National Model United Nations: Rowan ‘diplomats’ make connections and gain accolades at international conference

National Model United Nations: Rowan ‘diplomats’ make connections and gain accolades at international conference

Students involved in the National Model United Nations Conference celebrate their "Distinguished Delegation Award" at an on-campus presentation this spring.

Twelve Rowan University students headed to the Big Apple last month for the first in-person National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference in three years. They brought home a “Distinguished Delegation” award, the second highest honor presented to a participating team.

Each year, thousands of college students from the United States and around the globe participate in the NMUN conference, a simulation of United Nations proceedings. The Distinguished Delegation award was a particular honor for Rowan, which only began participating in the NMUN in 2019. COVID-19 canceled the 2020 conference, and the 2021 conference was held virtually.

Anushree  ChauhanAnushree Chauhan, a freshman political science major from Mount Royal, was named chair of the International Organization for Migration Committee at the conference after a highly competitive application and interview process. Chauhan is pictured at right with Rowan history professor Kelly Duke Bryant at an on-campus presentation by the group.

Intense preparation

The Model UN course associated with the event in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences requires intensive work as students prepare to portray delegation members.

“Students spend the first eight or nine weeks of the semester working on learning as much as they can about the country that they’re representing, the issues of that country’s government, its priorities and also learning about how the United Nations functions, various rules of procedure and how it is structured,” said Duke Bryant, International Studies and Area Studies coordinator. This year’s Rowan delegation represented Armenia during the New York City conference.

In addition to learning about the economics, international, cultural, political and foreign policy viewpoints of a country, students study the United Nations committees they are assigned to, said faculty advisor Maryella Hannum, who accompanied the students to the conference, along with Katrinka Somdahl, associate professor of political science.

She explained that students need to understand the history and mandate of the committee, the actions it has taken previously and its current agenda. Then, students research two complex global topics on the agenda and write a position paper for the course.

“It is a monumental task to connect and integrate all of the information and write a position paper through the lens of their assigned country,” Hannum said.

After submitting the position paper, delegates hone the skills they will use at the conference, such as public speaking, advocacy, rules of procedure, negotiation and collaboration to interact with delegates from other cultures with different viewpoints.

Engaging and interactive

During the simulation, students are expected to represent their assigned country without breaking character at any time, Duke Bryant noted.

“While role playing a diplomat is challenging, the simulation itself is engaging and interactive,” Hannum said. Students develop confidence in public speaking, substantive debate, bloc formation, negotiating, talking through complex problems and much more, she said. They also learn how the international community works to solve problems.

“Students make meaningful friendships that will last a lifetime through an intensive learning experience,” she said

Returning to an in-person conference this year, delegates better developed diplomacy and networking skills and learned to manage international relationships firsthand.

“The in-person experience adds so much more to the deep learning that takes place by creating meaning through an increased ability to connect and integrate,” Hannum said.

Students were eager to network with delegates from around the world and apply the knowledge and skills they developed in the classroom.

“Having the opportunity to meet with others and have all that they have learned come together full force at the conference is an intensive and profound learning experience,” Hannum said.

“Rowan’s spring 2022 NMUN delegation was engaged and diligent at the conference, and their Distinguished Delegation award was well deserved after a semester of extensive preparation and learning.”