By Willis Jackson
Philosophy Student and President, Model UN Club, American Military University
and Hannah Via
Psychology Student and Social Media Officer, Model UN Club, American Public University
This past September, Model UN Club members participated in a virtual United Nations Security Council hosted by the Osgood Center and represented various countries such as the United States of America, Belgium, Russia, and Niger. This conference simulated discussion on an issue that concerns everyone: nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.
Preparing for the Model UN Conference
With the sensitive, difficult and advanced topics of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy on the table, the members of the Model UN Club had a difficult task in preparing for the conference. The work began a month ahead of the conference through a set of educational meetings with Dr. Shelton Williams, who is the current President of the Osgood Center for International Studies.
Dr. Williams is an expert on the subject of nuclear nonproliferation and an astounding teacher, as well as having firsthand experience with working in the United Nations. The members of the Model UN Club met with Dr. Williams several times as they gained valuable background knowledge and insight as to where to conduct their research and writing of position papers, general rules for the conference, and advice on how to best represent their chosen country.
However, Dr. Williams was not the only resource the members of the Model UN Club called upon for the conference. The club’s chapter advisors, Professor James Barney and Dr. Mily Kao, worked closely with the members to prepare them for the conference.
Professor Barney was in consistent contact with the members, advising them as to which resources to use for their research, how to conduct themselves in a manner true to their selected country, and staying available as a resource if a delegate had questions. Similarly, Dr. Kao donated hours of her time to proofread the position paper of various delegations, offered feedback and support, and went over the rules of procedure to prepare the members for the conference. The success of the virtual Model UN conference is largely due to their efforts to train, educate and prepare the members.
Though originally set to represent only two countries at the conference, the members of the Model UN Club stepped up and filled the delegation of two other countries. There were eventually 10 members representing the university at the conference, with four delegates representing the United States, three delegates for Russia, one delegate for Belgium, and two for Niger.
Adapting to the Model UN Conference in the COVID-19 Era
As challenging as researching and writing can be during a normal Model UN season, the COVID-19 pandemic brought forth new challenges. While the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the use of a virtual conference, that format impacted Model UN Club members through parenting, caring for family members, and working as a team. Many of the club members are parents and had parental obligations.
Because the tournament took place in early September, the school year had just begun for many children. Due to COVID-19, many parents are homeschooling this year, which created new and time-consuming challenges for Model UN Club members who are parents and working from home full-time. Despite this difficulty, the conference delegates were able to excel at researching and writing expert-level material while caring for their children daily and assisting them with virtual classes and coursework.
Another challenge came when a family member of one of the members of the Model UN U.S. team became ill. Although that member was unable to attend the actual Model UN conference, that person greatly participated in the team’s success by performing the necessary research and writing the team needed. The delegation to which this member belonged credited that person with the success of their position paper.
Another obstacle that the members of the Model UN Club overcame was working together effectively and in a timely manner. Although the team is virtual, the day-to-day life of the team still existed and had to be accommodated.
With the virtualization of work, school or a commitment to another club, coordinating the time during which all members could meet became troublesome. The members were able to overcome this obstacle through technology such as Google docs, email, Facebook Messenger and Zoom meetings.
Through the utilization of the tools at their disposal, members were able to coordinate and share information very effectively. Teamwork is the greatest asset for success, and the Model UN team overcome several barriers to strengthen their teamwork capabilities.
Participating in the Conference
On the morning of the conference, all the delegates made sure they had their country’s position papers ready, printed out the rules of procedure and dressed professionally. The delegates met in a Zoom room with dozens of other college and high school students, waiting to be sent out to their proper Security Council committees.
After the opening session, the delegations split off into Security Councils 1 & 2, and the U.S. and Russia delegations were split among the two councils. Belgium and Niger remained in Council 1.
It was apparent during the opening speeches that many of the other delegates, though highly prepared, were just as nervous as the Model UN Club members. Chatting privately between delegations and forming temporary allies, the members got into the groove of the conference.
Earlier on, it became apparent to members who would and would not agree with their country’s views, and so alliances began. As the unmoderated caucuses started, the delegations really began to represent their countries’ values and ideas. The U.S., Russia and Belgium delegations spoke upon every occasion, making sure their country’s values and wishes were being respected.
At one point, Russia, Belgium, and the U.S. disagreed on a resolution article, and the training in diplomacy received from the chapter advisors was apparent. Eventually, the delegations worked together to create a resolution most of the countries could accept, and no delegate had to comprise on the values of their country. This is a testament both to the training received from the chapter advisors as well as to the research and preparation of the Model UN Club members.
The U.S. delegation for Security Council 1 received the Distinguished Delegation Award, while the Security Council 2 U.S. delegation received the Honorable Mention Award. The Russia Delegation in both Security Council 1 and 2 received Distinguished Delegation Awards. Belgium in Security Council 1 received both Distinguished Delegation as well as Best Position Paper Awards.
Reactions and Activities after the Model UN Conference
Having never previously competed at a Model UN conference, one member, Hannah Via, had her work cut out for her as the only delegate for Belgium. When asked about her experience, she responded that “Model U.N. is not for the faint of heart. There was a lot of work that went into the event, both before and during the conference.
“There’s not really time to breathe while it is happening, but it is over before you know it. You have to be willing to work for it. However, what you get out of the conference, both educationally and professionally, is definitely worth the effort.”
When Hannah was asked if she would compete again, her response was, “Without a second thought!” Many of the members who attended this conference felt the same way.
Later in the year, Model UN Club members attended a month-long Model U.N. training academy and conference in October, hosted by the London International Model United Nations Foundation (LIMUN). The members also participated in the Sonoran Desert Conference hosted by the Mesa Community College Model United Nations.
The team performed amazingly once again, even taking home awards at both the LIMUN conference and the Sonoran Desert Conference. However, their success in these conferences can be traced back to the training they received in preparation for the September conference.
The skills, training and preparation that went into the virtual Model UN conference created a pool of outstanding delegates for the Model UN Club to use in the coming months.
The Model UN season for the university’s Model UN Club is not done, however. Members plan to compete once again with the Osgood Center in February 2021 and have other conferences to attend, so club members will be kept busy. The success with this competition, however, is only the start for the Model UN Club, who hope to achieve many more victories for the club and for the university in the future.
About the Authors
Willis Jackson IV is a student at American Military University (AMU), majoring in philosophy and with a minor in International Relations. He also serves as the President of the Model UN Club, the Secretary of the LGBT+ Students and Friends Club and the Historian of Pi Gamma Mu (West Virginia Iota chapter). Willis is also an active member of Phi Alpha Delta and the African American Inclusive Learning Network. In addition, he is also a student at Southwestern Illinois College, working to obtain a paralegal studies degree.
Hannah Via is a student at American Public University (APU), pursuing a B.A. in psychology with a minor in English. She intends to attend graduate school for marriage and family therapy after graduation.
Hannah currently serves as the Social Media Officer for the Model UN. Club. She is also the President of the Jewish Student Association and Vice President for the university’s chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, as well as the Service Director for Active Minds and the Psychology Club. Hannah previously served as the Star Status Coordinator for the university’s National Society for Collegiate Scholars.