Model UN: Perspectives

Last week, a group of Sarah Lawrence students left Bronxville and relocated to the busy, bustling, and usually depressing intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway. Drawn by New York City’s National Model UN (MUN) conference, the fourteen members the Sarah Lawrence’s MUN contingent moved to the Marriott Hotel in the heart of Times Square to discuss and debate international politics. Jeamme Chia and Teresa Phiri are SLC’s head delegates, though the program was started in 2006 by Nina Sørheim (’08). This year, Sarah Lawrence represented Portugal. A MUN conference, perhaps obviously, seeks to emulate how the UN functions and give students some idea of the real world of international relations. The different delegations mimic those in the the UN, except the rooms and meetings are populated by students instead of diplomats.

Some members of the 2006 SLC NMUN delegation, dressed to impress. Right to left: Kristina Loring, Kit Taylor, April, Hannah Piercey, Nina Sørheim, Kendra Sutherland, Sarah Skenazy (all class of 2008)
The experience of a MUN conference is intense. It means five days of running from meeting to meeting, always having to defend your opinion ideologically and factually. To be a successful delegate, a student has to be able to defend him or herself, compromise, and think creatively. As Rob Winslow, who participated in MUN throughout high school and continues in college, said, “I was surprised MUN wasn’t a Sarah Lawrence thing, since all
it is is research, presentation, debate, and socializing.  Through the game, you learn and exercise really solid real-world knowledge about international politics, development, health advocacy, aid work; you name it.” Maybe it isn’t quite the same as conference work, but some of the same skills definitely apply.

Chia spoke of MUN as a way to get beyond the Sarah Lawrence bubble. “There are some students who are willing to go the extra mile in their studies and find viable and suitable alternatives to solve [a world issue], be it world hunger, women’s rights or nuclear security. They have to use the mechanisms provided within the UN system to do that, and for that I truly respect all the students who take part. They have so much to share, and it’s important to give them some voice.” The opportunities for political dialogue among students at Sarah Lawrence are limited. In a certain respect, for the students involved, MUN serves to fill that void by engaging students in an intense environment of political debate on current issues on the international level.

For first-year and first-time MUNer Shivani Mehta, the anxiety of speaking in front of a General Assembly of 300 other delegates wore off, “replaced by a sense of determination and acceptance as all my fellow delegates were extremely helpful and everyone was eager to make friends and work together!” Perhaps best said, MUN is an alternate reality. SLC students who partake enter a world totally different from their every day for a couple of days and come up with innovative, creative solutions to difficult, real-world problems.

Photo Credit for In-Post Image: 2006 SLC NMUN Delegation
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Nina Sparling (Editor, “What’s Up”) is a bi-coastal aspiring bread baker frustrated with the current food system. Originally from Berkeley, she moved to New York, complaining most of the way, until she found the Met and figured out the subway (but still has serious envy for Bay Area vegetables). Currently a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, Nina studies languages, political ecology, and geography and tries to figure out how they all relate.

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