By Victoria Gill
Elm Staff Writer
After midterms, while most students packed up and went home, 16 Model United Nations team members piled into several cars as they traveled up to Yale University for a more academic getaway during their fall break.
Each semester, the Model UN team competes in a competitive conference alongside top universities such as Princeton, Georgetown, and Oxford. Some conferences in the past were the Harvard World, McGill University, and the African Union at Howard University.
“We had 40 students this semester who tried to get into the program and we selected 16,” said Dr. Tahir Shad, professor of Political Science and the International Studies faculty advisor.He has taught at Washington College for 29 years and has advised Model UN for 28 as a way to “improve the experience of [students] outside the classroom.”
“Even though we’re located in Chestertown…we wanted to branch out into the rest of the world and give that experience to our students,” he said.
This team is nationally ranked in the top 100 Model UN teams. What used to be a club activity is now a diplomacy class that is led, and primarily organized, by the student executive board of the international students council.
The Model UN team attended the fall Yale University conference for three days. This conference is a security council that assigns students to different sides of a specific crisis.
The selected team of students spend several hours once a week at practice going through seven or nine simulations of topics that vary in relevance. The simulations can be fantastical—some of these students even went through committees at Yale related to Harry Potter—from the past, such as the French Revolution, or the present with the North Korean nuclear crisis.
The group lists the developing oral communication, critical writing and thinking skills, experience in research, intelligence research regarding allies and enemies, and creativity as benefits of joining. It also contains great networking opportunities, as students from different schools that participated in the same or opposing committees reach out after competition.
“Things can get a little chaotic in the committee,” said sophomore Nick Miller, who is in his first year of Model UN. “The Crisis, which essentially is a board that sits in the front of the room, is throwing out mini crises at us,” he said. Not only do WC students need to find some middle ground with the opposing side, but also to work together with students from different schools and levels of experience.
“It gets frustrating at times when committee doesn’t go the way you wanted to,” Miller said.
The team was not recognized with any awards from this competition. However, “people came out very positively with their experience,” Dr. Shad said.
Most students find this opportunity as a “stepping stone,” according to Miller, for the Harvard General Assembly. For this conference, the WC team will be meeting around 4,000 students from about 120 countries when arriving for the assembly in Panama City this spring, after having traveled to places in the past such as Rome, Rio De Janeiro, and Prague. This conference will mirror an actual United Nations committee.
Dr. Shad also highlighted that any student should get involved and at least try out for the Panama team, as it is a great boost to one’s confidence.
In response to other top universities, who, with more funding, showed up with larger teams, Miller said, “We can be on par with these more well-known institutions.”
Dr. Shad stressed that the team is fortunate to have the support of the College’s administration as it is one of the few groups on campus that is almost fully funded by the Student Government Association, with Dr. Christine Wade as the curator of the Louis L. Goldstein Program in Public Affairs.
“Even though we are a small school and you might not have heard of it, we, in the Model United Nations program, punch above our weight,” Dr. Shad said.