Diplomacy at its finest

Snagging awards at prestigious, out of state conferences is nothing new to the Norwin Model United Nations Club. At the most previous travel conference at the University of Virginia held in Oct. 2022, Norwin was awarded the title of Best Small School Delegation along with three members winning Best Delegate. Critics might call this luck, but the results from the conference this weekend at American University say otherwise.

On the weekend of Feb. 3-5, sixteen students from the Model United Nations Club participated in American University’s 10th annual conference. Club members performed exceptionally well, grabbing both group and individual awards.

Attending an elite Model United Nations conference such as the one at American University is rare. Each year, dozens of high schools around the country race to signup for the conference. Once all spots are filled, schools are left, turning to the waitlist. Norwin MUN was first notified of their acceptance into the conference in December, as they were given the opportunity to choose a preference into the committees they would like to participate in. Students began to meet after school at least twice a week in preparation.

The Pittsburgh area is a hub for both high school and college level Model UN. The University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Westminster College have all held numerous conferences for high school students to be a part of within the past ten years. At a typical local conference, about 250 students attend. This is not the case for large, elite conferences; rather, over 900 students attended American’s conference.

American University, founded in 1893, has long been known for its mission to train public servants for the future. As expected, the college facilitates a successful Model United Nations program. Currently, the university’s Model UN team is ranked #1 in North America, so the university students who run the high school level conferences are extremely knowledgeable on the ways of Model United Nations.

“I am always looking for beneficial conferences for the students to attend,” said club advisor Larissa Sturm. “Since American is known for its Political Science and International Affairs programs, myself and the officers felt that attending the conference in DC would be a great opportunity for the students to attend and grow as delegates as well as leaders.”

Both inexperienced and seasoned delegates from the club attended the conference. Unlike most local conferences, rather than having about 5-7 committees, American University hosted 27. Each committee dealt with different crises, yet they were all realistic and could happen in real life.

At a typical conference, there are different categories of difficulty depending on the committee. General Assemblies such as the Disarmament & International Security (DISEC) and the Economic and Financial (ECOFIN) deal with more general, multi-country problems. There are also more advanced and fast-paced environments, called Crisis Committees. While at the conference, delegates are presented with new and updated challenges, without any given prior context.

Regardless of committee or topic, Model UN teaches delegates skills they might not learn in another setting.

“Model UN teaches a variety of skills including researching, writing, public speaking, diplomacy, and cooperation and collaboration,” said Sturm.

For many Norwin attendees, it was their first travel conference. This year, the club expanded, as over 30 underclassmen joined and have actively participated.

“Since we had never attended American University’s Model UN Conference, and I had many younger delegates attending, I really had no expectations,” said Sturm.

Norwin participants flourished in their committees. From the span of Friday evening until Sunday morning, participants delivered speeches in front of a room, drafted resolutions, and negotiated trade agreements– all of this was conducted under the hope of simulating that of the actual United Nations. Sturm places an importance on Model United Nations.

I have always stressed that learning about the world and the issues that are current is crucial to having a greater understanding of global politics,” said Sturm. “Having a greater understanding of the issues plaguing the world today can help prepare for our future not only for ourselves by generations after.

— Larissa Sturm, Club Adviser

At the conclusion of the conference, an awards ceremony was held to honor the delegates who stood out the most within their committees. These students strongly debated, orated in a good tone, were diplomatic towards all those in their room, etc. The following Norwin participants won awards: Molly Geissler (10) and Andrew Brown (11) received Honorable Mentions; Paige Tokay (11), Olivia Ivory (11), and Maleah Phetsomphou (12) received Outstanding Delegate; Rex Wu (11) received Best Delegate.

“This past weekend was wonderful,” said Treasurer Paige Tokay. “Everyone in my committee was very nice and driven to make a tangible solution. No one was trying to do whatever it took to be the Best Delegate.”

Norwin Model UN is truly a united team. Because all sixteen members gave full effort in both preparation and performance, the club was awarded Outstanding Large School Delegation. This means that Norwin outperformed that of schools from around the East Coast, spanning as far south as Miami, Florida and as far north as Greenwich, Connecticut. Still, after this conference, delegates are hungry to accomplish more in the future.

“I have to eventually get Best Delegate,” said Tokay. “I also want to help others succeed. I, along with many other club members, will continue to be a part of Norwin Model United Nations until graduation.”