Model UN Broadens Horizons


Members of the Model UN team in Times Square during the Columbia University Conference in January. Photo courtesy of Ben Lewin.

The BHS Model United Nations (MUN) team has met with particular success this school year, winning Best Large Delegation at both their autumn conference at Case Western Reserve University and their winter conference at Lorain County Community College, among a whole slew of individual awards. 

Later, at their annual out-of-state conference at Columbia University, team members would go on to win three Outstanding Delegate awards and three Honorable Mention awards.

Junior Amy Chen was quite excited about the aforementioned accomplishments.

“So far, in all of our committees, a higher percentage of people are getting awards,” she said. “Which is really good.”

MUN is a student activity that centers around research, public speaking and problem solving. Before each conference, students are assigned a committee and a stance, and must investigate the details of the issue and the position they must defend. 

For example, a student may be assigned to Afghanistan in the Human Rights Council committee, discussing the topic of climate refugee rights. The student would then have to carefully research how Afghanistan has historically approached climate refugee rights and draft a position paper articulating their proposed plan of action. These papers must be submitted ahead of time in order for the student to be eligible for awards.

Once in committee, students must collaborate with other delegations in order to promote their stance. Committee time is generally divided into moderated and unmoderated caucuses. Moderated caucuses are segmented into strict speaking times, and each delegate gives a speech in turn. Unmoderated caucuses allow delegates to freely converse with each other and work on their resolution papers. At the end of committee time, delegates vote to determine which resolution papers will pass.

For senior Stephanie Yen, Model UN is all about broadening horizons. 

“MUN is fun because you get to widen your worldview, and also get to meet a lot of new people in the process,” she said. “We cover a lot of different topics, from how to address the coronavirus to climate change.”

Yen joined the club her freshman year, and feels that she’s grown from the experience.

“When I was a freshman, I was super shy, and I didn’t want to volunteer to speak… Having been in MUN for all four years, I’ve definitely gained more confidence and also awareness of what I’m saying,” she said, smiling.

Yen’s experience is not unique. Chen, who has also participated in the club since her freshman year, fondly recalls how older students helped her out. 

“Freshman year’s Exec Board really helped me be more comfortable speaking to an audience, especially Daria [Novikov].”

It’s not just like a debate club. A lot of it… is just like working with people, and also just learning about the world’s news and politics at the same time.

— Senior Tal Yankevich

The “Exec Board” Chen mentions is a council of five students who act as the club’s leaders. Exec Board plans each week’s two practices, which generally consist of simulating conferences.

Exec Board is also responsible for selecting students for out-of-state trips, based on attendance, speaking ability and character.

This year’s Exec Board consists of seniors Tal Yankevich, Jared Zullig and Stephanie Yen, and juniors Benjamin Lewin and Chelsea Zheng. However, the three soon-to-be-vacant spots will be filled by new elections at the end of the year.

Zheng went on to describe what might make a good candidate. “You have to be… confident, and like, self-assertive,” stated Zheng. “You’ll have to have an ego, almost to a fault.”

“But,” she cautions, “people have different personalities in MUN than in real life, because a lot of people in MUN are really very nice.”

“I think people have the misconception that MUN is super formal, and everyone is a top-notch speaker, and kind of preppy in a way,” she added. “[But] I would say, it’s actually more relaxed than people think.”

Lewin and Yankevich also wanted to clear up some misconceptions.

“One misconception would probably be that we’re all about public speaking,” Lewin stated. “That’s definitely a large factor, but it’s also about collaborating and working with other people.”

“It’s not just like a debate club,” Yankevich added. “A lot of it… is just like working with people, and also just learning about the world’s news and politics at the same time.”

No club is without its challenges, though, and certain members were quick to acknowledge some, including its demanding attendance expectations, which can cost the club new members. In fact, in response to the question of how she balances MUN with her other obligations, Chen replied, “I don’t. MUN balances me with my obligations.”

Zheng agreed, stating that “MUN is a big time commitment, and if you really want to do it, you have to like MUN for multiple reasons.”

“But at the same time,” she continued, “You shouldn’t be discouraged just because your first year wasn’t very successful, because… you have to continuously improve.”

At the time of publication, Model UN’s spring conference and second out-of-state conference in Michigan have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This has by no means stopped its members from having aspirations for the next year.

“I would like [to see] different types of people joining MUN,” explained Yen. “There always tend to be certain friend groups all doing MUN at once, but it would be really cool to recruit a more diverse set of students.”

For anyone who might want to join, Yankevich recommends talking to a current member.

“I would say that if you’re looking for a club that will help you to meet people, there is literally no better club than this,” he said.

“When we advertise for our first meeting next year, don’t hesitate to show up. We want to have more members—it makes practice a lot more interesting and fun,” Lewin said.