A committed cadre of Washington College students with a passion for diplomacy are organizing the College’s first ever Model UN conference for high school students. The inaugural conference, dubbed WACMUN (Washington College Model UN), is set for Nov. 8-10; if successful, it will help put the College on the Model UN map, something fairly rare for small liberal arts institutions.
The students leading the conference, all members of the International Studies Council, got the green light from President Mitchell Reiss and Provost and Dean Emily Chamlee-Wright in April.
“It’s a double win for Washington College,” says Valerie Bardhi ’15, ISC co-president and an international studies major. “It’s a win for the students who are participating in hosting the model in terms of leadership, research, and organization, and also a win to promote Washington College to top high school students who might not otherwise have heard of it, expose them to the beautiful campus, to our amazing program, and to current students.”
Shana Brouder ’16, an ISC member and WACMUN’s administrator, agrees the conference “will give us the ability to showcase Washington College in a brand new way.” It will also raise funds to help WC students attend more college-level conferences, such as Harvard’s WorldMUN, which is held in a different country every year.
The ISC has developed a recruiting strategy targeting about 40 schools in the mid-Atlantic. They hope to attract teams comprising about 100 students, although Prof. Tahir Shad, the council’s faculty advisor, says even 75 will be enough for a successful conference. Those students would spend a three-day weekend not only participating in the conference but also attending other events and tours to get a first-hand feel for the College and its programs.
Shad, who has cultivated WC students’ participation in Model UN programs at Harvard, Yale and McGill universities, says very few small liberal arts colleges run Model UN programs. “So that’s the niche we’re going to try and build,” he says.
Continuity is a key to WACMUN’s success, and Shad believes the current ISC cohort has an excellent chance of achieving that goal because so many of them are freshmen and sophomores with first-hand high school Model UN experience. Along with Brouder and Bardhi, key students include Kelsey Hannah ’16 (ISC treasurer), Katherine Young ’15 (ISC vice president), Michael Neary ’15 (ISC co-president), Eli Banghart ’14 (director general), and Katy Jackson ’14 (ISC secretary). If they can successfully run WACMUN for two to three years, training incoming students to take over as they graduate, Shad believes the conference will have a solid foundation.
Still, Shad says, it’s a ton of work. “It will challenge our students in organizing it from A to Z. They’re responsible for the budget, for materials, recruitment, developing the simulations, sending the schools prep materials, getting position papers back from the schools. They have to have every aspect organized.”
With his expertise in international security and diplomacy, President Reiss will be a particularly attentive observer of WACMUN. “I’m thrilled that these students are organizing a Model UN conference at Washington College,” says Reiss, who himself participated in Model UNs in high school. “It’s an excellent way to bring a global discussion and perspective to our campus and students. And, as the world grows more complex and connected, the need for young people with knowledge of global security and sustainability issues grows more crucial than ever.”