On January 14, a chilly Friday morning, eight members of the Berkshire School Model United Nations (MUN) Club boarded the van to travel only a short distance—seven miles—to attend the first annual Model United Nations Conference at Bard College at Simon's Rock
, a two-day event in Great Barrington, MA.
Though the distance was short, the students had been looking forward to participating in a Model UN since the club formed last year. Club leader and sixth former Long Tran ’11
described the experience for himself and many in the club, “I enjoyed learning about a subject that I knew nothing about before this. I think, as a result of this experience, I am more able to be sympathetic to both sides represented in the conflict. “
In addition to Long Tran, other members included Yangming (Tim) Kou ’12
, Eliza Farley ‘13, Chris Jiambalvo ‘13, YoonHye (Linda) Kim ’13, Jaeseung Lee ‘13, Xiyue (Sissi) Wang ‘13,
and Addy Bullock’14.
Three Berkshire delegates earned recognition from committee chairs for their work: Addy Bullock, representing Liberia, and JaeSeung Lee, representing the USA, both earned “Outstanding Delegation” designation, and Eliza Farley, representing Spain, earned an “Honorable Mention”.
Opening the conference was speaker Eli Pariser, head of MoveOn.org and a 2000 graduate of the Bard College at Simon's Rock. Pariser described the beginnings of the “MoveOn” website and reminded the student delegates of the power and influence that they can wield within the global community. While his original website was developed as a response to the helplessness many felt after the 9/11 attacks, the website now encourages participation in many areas including voting participation and in many levels of government and global affairs.
Throughout the weekend, students worked on two committees, UNICEF and DISEC, a committee of the General Assembly, and one historical emergency simulation, specifically, the events following the Munich Olympics in which Israeli athletes were taken hostage and died. Topics under discussion during the conference were modeled upon those presented at the United Nations and included Immunization, Child Labor, Disarmament, and Drug Proliferation. Conference participants were assigned a country to represent in advance, allowing each delegate the opportunity to research information about the way that the country acts and votes in the UN on given topics, as well as the ways in which other countries vote. Students learned to recognize alliances formed among friendly countries and patterns in rhetoric and actions in these voting blocks.
In committee, delegates spoke about their country’s position to convince other delegates to follow their lead on the topic. Students debated an issue, pounded out agreements through caucusing, and further debated and worked together to write first a working paper of ways to solve a problem and then finally a resolution that would be brought to the General Assembly.
All along the way student delegates spoke extemporaneously to persuade other delegates. Linda Kim, who is new to the delegation this year, described the cooperative nature of the work in committee, “This is such a great opportunity to meet different people. It was interesting how they expressed their opinions, not as themselves but as their country. Being new, I was helped by the committee chair, a Simon’s Rock College student, who really encouraged me to stand up and speak to other delegates.” Sissi Wang echoed Linda’s experience. “I think we had a chance to do a lot of learning and practicing,” said Sissi.
“I am thrilled with the energy and commitment that our club members bring to their MUN activities. Students work together to research, debate issues in club meetings, and show a love of learning. In this our first official conference, I think that members gained valuable understanding of how to prepare for and present in committees, and more importantly everyone had fun doing it,” said Lissa McGovern, club faculty advisor.
Five MUN students look forward to traveling to Boston in early February for a conference sponsored by Boston University.