Hundreds of high school students in professional attire and the sound of banging gavels are just some of the sights and sounds experienced at the UC Irvine Model United Nations Conference and Outreach team’s 14th annual MUN High School Conference on May 20 and 21. The event provided an opportunity for nearly 750 students from across California and as far away as the Midwestern United States to compete and debate at UCI.
MUN is a nationwide program that allows high school and college students to research current international issues, become representatives of different nations and debate in mock U.N. committees on various issues ranging from child soldiers, bioterrorism and the situation in Darfur. The conference simulates the procedures of the real United Nations.
Anthony Pham, a third-year biological sciences major and co-secretary general of the event, described the importance of the program for all students.
‘MUN, whether on a high school level or collegiate level, helps students develop their negotiating, debating and speaking skills,’ Pham said. ‘Students are able to discuss topics that are becoming more and more prevalent. Whether students learn to break their comfort zones by continuously speaking or become more aware of global issues, this program is becoming more prevalent for developing citizens in this globalized world.’
At the conference, high school students chose to participate in 19 different committees. These committees ranged from the General Assembly to the Security Council to the World Health Organization.
Throughout the course of the two days, delegates worked to create a resolution, a set of original solutions for a given problem.
At the end of the committee session on Sunday, awards were handed out to the most diplomatic and well-rounded delegates.
The conference was planned and headed by over 70 college students and overseen by Co-Secretary Generals Pham and Tiffany Wu, a third-year history and political science double-major. College students assisting the event were not only from UCI, but also UC Davis, UCLA and UCSD. The staff participated in morning meetings, moderated committees, set up meals and moderated debates throughout the weekend.
Kah Liu, a third-year information and computer sciences and studio arts double-major, commented on the difficulty of the conference. As the undersecretary general of information and technology, Liu was required to ensure that all technological situations were properly cared for.
‘I’ve never sweated so much in my life as I did during the conference,’ Liu said. ‘Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an ICS major, but I like to think it’s because [I was] running around campus with a full suit in hot weather under stressful situations. … It was difficult. However, I took a lot from the conference and learned a lot as well.’
Staff member Katrina Castillo, a first-year political science and anthropology double-major, participated in her first conference as a college student and enrolled as a director, whose role was to oversee the sixth legal committee and assign awards. Castillo felt that the experience was valuable not only for the high school delegates, but also for herself.
‘I think the conference is beneficial for high schools because it lets these students meet people from other high schools and understand international policy,’ Castillo said. ‘In the end, though, I was also left with a great experience. I was able to get involved in something that was such a big part of my high school life, and it made me love it even more.’
Pham felt strongly about the program and encouraged the UCI community to join MUN. Students can attend meetings on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. in HIB 110 to learn more about MUN and how to get involved.
‘I would definitely recommend this experience,’ Pham said. ‘Whether it is joining the MUN conference, class or travel team, I believe MUN has the diversity to cater to all student groups.’