In the bleak, wintry days of February, while most students prefer to remain inside snuggled up with lattes and textbooks, the students of Nanette LeCoat’s Model United Nations class brave the chill by heading to Boston, Mass., to compete in Harvard Model United Nations.
“Model United Nations is a class that’s offered that prepares students to participate in an international, very prestigious and well attended conference that takes place every year in Boston,” said LeCoat, associate professor of modern languages and literatures and director of international programs. “Students learn a protocol, they discuss current events, prepare position papers, study parliamentary procedure and do simulations as preparation to participate in this conference.”
Model UN is based on the United Nations itself in that it has a secretariat, which for the Boston conference is Harvard University, and is organized into subgroups, including the Security Council and the General Assembly, which are split into even more subcommittees, such as the World Health Organization. Schools are then given a country to represent at the Model UN conference.
“The Government Department at Harvard assembles the study materials and creates the agenda for each committee””for example, the Security Council is facing some sort of crisis or the World Health Organization has to deal with SARS [a virus],” said Donald Clark, Murchison Professor of History and director of Trinity’s Model UN from 1991-2006. “Students become knowledgeable about the issues and do research on the foreign policy of their country to determine if the country would be for or against each action. Then, the students must go to Boston and carry out the role.”
The Harvard Model United Nations conference attracts about 2,500 students annually from all around the world.
“Students come from Indonesia, Venezuela, all over the Middle East, Ghana, Canada and Japan,” Clark said. “You get on an elevator in Park Plaza and three or four languages are spoken.”
Throughout the 1990s, many Trinity Model UN competitors won individual awards, but the group as a whole did not win the top award until 2001, when they won Best Delegation for Small Colleges for their representation of Iran.
“We had so faithfully represented the Iranian position and taken stances that everyone knew Iran would take, so we were able to make alliances with people that Iran was aligned up with,” Clark said. “They were just a group of ordinary kids””one of them now is a Ph.D. political science professor, and one was a prince from Kuwait. He was more of a party animal than anything, but he was very smart, especially when it came to keeping us on our Islamic toes. For instance, all of our communications had to begin with the formulaic, “˜In the name of Allah, highest and most merciful,’ which is the way diplomats from Islamic republics discourse.”
Today, one problem facing Trinity’s Model UN class is the rising price of costs and hotels.
“We have a budget that’s part of the international studies budget and with that money we go to Boston annually, but it is true that between airfare and hotels it’s more expensive to go to Boston than it used to be,” LeCoat said. “Trinity has been very generous in actually helping students to go financially, and the supplemental money was raised by students this semester. We had hoped to go to a conference in the fall, but it didn’t work out, so we’ll roll over those funds to help supplement the cost of attendance for Boston in February.”
Despite the minor setback, the students of LeCoat’s Model UN class are working hard as they gear up for Boston.
“The class is structured where we write position papers on past topics over different countries, present those and then improve those papers. We’re also going to have mock simulations later on,” said sophomore Allison Martinez. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s really interesting to meet all these people and have these interesting experiences.”