The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way most things are being run at Gonzaga this year, but GU’s Model United Nations (GUMUN) seems to be taking it all in stride.
“This team is a powerhouse,” said Brittany Robinson, GUMUN head delegate. “They came ready to play...I am honestly just blown away every single week.”
Model UN is an academic team at GU in which students simulate the different committees of the United Nations. Some students take this as an academic course for credit, while for others it is an extracurricular.
In addition to weekly meetings, GUMUN members also attend conferences with Model UN teams from other schools around the world where they are assigned countries to represent and work collaboratively to solve global issues and model international diplomacy.
Usually, this would mean GUMUN traveling to their yearly conferences in Portland and New York, but this year they are attending virtually through an event platform called Gatherly.
At The Portland conference, which took place Feb. 19- 21, GUMUN took home the Outstanding Delegation Award. Individual members of GUMUN also earned awards, including Sophia Zink, GUMUN’s secretary general.
Zink won Outstanding Delegate for her work in the General Assembly representing Israel on issues such as “Addressing Large Movements of Migrants and Migration” and “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including the Right to Peaceful Assembly.”
Kellie Tran, representing Armenia in the General Assembly on the same topics, took home the Outstanding Position Paper Award. Anthony J. Larrañaga won the Distinguished Delegate Award while representing Vietnam in the Security Council for topics such as “The Situation in Somalia,” “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Global Epidemics” and a simulated emergency situation in the South China Sea.
“Especially with the newer delegates, I’m super impressed with all their speeches and how fast they were able to pick this up within the pandemic,” said Ariana Chin, GUMUN outreach coordinator.
After the success of their Portland conference, GUMUN is hard at work researching and preparing for the upcoming New York conference. In this conference, which is taking place April 5- 8, GUMUN is collectively representing Ireland.
By participating in Model UN, students have the opportunity to learn more about a variety of topics that are important around the world, as well as more in-depth knowledge about their assigned country’s politics and values. They aren’t just learning more about international politics and relations, however, they’re also developing a number of critical skills that are useful for academic and professional life.
“There are so many benefits to the students, because it really captures the entire mission of the university,” said Stacy Taninchev, faculty advisor.
Students do a lot of writing and research to prepare for Model UN conferences, as before going to a conference, they have to write papers on the topics chosen for their committee and their country’s stance on those topics. At these conferences, they work on their public speaking abilities by speaking eloquently and diplomatically to effectively communicate their country’s stance. At times, students may even have to give speeches on the fly about the topic their committee is addressing.
“Writing, research, public speaking and then diplomacy are kind of the four tenants I’ve taken from Model UN,” Zink said.
Participants also learn a lot about openness and other perspectives, as their personal views may not align with that of the country they are assigned, but they still have to represent that country’s values accurately. This allows them a better understanding of each country’s decisions, even if they don’t agree with them.
It’s also a great place for community building, with fellow members of GUMUN, other students attending the Model UN conferences and even GUMUN alumni. According to Zink, GUMUN is a pretty close-knit group.
They see themselves as a dedicated and supportive community. A lot of time and effort must go into the preparation for the conferences, and some participants don't receive course credit for it. They are also always willing to help out by reading over each other’s writing or giving encouragement to those who may be stepping outside of their comfort zone.
“We’re the type of people that you put yourself out there, you give it your best, we support you,” Chin said.
While many of the students are political science or international relations majors, students of all majors are welcome to apply. Those who are interested in learning more about Model UN can do so by reaching out to the team at email@example.com.
“I would highly encourage anyone who is interested, regardless of their majors, to get involved,” Zink said. “We’re an inclusive group...even if you can’t join the team you are welcome to come and simulate something with us or come have conversations.”