35th annual Model UN conference held at UAA

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High schoolers from all over Alaska gathered Thursday through Saturday at UAA for the 35th annual Model United Nations Conference. Photo credit: Young Kim

The 35th annual Model United Nations Conference was held over the weekend at UAA in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium and in Rasmuson Hall. Kimberly Pace is the Faculty Director of Model United Nations of Alaska, and Pace said that the conference was the largest conference to date.

“Our topic is ‘Global security: Fight, flight and human rights,’” Pace said. “I think that now, more than ever, this is a very topical topic. A lot of people are interested in refugees, and what’s going on in the world, and cyber security.”

Pace said that high schoolers from all over Alaska are attending the conference and that members of the Model United Nations, MUN, class at UAA are helping run the conference. One of the MUN students, who has helped organize the conference, is political science and economics major, Jacob Shercliffe. Shercliffe first got involved with MUN his senior year of high school and he’s carried on with the activity throughout college.

“The style of learning that MUN teaches you was really good for me,” Shercliffe said. “I think this is sort of that perfect balance of research you do on your own, and then using it and applying it into something. The great thing about MUN is you have this simulation, and you’re talking about current events, and you get to embody the different designations. I worry a lot that our school systems and education process far too much focus on how well you can pass a test, but this engages people. People get passionate. It’s a lot of fun to watch that growth cycle. The first time I was participating, I remember how fun it was to learn all these new things and see how these procedures work.”

Shercliffe said one of the best things about the annual MUN conference is that it makes students passionate about international current events.

“Last year, I had kids come up to me and say, ‘I can’t wait to someday be an ambassador.’ That is this process, not only getting people passionate about learning, but learning the substance and getting involved with it beyond some score or grade they might get,” Shercliffe said.

At UAA, the MUN course counts for three upper division credits throughout a six or seven week period, with the conference culminating the course.

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“I think it gives students the opportunity to really delve into the international issues,” Pace said. “Students are either assigned as a delegate for a country, they are assigned as an [non-governmental organization], or as a member of the World Bank. They really get an opportunity to look at things in a really deep way. If you are assigned as a delegate, you’re also assigned to a committee. We try to make it as realistic as possible.”

Moira Pyhala, political science major, is a first-year member of MUN, and she said she likes how the class takes serious issues and engages with them in a less serious environment.

“I think the biggest takeaway, is that you read what’s happening in actual UN, but you don’t actually see what goes into being in the United Nations and it really affects global security and international relations as a whole,” Pyhala said. “It also has opened my eyes on global human injustice, and actually the processes of how those happen and how the United Nations react to certain acts of war or just human injustice as a whole. Actually, gives me a feeling that people are out there trying to actively make the world better, also there are several downfalls to international relations as a whole.”

Pyhala’s main goal for the conference was to get her resolution passed.

“[I’m] the delegate from Israel and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and I’ve submitted a resolution to eliminate sex trafficking by building a wall around Israel. Encompassing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. I wanted to make Mexico pay for it, but… On that note too, it’s a non-serious way of taking serious issues into the highlight.”

The conference opened on Thursday and concluded on Saturday.