arduous process of getting into character as diplomats of the nation they’re representing, Chasek explained.
“What we found for Iraq is, if there was a motto, it’s, ‘we’re back, and we want to engage the international community after all these years of war,’” said Chasek. “We’ve had all of these problems but we want to be an active part of the Arab world, we want to be an active part of the international community, and we want to be in a position to bring countries together, so that no country goes through what we had to go through.”
Public speaking and acting is also an important aspect of the Model UN experience. Chasek noted that a unique challenge the team faced this year was that many of its members had never experienced a Model UN conference before, since last year’s spring conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was necessary to build confidence among the team members in order to succeed.
The pandemic impacted the team even further when three members came down with COVID over the course of the conference, two of whom were unable to participate due to the severity of their symptoms.
However, the pandemic was not the only obstacle the Model UN program encountered. In August, Chasek found out the program’s funding had been completely cut.
“I found out in August that my budget was zero,” Chasek said. “As a result, we were unable to participate in the fall conference. I don’t want students to have to pay fees to do this, because then a lot of students who want to do it won’t get the opportunity.”
Thankfully, alumni of the Model UN program, spearheaded by George Fontas ‘02, were able to fundraise the amount necessary to cover the fees of the spring conference.
Perez expressed that while she appreciated the alumni’s efforts, the lack of funding for the program on behalf of the college was another disappointment in her abnormal senior year.
“There were definitely moments where I was concerned about whether or not I’d be able to do the conference,” Perez said. “This senior year, we’re not having the same graduation, we’re not having the same Honor Society induction, so I just would have felt like it would have been another thing that I would have lost because of the pandemic. And so learning that we had gotten our whole funding cut was upsetting, but once the alumni were able to fund it for us, it was just incredible and I’m so grateful for them.”
Despite all of these obstacles, the Model UN team came together to win the Outstanding Delegation Award.
“It was very rewarding because, despite all the challenges that we’ve had to face, they brought us together and made us want to work harder to get an award, so I guess I couldn’t have asked for a better last conference,” Perez said.
Sophomore Joanna Canigiani and junior Liola Moody received the Distinguished Delegates in Committee award for their work in the Commission on the Status of Women.
Jan also was recognized when she was selected to chair of the World Health Organization simulation.
“I am proud to have been chosen to be on the dais as the chair for the World Health Organization,” Jan wrote. “This allowed me to run the committee during formal sessions and ensure that everything in committee ran efficiently.”
Perez and Jan both reflected on their experiences in the program.
“I feel like joining Model UN was one of the best decisions that I could have made while at Manhattan. Not only did it introduce me to some of my closest friends, but it strengthened my relationships with professors,” Perez said.
“Do Model United Nations and do it as many times as possible,” Jan wrote. “It is an incredible experience that makes you a more knowledgeable global citizen. It enhances your skills, allows you to meet and work with people from all over the world, and helps you grow as a person.”
Students interested in Model UN should contact Pamela Chasek at pamela.chasek@ manhattan.edu. The program runs as an extracurricular in the fall semester, and as a course in the spring semester. Students looking to advocate for the benefit of the program can reach out to the Dean of Liberal Arts, Cory Blad, Provost Steven Schreiner, or President Brennan O’Donnell.