By Isabelle Kim, Jovin Ho, & Rachel Wang, IV Form and Matt Walsh, Stephanie Moon, & Alan Gao, III Form
Working Together to Launch the Model UN Club
To understand what the “Model United Nations Club” is, it is essential to know the concept of the “Model United Nations” or “MUN”. Model United Nations acts as a simulation of United Nations conferences, in which participants act as delegates. Delegates represent various countries and their ideals, and engage in formal debates over global issues as well as international affairs, through which a resolution is achieved that is, ideally, satisfactory for all parties involved. A couple of weeks prior to the conference, the delegates are assigned respective countries, councils, and issues that will be debated upon, thus allowing delegates ample time to research the topic at hand and formulate their arguments. A big part of MUN is the delegates recognizing that they are not representing themselves, but are a part of a larger picture, having to uphold their country’s beliefs.
The Model United Nations Club strives to develop students in the areas of research and debate, with a goal of participating in conferences. The club is relatively new, lead by Isabelle (Minjae) Kim (’18). Next academic year, a St. Mark’s Saturday class will hopefully be run alongside the club, with the aim of further preparing students (especially newcomers) to be able to take part as well. While the club is currently unable to take part in formal conferences, mock conferences are held internally so students can develop their skills. Currently, the club is working closely alongside the school to find opportunities for formal participation.
We had the opportunity to observe The University of Massachusetts at Lowell Model United Nations Conference, which was an incredibly eye-opening and amazing experience. It was a three-day conference held for high school students that offered the opportunity to interact with other intellectual and passionate students. They were able to debate about critical issues facing the global community, such as how to deal with security concerns of refugee movements at European borders. They could also work on their public speaking, researching, and writing skills.
For this particular conference, the participants were set up into six committees: the Security Council, UN Environmental Program, UN High Commission on Refugees, World Health Organization, NATO Council, and Economic and Social Council. Our group was allowed to visit various committees, and we become more aware about global issues. We mainly stayed in the Security Council, watching them debate about how to combat the growing power of ISIL. It was very intriguing because we were able to learn about specific powerful nations’ involvement in selected issues, as well as their positions. For example, Russian Federation and China were willing to cooperate with each other, sharing their ideas back and forth through motions and notes. The perspective of Angola on ISIL was especially interesting to us because it is a country that is not frequently exposed in the media. Observing the conference also eliminated our fear of public speaking. It was not stiff and restraining; rather, it was friendly and inviting. Finding that out truly boosted our confidence and made us eager to participate in Model UN conferences.
St. Mark’s is a great community that allows its students to try different extra curricular activities outside of the classroom environment. We have many sports programs, Saturday classes, as well as performing and visual arts opportunities. However, because our schedule is highly focused around academics and other required activities, one very important aspect of high school life is currently left behind- clubs. Clubs are an opportunity in which students can learn to cooperate, get hands on experience, and obtain leadership roles. Currently, St. Mark’s does not have very many active clubs due to other commitments and time restraints. The new St. Mark’s schedule allows time for student activity with the input of x-block and co-curricular, however these are increasingly filled with more and more required events, giving students little free time during the school day. The SM MUN Club feels that clubs have tremendous value for students and that co-curricular blocks should be reserved for them. After school, our day is packed with sports practices and games, sometimes evening chapel, followed by study hall. St. Mark’s is missing out on a crucial component of a balanced high school life.
Furthermore, clubs such as the Model United Nations (MUN) can easily be related to the classes that students take in school as well as the outside world. This specific club is significantly active in a number of other high schools, and students are able to learn about important issues in the global world, participate in many different conferences, and win awards. St. Mark’s allowing their students to participate in these conferences (and subsequently miss a few school days) would enrich students.
Many conferences do not allow delegates to only attend for only one day and thus require full attendance and participation. With more leniency on school rules regarding absences for other commitments, we can go from only being able to watch as a third party to actually being able to contribute our skills in the debates during conferences. For a first time experience, watching the conferences is not bad at all. However, we do not want to stay at a beginner’s level when we are more than capable of actually taking part in the conferences. In order for us to grow, we need the club to grow with us and that requires a little more attention from the school. With enough care, St. Mark’s will soon be able to see the positive effects of this active club.
Model UN is an academically enriching activity. The current members of SMSMUN are proposing a Fall Saturday class for Model United Nations. Hopefully, this will attract more students to the club while establishing it as a legitimate extracurricular commitment. Model UN is more than simply an activity; it is a tool that students can utilize to expand their understanding of the different worldviews, developing themselves as global citizens, while for the school, it is a complementary way to advertise and promote the school’s Global Initiative as part of its SM 2020 Strategic Plan.
As a school with 150 years of history, St. Mark’s has always tried to help students to look at the broader outside world. We have had the global seminar course and wonderful history programs. The school also has its Global Citizenship Program, sending students around the world giving them civilian experiences in many places. Model UN can also give students more knowledge of countries around the world and focuses on how to be an effective global citizen and initiate real positive change. Model UN can give students a chance to adapt what they have learned and create intellectual spark through interaction with others. Model UN is very important and we should work together to take better use of it.