By Liam Bouquet & Ashley Smith
Twenty students from Youngstown State University represented the college at the Harvard National Model United Nations conference — which featured over 3,000 delegates with representatives from 70 countries — in Boston, Massachusetts from Feb. 12-15.
The Harvard conference was founded 10 years after the forming of the United Nations. This year was its 61st session, making it the oldest Model UN conference.
Model UN is an international academic competition that simulates the United Nations by placing students, known as delegates in the competition, in various committees and councils where they represent the interests of an assigned country in discussions and debates concerning everything from human rights to environmental policies.
Greta Frost, a sophomore political science major double minoring in Arabic studies and economics, spoke on YSU’s role in the conference.
“We were assigned Kenya and Hungary to represent in the conference. Solo as well as co-delegations from YSU participated in many committees representative of those that make up the United Nations,” she said.
David Porter, the faculty adviser for YSU’s Model UN team, said the team held their own in the conference — where they participated and competed with students from the likes of the University of Bejing, the National University of Venezuela, the University of Berkley and the University of Cambridge.
“They surprised people. Think about it this way: of all the schools there, there was only one other school our size that was even mentioned in the awards,” Porter said.
Porter said one team member, Abby Kovacs, who participated in the Human Rights Council at the conference, received the Recognition Award.
“That puts her somewhere between the 7 to 10 best delegates out of 66,” he said. “Abby was representing the nation of Kenya, and the reason she got her award was because of how accurately she represented the country’s foreign policy.”
Porter said that though Model UN conferences vary, the criteria for awards remain the same.
“How accurately you represent your country, how active you are in caucusing and public speaking, how active you are in terms of writing a resolution and position papers and, quite frankly, the quality of your participation,” Porter said.
Frost spoke on her personal experience at this massive conference.
“This was my second year participating at this conference, and I absolutely loved it. It’s amazing to learn so much about such important topics, as well as the cultures of the international students with whom I worked,” she said. “I was in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee as Kenya, and we discussed the topic of journalistic freedoms and protections. Tyler Miller-Gordon, my co-delegate, and myself worked with other African Union states present at the conference to develop a resolution for this issue.”
Jordan Wolfe, a junior political science major with an economics minor, said the keynote speaker for the event was Richard Haass, the president of the U.S. nonprofit Council on Foreign Relations. Wolfe said he spoke on the flaws of the UN, but also what the organization could offer the world.
The event concluded during a blizzard that grounded some of the YSU team and many other delegates in New England. Despite the weather, Porter concluded that the event was a success.
“One, it was the worst blizzard I have ever seen, and I have lived in Michigan for quite some time. Second, the students really did very well. You have to remember, some of the finest universities in the world participate in the Harvard National Model UN. The YSU students did more than hold their own,” he said. “It is like a YSU basketball team playing the Chicago Bulls. … They may have lost, but they held their heads up high, and the Bulls were impressed.”