Woodward's Model UN Adapts to Unique Challenges of the Pandemic

Woodward's Model UN Adapts to Unique Challenges of the Pandemic

In a normal year, this week would mark first conference of the year for Woodward's Model UN. But this year isn't normal, and Georgia Tech, which would have hosted that conference, has postponed to the spring. 

In response, our Model UN student leadership team took the enormous step of organizing its own mock conference to train new delegates. Club leaders wrote background guides, assigned countries, and organized a schedule. To account for the unique challenges of having participants learning both remotely and in person, the student leaders hosted four separate committees, all concurrently debating the future site of the 2028 Olympic games. 

We talked with current club vice president and junior Josette Chun about the experience. 

Beyond the Gate: How disappointing was it to learn, on top of everything else going on, that the Model UN conference at Georgia Tech was postponed?

Josette Chun: Although it was disappointing to see GTMUN cancelled (it was supposed to be the first big conference for new MUN club members), we understood and accepted the current situation and instead planned a mock-conference as a substitution. We tried to make the most out of the COVID situation and to our surprise, the mock conference/simulation we did this week actually turned out to be super informational for the newcomers.

BTG: What went into the decision to organize your own mock conference to train new delegates?

JC: We believed it was crucial for new club members to be fully prepared before our bigger/out of state conferences in the Spring, so this mock conference was served as a warm-up. Though there was a lot of extra planning and organizing behind the scenes, I hope new members became more motivated and excited for MUN after participating in this simulation.

BTG: What roles did each of you take on in the planning process for this mock conference? How much of a workload has it been?

JC: We had four leaders per group since there were three in-person rotational groups and one fully remote group. Each group chair was responsible for communicating with their delegates regarding position papers and other conference details. I believe it was a great experience for me and the other three chairs as it was the first time we ever chaired a conference. We were able to really get a deeper insight into the functions of hosting and leading a conference which will be beneficial in the future as we grow our MUN skills and prepare to possibly chair WAMUN. 

BTG: Can you tell us a little about the topic of the conference?

JC: The topic was choosing a city for the 2028 Olympic games. We chose this topic as it was a very simple concept that could be easy to understand and research for new delegates.

BTG: What have you learned from this process of organizing the conference?

JC: I personally learned that it was not a simple task to organize a conference and that there are a lot of variables when juggling between conducting a virtual + in-person event. COVID has created many obstacles in finding a method to provide the equal experience for virtual and in-person students; however, I have also learned that communicating to your group/team as much as possible is the key to leading a large event. Running this conference also brought the Cabinet board closer together as teamwork played an important part in making the conference efficient and enjoyable. The Cabinet met through zoom calls almost 3 times a week to prepare for this conference and we were able to build upon each others’ ideas. 

BTG: What is the most beneficial takeaway for you as a student being involved in Model UN?

JC: Personally, I struggled with public speaking in the beginning of high school but I joined MUN because I was interested in Poli Sci and International affairs. Through MUN, I was able to participate in many conferences and thus was given numerous opportunities to speak in front of big crowds and become a better speaker. In addition to encouraging your passion for Global affairs, providing an opportunity to meet new people, and traveling to various cities for conferences, I think the most beneficial takeaway in being involved in Model UN is the ability to apply the speaking and writing skills (that you learn from MUN) to the classroom and beyond. There have been so many times where I needed to present a powerpoint, speak on the go in front of large crowds, and write timed papers on the spot, and I do not think I would be able to do these things as well as I do now without my experience from MUN.