In Person National Model UN Conference: Students Bring Back Success from DC

by Victor Franco, Staff Writer

For the first time since the pandemic, Pamela Chasek ,Ph.D., chairperson of the political science department at Manhattan College, was able to physically take students to the National Model UN Conference in Washington D.C., and returned with an honorable mention award and two awards for outstanding position papers.

The National Model UN Conference takes place twice a year, in different locations, providing hundreds of students the opportunity to engage in discussions about international-diplomatic affairs.

Students who attend the conference take a class with Chasek, so that when the time comes students will be prepared for any conversation concerning the topic of the conference. 

In the event, students are broken up into groups with other students from across the country to delegate and represent a certain region. This year, the Manhattan College delegation formed the People’s Republic of China.

For the first time since the pandemic students were able to attend an in person event as a part of Model UN.

“Each committee has two topics, and the students had to prepare their position papers from the point of view of China through representing China on these 2 topics,” Chasek said. “So what they have to do is research both the topics themselves, and the Chinese position. And, some of the topics are particularly difficult for China.”

Ben Bagbek, a double major in political science and economics, attended the event and described that he was able to speak about his interests, and once in his group he talked about “sustainability, specifically, sustainable development goals and its relationship with everything else in the world.” 

While at the conference many students have to create counter arguments to many points brought up by other students, while also remaining civil and respectful.

“The conference is all about diplomacy,” Bagbek said. “Even if people didn’t agree with my points, I would have to construe my arguments in a way that sounded like it benefited everyone.”

Although it was Bagbek’s third time attending the conference, it was his first time attending in person. The conference provided not only him, but all other students, the ability to meet new students and learn from each other. 

“This is the best networking experience I’ve had. I’ve gotten to meet so many people, and you can possibly meet your best friends for life,” Bagbek said. 

Maggie Tonns, an international studies and peace and justice studies double major, also attended the Model UN Conference. 

“Remaining diplomatic with certain member states was a challenge. We had to make sure that everything that was said had to be within what China was already doing regarding the topics,” Tonns said. “It really is a lot of fun, the conference is so engaging, you feel like you’re really in it, you feel like a member of the UN.” 

Liola Moody is a political Science and international studies major and was in the same group as Tonns during the conference. Moody explains that her experience at the conference was challenging because she was representing a country that she had never actually experienced. 

“You realize that you are kind of representing a country that you personally don’t align with in their politics but still have to appreciate the argument that you have to make,” she said.

With the help of Chasek’s class, Moody was able to learn how to overcome this.

“We were representing the Republic of China, which was a pretty controversial country to cover, so you do get contrite responses but we were well prepared for those” Moody said. 

Chasek was moved by the effort all the students made to prove their points and how the conference proved to help all students grow professionally.

“I’ve had students from all five schools participate in Model UN over the years,” Chasek told The Quadrangle. “And, there’s something for everybody in it, whether you’re a science major, engineer, whatever. But, what it does is it teaches you how to feel comfortable speaking in public, sometimes as much in front of 300 people. It teaches you how to negotiate, which is a skill you’re going to need throughout your life, whether you’re negotiating on buying a car, or negotiating you know, rent or mortgage payment or getting a job or salary benefits are going to be so you learn sort of those skills of how to negotiate how to respond to other people.” 

Teamwork is also enhanced in the conference and is present in each of the delegations. 

“Through this you learn to work as part of a team, because the delegation is a team. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. So they all have to support each other and help each other along the way, even if they’re in different rooms,” Chasek said.

The successes of the Manhattan College students at the conference were impressive and spoke to the passions of the group, especially because of the fact that it was most of their first time presenting for the Model UN Conference in person.

“They were all on their game,” Chasek said. “They were all present. They were all active on working on multiple resolutions. It was super impressive what they were able to do with limited training, because in the fall it’s not a class, it’s a club. I only meet one hour a week, unlike three hours a week for the class, and we only were able to meet, you know, for less than two months before the conference. So given all of that and the lack of experience, they were impressive.”

In the spring, the students will be representing New Zealand and will be approaching completely new issues and structures.