WOOSTER, Ohio – “Heja Sverige!,” or “Go Sweden!” to the uninitiated, could be heard echoing through the conference rooms and halls of the Sheraton New York Times Square, where 19 College of Wooster students enthusiastically represented the Scandinavia country’s policies and views en route to a series of honors—a distinguished delegation award, two outstanding position papers in committee, and three outstanding delegates in committee—at the 2019 National Model United Nations (NMUN) Conference.
The distinguished delegation award is a credit to the entire team’s evaluation at the conference, with criteria including “remaining in character,” “participating in committee,” and “proper use of the rules of procedure,” according to the NMUN. Only 35 of the approximate 160 schools in attendance, which included more than half outside of the U.S., earned the prestigious distinction. For Wooster, though, the recognition has become standard, as it was the fifth year in a row the team received the distinguished delegation award.
Awards for the position papers, which are written prior to the conference and require delegates to illustrate their knowledge of the agenda topics, affirm the positions their country takes on said topics, and recommended courses of action to effectively address contemporary global problems, went towards Wooster’s work on the UN Environment Assembly and the General Assembly Second Committee. The former addressed marine plastic litter and microplastics, preventing and reducing air pollution to improve air quality globally, and promoting the responsible disposal of electronic and hazardous waste, while the latter’s topics were external debt sustainability and development, facilitating knowledge transfer for sustainable development, and ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
Wooster’s outstanding delegates in committee, awards voted on by their fellow delegates, were the teams of Sabrina Harris and Matt Mayes for their work on the special committee on peacekeeping operations (mainstreaming gender), Eric Guberman and Rory Helweg for their thoughtful debate on the commission on crime prevention and criminal justice (responses to cybercrime in all its forms), and Michael Nahhas and Olivia Proe for their effective addressing of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all on the General Assembly Second Committee.
Among the keys to this year’s success, and really Wooster’s long-running tradition of excellence in Model UN, were the popularity of the student organization—there is a competitive tryout, which results in “knowing the team that we put together is the best of the best,” according to Shankar Bhat, a first-year student from Bethesda, Md.—and how the 19-team traveling delegation and the research team support one another, resulting in a “serious sense of community” said Jordan Spatt, a first-year who hails from Heath, Ohio. Emily Farmer, a junior urban studies and anthropology major from Attleboro, Mass., noted, “Our research team is so valuable because without them we wouldn’t have half the knowledge that we have about these countries. We can always contact them while we’re in conference to do some quick on-the-fly research for us, so they’re a really integral part of what we do.”
Several team members agreed that another helpful factor this year was getting to represent Sweden, a stroke of good luck since the country selections are done via a lottery system. “They are really progressive … there’s just a lot of things about Sweden that put us in a position to have a moral high ground on a lot of other countries,” remarked Spatt, a first-year member of the research team, while Olivia Azzarita, a sophomore political science major from Greensboro, N.C., offered “it makes it easier to argue positions … when there are more policies that you maybe agree with or at least see the logic behind.”
While the recognition is certainly appreciated, Wooster’s team valued the NMUN conference win, lose, or draw. “It’s a fantastic professional experience. You really learn how to work with people from all over the place, you learn how to negotiate, you learn how to present publicly without getting butterflies in your stomach, you learn how to think on the fly. These are all skills that graduate schools, law schools, and professions are going to want you to have,” commented senior Alena Carl, who is headed to the University of Minnesota Law School after four years on the team.
Wooster’s Model UN team’s trip to New York put the finishing touches on another impressive year, which also included receiving an outstanding delegation award at the American Model United Nations (AMUN) International Conference, held in Chicago during the fall. Kent Kille, the team’s faculty advisor and professor of political science, was “very proud of the team performance,” noting the students “were focused and worked hard, and also had lots of fun, which is important … and they also just really enjoyed doing the research and the presentations.”