The Seton Hill University Model United Nations team won an Honorable Mention Delegation Award for their work at the Model United Nations conference in March. SHU students Matthew Comito, Carrie Ellis, Mark Nealon, Paris Szalla, Rodrigo Contreras, Matthew Alexander, Ariana Venero-Rodriguez and Gina Scarsellato traveled to New York City with advisor Roni O’Dell to represent Belize at the United Nations Headquarters.
“It was super exciting,” O’Dell said. “The students really just went above and beyond to represent their country, to make sure they were in the role of their country and that they represented Belize as they would be.”
The eight students were a part of seven committees that discussed different global issues, such as climate change, denuclearization and migration. O’Dell, an assistant professor of political science, started the SHU Model UN two years ago.
“They really tried hard to negotiate and to get their resolutions passed and work with others,” O’Dell said. “They also followed the Seton Hill mission in doing that, thinking about making the world a better place and changing the world.”
The conference lasted for four days. Students work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in a “fast-paced environment” to discuss resolutions within their committees of 200 to 300 other students.
“It’s an all-day situation,” O’Dell said. “It’s a really intensive experience, but it really gives them the experience that people actually have when they are working at the United Nations.”
Each country sends a delegate who lives in New York to represent the country at the United Nations to speak with the student delegation. Students also had a briefing from the Sisters of Charity Mission to the UN, a non-governmental organization, to talk about all the different world positions students should think of when they work in the conference.
“They learn very quickly how to work with others,” O’Dell said. “The committee breaks down into groups so usually you’re working with about 20 people, but you’re working with 20 people that you’ve never met before. You have no idea who they are, sometimes there’s a language barrier, so you have to figure out in very short time how to work with these people, how to create a resolution.”
The United Nations, including the General Assembly and the UN Security Council, is an intergovernmental organization that is a collective security organization. It brings 193 member countries together yearly to discuss how they can work together to address shared threats.
Each college that signs up to be a delegation in the Model UN is assigned a country. Each delegation team researches and becomes an expert on the political and economic systems and what kinds of positions that country would have on all of the different issues.
“You have to know everything there is to know about the country,” O’Dell said.
Once they’ve researched their country, students then have to write a position paper to submit to the conference in February on the committees they’ve chosen to be a part of. All the different delegations read these papers to strategize who they can work with, which is what happens in real life.
“It really puts their work into perspective,” O’Dell said. “What they’re researching in the classroom really is something that is important in real life. When they go to the conference, they realize that people are working on this in real life and trying to figure out the answers to these questions.”
After the students write their position papers, they start working on resolutions and start meeting in their committees. Students have to get into contact with other delegations that they know have shared interests.
“They learn how to strategically think about goals and how to get to their goals,” O’Dell said.
The SHU Model UN meets once a week from September until the conference and can be a part of the political science and global studies majors. They learn about the UN and how to write position papers until they get their country in November.
“It’s really a prestigious conference, and we were very lucky to get in the last two years,” O’Dell said. “It gives the students a really good notion that what they’re learning is going to be really applicable in their life once they go onto their careers. In whatever they do, really, because they learn negotiation and diplomacy and written and oral skills. It’s a great experience.”
Published By: Paige Parise