MUN Institute Alumni Spotlight: Casey Wang

summer camp studentPreparing for our first Model UN conference, we all have no clue what’s going on. We hear terms such as “decorum,” “NGOs,” and many more Model UN terms that none of us knew existed. Then come the country assignments – you get assigned a country you have never heard of, and you’re stuck talking about a complex topic that your country has barely stated anything on the topic. Even though we have a tough time at our first Model UN conference, we leave feeling a burning passion for more debate.

Casey Wang entered her first Model UN conference at GTMUN (Georgia Tech Model United Nations) as the delegate from El Salvador. The committee was the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. Her topic was Border Disputes between India and Pakistan. Casey says, “Being there was just so incredible like learning about the different issues that you probably wouldn’t study on your own”.

Casey attended the Model United Nations Institute in Georgetown University back in 2015. While she was exploring Georgetown University, it soon came to her that she had a passion for international affairs, and she even says that going to Georgetown for the Model United Nations Institute was one of the main inspirations that made her want to major in International Relations.

In addition, going to the camp made Casey a better public speaker, and it helped her understand the basics of Model UN. Casey says just the week she was there, she was able to learn so much, and she gained a lot of confidence while public speaking. Just going there really improved her as a delegate. Casey was inspired by the phrase, “The best delegate brings out the best in others”. Not only was she able to make herself a better delegate, but Casey has also made many friends from the Model United Nations Institute.

Most recently, Casey has chaired at a college level MUN conference hosted by Georgetown University. She says that the difference between the high school and college MUN circuits is that in the high school circuit, you mostly focus on General Assemblies, while in the college circuit push crisis committees. Most college conferences have crisis committees rather than large GAs. She says that chairing a college level MUN conference actually helped her feel less intimidated by collegiate level MUN.

Last year, Casey traveled to Budapest, Hungary to compete at the Yale Model Government Europe. This was the first time Casey had ever traveled to Europe. She says being in Budapest was amazing because she experienced a different culture, and she even got to learn a lot of European history while she was in Budapest. Casey also enjoyed competing against the European delegates. Casey also has competed at HACIA democracy held in Costa Rica. It was also Casey’s first time going to Latin America. Seeing different parts of the world was very exciting for Casey, and it has helped her learn about the different cultures throughout the planet.

After attending the Model United Nations Institute, Casey says that she stills keeps in touch with her delegation (aka the Cookie MUNsters). One of Casey’s memories from her friends from MUNI was when two international students loved Cheerios, and they didn’t have Cheerios in the respective countries. Once they returned home, Casey sent them both boxes of Cheerios! Casey says that she has learned a lot from the other members of her group.

Finally, Casey says that a word of advice she has for MUNI is to make sure you make a lot of friends at Best Delegate because the friends she made at the camp are still her friends today, “…and it’s really cool because I have friends in Russia and in Switzerland…it’s really neat that BD brings in people together from different backgrounds who are into MUN.”

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Interested in learning more about the benefits of attending the MUN Institute? Check out our Middle School and High School programs.

Questions? Concerns? Just want to chat? Email mun@bestdelegate.com or call us at (646) 308-1411!

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The Twelve Days of MUNmas

On the twelfth day of the conference, my advisor gave to me…

Twelve speakers speaking…

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people.com

Eleven students writing…

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Ten chairs a-gaveling…

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Nine pages running…

USA Network

USA Network

Eight votes abstaining…

ABC

ABC

Seven binders falling…

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Imgur

Six motions passing…

Middle School Movie

Middle School Movie

Fiiiive Coffeeeee Cuuuuuups!

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cheezburger.com

Four working papers…

Best Delegate

Best Delegate

Three unmods…

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Two crisis arcs…

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And a trip to MUNI 2017!

Best Delegate

Best Delegate

Happy Holidays from Best Delegate!

Sign up for the 2017 Model United Nations Institute here.

Find lots of gift ideas for the delegate in your life here.

 


Written by Jonah Miller, Kristen Corlay, and Alexandros Economou for Best Delegate

 

 

 

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      When I signed up for Best Delegate’s Model United Nations Institute in 2015, I hadn’t the faintest idea what to expect. At the time, Model UN was foreign to me, a nerdy eighth grader with an odd interest in international affairs. The public middle school of my Philadelphia suburb had no Model UN team to join, so I figured that a summer program was the next best thing.

      Arriving at Georgetown University on a hot afternoon, I was excited to learn about the world of MUN. I knew nothing of parliamentary procedure, resolutions, or position papers at the time, but I knew the capital of Bolivia, and to me, that was enough. The week I spent in the Junior Diplomat program turned out to be a whirlwind, making new friends, submitting position papers at 9:57pm, and experiencing residential life with a caffeine-infused roommate. Needless to say, it was over much too soon.

      That fall, I encountered a problem. The first day of school had arrived and many teachers wanted to get to know their new students. They all asked with a slightly different phrasing each time: “What did you do this summer?”

      In my town, almost nobody had ever heard of Model UN. In fact, a majority did not know much about the real United Nations. Summers were most often spent in some combination of beach houses and theme parks, not in Georgetown dorm rooms or lecture halls full of placards. My peers could not understand why anyone would choose to spend his summer writing essays and discussing how to prevent radicalization among middle-eastern youth. When I tried to explain any of it, I was met by the same response from friends and teachers alike.

      “Model UN? What’s that?”

      Each attempt to elaborate only confused them further. After all, a middle school student like me had no business representing Pakistan in a discussion about food security, right? Why would I be in committee when I could have been relaxing at the beach? Despite their disbelief, I held my ground, shooting down any misconceptions that violated my territorial sovereignty.

      “No, we don’t work at the UN headquarters.”

      “No, I was not allowed to nuke anyone.”

      “No, I did not ‘solve’ ISIS.”

      Slowly, my friends came to understand my passion for Model UN. They knew that I was following the search for a new Secretary-General more closely than the 2016 Presidential Race. They understood that I suddenly cared much more about what “Western Business Attire” I would wear. They also began to assume that any group messages I received came from MUN Institute alumni in another country or hemisphere. Finally, I was finished with my crusade, and my friends would be confused by MUN no more. Almost.

      In the summer of 2016, when I attended the MUN Institute’s Crisis program at Harvard, and it became harder to explain how Model UN works. By the nature of crisis committees, my stories got increasingly complex and intricate. Soon, I had to explain that I had not actually ordered a drone strike on Russian forces in Ukraine and that I had not actually saved four of my fellow cabinet members from anti-government forces in Ankara. The idea of a simulated crisis (i.e. not real, fake, or any number of other synonyms I had to come up with) seemed utterly lost on my peers.

      “Why would anybody want to do that?” they would ask, wide-eyed at the idea of simulated air strikes and hypothetical assassinations.

      “Because it’s fun,” was the most genuine answer I could offer them. “And it’s not hypothetical if you use a Nerf gun.”

      My stories went on and I assumed any number of roles. Over the summer, I had become a bold leader, a cunning general, and either a war hero or war criminal, depending on which treaty you read. Maybe my friends would never quite understand the complex and nuanced world of Model United Nations. But through all of the confusion, skepticism, and laughter, there was always one reaction that stood out from the rest.

     “Hey, that sounds pretty fun. Maybe I’ll try it.”

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Dear New Delegates

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Here’s the pep talk we wish we would’ve had at our first conference…

Nothing beats the nervousness and exhilaration of a delegate’s first MUN conference. Eyes wide, heart racing, asking a million questions… trust me, we have all felt it before. No matter how many times the experienced delegates from the your MUN team say “don’t be nervous, you’ll be fine,” we were still internally freaking out. There is a lot of advice we wish we were given before being thrown into the mass of teenagers in Western Business Attire, quickly typing away their resolution papers. This is why we decided to provide new delegates with the pep talk we all wish we would’ve had at our first conference. Enjoy!

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Dear new delegates,

It doesn’t matter how you got here, the point is that you *are* here. You are sitting in a room full of people dressed in professional clothing, talking using strange words (caucus?), and doing over-the-top hand movements. Trust me when I tell you this: you’ll get used to it. You may be second-guessing yourself and worried about whether or not your position paper fits into the guidelines. You may be flinching at the thought of speaking in front of a hundred people.

That’s okay, we all get nervous. Just breathe.

Let me tell you a secret:

You know that delegate with the big voice you can’t help but admire with awe? He froze during his opening speech at his first conference. That girl who is always quick to find new solutions and you keep asking yourself how she comes up with those plans? She didn’t even raise her placard at all during her first year. All those delegates you see delivering a speech worthy of a standing ovation? Public speaking used to be their greatest fear. We were all awkward and we all stuttered every now and then. We may have had an embarrassing story and thought every once in a while “what is happening?”.

Advice?

I could offer you the most standard MUN advice ever: raise your placard, speak clearly, and follow parliamentary procedure. However, as someone who went completely blank the second the chair banged their gavel and opened the session, I know you will most probably forget all of that. The best advice I could ever give you is this: learn as much as you can and have fun doing it. Don’t just sit there in the committee hoping the chair won’t catch you off-guard. Try to gather as much information as you can! It’s important to pay attention to the way delegates make their speeches, build their blocs, and write their resolutions. Most importantly: have fun! Since you have the opportunity to be at a conference, make the best of it.

Model UN is not about what you are, but about what you can be. You can be a world leader, you can change the world, and you can definitely rock your first conference.

Best,

Every MUNer

PS: we’re rooting for you!

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JJMUNC III Recap

Burr-Hamilton duel in The American Revolution

Burr-Hamilton duel in The American Revolution

John Jay Model United Nations Conference (JJMUNC) is not your ordinary high school Model UN conference. Only in it’s third year, 300 delegates from 16 schools in the tri-state area gathered to attend JJMUNC III. The one-day conference was held at John Jay High School in Westchester, NY and was led by the members of their Model UN club. JJMUNC is friendly to delegates of all-levels: novice to advanced.

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Delegates had the opportunity to participate in General Assembly, Crisis, and Specialized committees. In the World Health Organization, delegates drafted humanitarian response plans to the greatest epidemics of 21st century. The American Revolution concluded with excitement: a duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton and an agreement to end the war. The Triple Ad-Hoc committee is one of JJMUNC’s finest additions this year. This innovative committee incorporated the classic historical and futuristic elements of an Ad-Hoc committee but also included modern-day topics. Delegates represented different states and dealt with crises in a fractioned “United States”. In the Republican National Convention of 2020, delegates discussed immigration, terrorism, and the economy after Hillary Clinton’s presidency. Candidates for the 2020 election included many of the candidates from 2016 such as Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush.

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The secretariat and staff of the conference included many MUN Institute alumni, including the Secretary-General of JJMUNC III, Daniel Gordon. Daniel attended the MUN Institute in 2013 and 2014 and incorporated what he learned into JJMUNC III. The rest of the MUN Institute alumni of John Jay High School all served as chairs, vice chairs, or members of the Secretariat in planning this grand-scale local conference. Christina Wang, alumni of 2016, also won Outstanding Delegate in her WHO committee. Congratulations to all MUN Institute alumni!

Thank you to the incredible Secretariat and staff of JJMUNC III for a successful conference! We cannot wait to see the delegations back next year.

MUN Institute Alumni throughout the years!

MUN Institute Alumni throughout the years!

 

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How the MUN Institute Made Me Successful

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Alexandros and the Secretary-General program in 2016

For those of you wondering whether or not the MUN Institute is for you, yes it is! When I was looking through registration and the list of programs, I was completely intimidated. Since I knew I wanted to be a better delegate, I finally got the courage and I told my parents that I wanted to go. When I was registering, little did I know that I was applying for something that completely changed my life. Yes, it may sound a bit cliché but it’s a fact that I came back for every program Best Delegate offers in the high school level.

First, the MUN Institute taught me about confidence. When I first started in the Ambassador program, I could not give a speech without using a ‘filler’ word or two in each sentence. Looking back, I know that I did not have a lot of self-confidence at that time. With the support of my Diplomacy Fellow and my group, I became a confident speaker by applying their feedback. Eventually, the MUN Institute helped me find my ‘inner delegate’. The MUN Institute also taught me a very important skill: diplomacy. This has helped me negotiate better at conferences and lead groups with a large sum of delegates. These diplomacy skills have led me to winning awards at conferences. 

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Alexandros at the final simulation from the MUN Institute in 2015

Before attending the program, I did not expect that the MUN Institute would greatly improved my writing skills. Initially, I thought I was a pretty decent writer. After the Ambassador program, I had a better understanding of how to construct my position papers for conferences. I was able to use the research and writing skills I learned from the MUN Institute to write a position paper for National High School Model UN (NHSMUN) where I was a delegate for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Writing is essential in Model UN to prepare for conferences and to draft resolutions.

Last but definitely not least, I am very grateful for the long-lasting friendships that the MUN Institute has given me. I had the opportunity to meet fellow MUNners from all around the world in just one week! To this day, I continue to talk to alumni every week. We talk about all-things conference related such as what conferences their team is planning on attending but we also enjoy chatting about how our day is going. One of my favorite aspects of the MUN Institute alumni community is that there is always someone who can help in preparing for upcoming MUN conferences. I have definitely benefited from this many times since I have connected with alumni before conferences to ask for advice.

The MUN Institute has helped me and many other delegates around the world. The skills that students take away from the programs transcend beyond MUN. The MUN Institute helps individuals with research, negotiation, public speaking, conflict resolution, and more. Many alumni write about how they acquired these skill through MUN in their college applications and get accepted to prestigious colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. If you want to learn important life skills and improve yourself as a delegate, come to the Model United Nations Institute and enjoy this life-changing experience!

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Hello, fellow delegates!

My name is Lala Kumakura and I feel humbled and honored for this opportunity to serve as Editor of Model United Nations Institute Alumni. I am ecstatic to be working with this incredible team!

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To introduce myself, I am a sophomore at Fordham University, majoring in International Studies and double minoring in International Humanitarian Affairs and Spanish. I began Model UN when I started middle school in Japan and my passion for it has only developed since. Throughout high school and college thus far, I have been involved in founding and leading MUN programs. I attended the MUN Institute in 2013 and returned as a Diplomacy Fellow in 2016, teaching the Secretary-General program, Diplomat program, and the Junior Diplomat program at Georgetown University, Columbia University, and Harvard University. Currently in my seventh year of Model UN, I am the president of Fordham Model UN and Director General of Fordham’s upcoming high school conference. Also, I am a NGO Youth Representative to the United Nations, participating in high-level briefings and events.

Upon completion of the MUN Institute, delegates become a part of a supportive, welcoming alumni community! Throughout the year, the MUN Institute Alumni team will be providing opportunities for alumni to stay involved with the MUN Institute and Best Delegate through media content, in-conference meetups, and more. We are also very excited to work with the newly introduced platform, the MUN Vault, to provide resources for alumni to help us spread MUN worldwide. Most importantly, the MUN Institute Alumni team is working to continue building a passionate MUN community because this is what makes the MUN Institute like no other.

We value our alumni’s participation so please stay in contact with us! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at lala@bestdelegate.com

Now, please allow me to introduce the amazing and talented team!

 

Kristen Corlay – Media Associate

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Kristen is a freshman at San Roberto International School in Monterrey, México. This will be her second year as a part of the MUN Institute Alumni team. Kristen has attended the MUN Institute for the past two summers and claims that it has truly been a life-changing experience. As she is currently the Director-General for Instituto San Roberto Model United Nations (ISRMUN), MUN has been a major part of her daily life. When she isn’t busy MUNing, she enjoys dancing, playing the piano, and listening to music, especially to the Hamilton soundtrack. Kristen is looking forward to creating great content and producing the MUN Institute video this year!

Alexandros Economou – Media Associate

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Alexandros is a junior at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, IL. He has previously attended the Ambassador, Crisis, and Secretary General programs at the MUN Institute. Alexandros is on the executive board of his school’s club as the Publicity Chair and also serves as an Assistant Crisis Director at his school’s conference, GBSMUN. In addition, he is chairing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) committee in the largest middle school conference in the Midwest called NIMUN. Outside of MUN, Alexandros is a member of the Glenbrook Symphony Orchestra, a board member of his school’s chapter of Amnesty International, and a member in the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society in Chicago where he participates in Greek dance.

Jonah Miller – Media Associate 

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 Jonah is a high school freshman from New Jersey and a new member of Best Delegate’s media team. His first MUN experience was at Georgetown University, where he attended the MUN Institute in 2015. Inspired by the people he met and experience he had, Jonah returned to the MUN Institute in 2016 for the Crisis program at Harvard. He has attended conferences in South Jersey and Philadelphia as a part of his school’s MUN team and as an independent delegate. In his two years of MUN experience, Jonah gained a variety of new skills, ranging from public speaking to listing every ongoing UN peacekeeping operation. His hobbies include rowing, reading, and secretly plotting to conquer the world.

Miles Nabritt – Media Associate

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Miles is thrilled to return to Best Delegate for his second year as a part of the MUN Institute Alumni team. He is currently leading his MUN club at the Brooklyn Friends School. Miles is considered as a MUN Institute expert, attending the Diplomat, Ambassador, Crisis, and Secretary General programs in the past three years. Miles cherishes the strong bond he has had with MUNI Alumni over the years. Since many MUN Institute Alumni apply what they learned and develop into inspirational leaders in their communities, he believes that this makes the MUN Institute very special.  Miles is looking forward to creating and maintaining a connection throughout the MUN Institute community through meet-ups at conferences, media outreach, and more! 

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MUN Institute Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Gordon

We’re excited to bring you the next installment in our MUN Institute Alumni Spotlight series! Meet Daniel Gordon – he’s a student at John Jay High School in New York City, and he attended the MUN Institute in 2013 and 2014. After working through three MUN Institute programs, including the Ambassador, Crisis, and Secretary-General programs, Daniel embarked on a mission to start his own conference at his high school. With hard work and determination, he made that mission a reality – check out JJMUNC’s website! Keep reading to learn more about Daniel’s experiences.

JJMUNC III Secretariat Members

JJMUNC III Secretariat Members

When did you start participating in MUN?
I began participating in MUN three years ago at the beginning of my freshman year.

What did the beginning of your MUN journey look like? How are you different now from the person you were back then?
At the start, I mainly was a delegate in large General Assembly committees such as DISEC and SPECPOL. I didn’t speak very much, which is unusual because I am not typically a quiet person. I did my best however at each conference to make sure that I collaborated with the other delegates and had a strong influence within the writing process. As I attended more conferences and completed three MUN Institute programs, my knowledge of both Model UN and UN policy grew. Throughout my MUN experience, I never changed my ideals on how to succeed. I especially pride myself on how I maintain an honest, direct approach in my MUN interactions.

How did attending the MUN Institute affect your MUN career and your planning of JJMUNC?
I am certain that attending the MUN Institute has significantly enhanced my MUN career. I learned extremely useful strategies at the MUN Institute that improved my public speaking, critical thinking, decision making, and leadership skills. The authentic simulations and constructive feedback offered by the outstanding MUN Institute instructors were essential for strengthening my rhetoric and informal caucusing. In planning JJMUNC, I relied on the conference organizing techniques demonstrated at the MUN Institute, specifically in the Secretary General program. As a delegate and Crisis Director I have also benefitted from the Crisis Program. I sincerely believe that the techniques I learned at the MUN Institute have practical application in many areas beyond the MUN experience.

What made you decide to start your own conference?
At the end of my freshman year, the previous president of our club and I decided to start our own local day conference, known as JJMUNC. By hosting a conference, we hoped it would better train our own delegates as well as expand our local conference circuit. It also gave us the chance to experience firsthand the excitement of selecting topics, chairing committees, and leading a group of delegates.

What was the easiest part about planning the first JJMUNC? What was the hardest part?
The easiest part of planning JJMUNC I was the initial excitement. All members of our club were on board in attempting the gigantic feat of gathering over 180 individuals from over a dozen schools from the tri-state area for a local conference. We learned that the preparation of the background guides, an arduous task, had to be completed as early as possible to maintain momentum.

What’s your favorite part about conference planning?
My favorite part about the conference planning is my excitement when the preparations are all in place the night before the conference and only the final details remain. Experiencing the outcome of all the planning and hard team work is incredibly rewarding.

How do you best work with a team of students to plan such a big event?
Communication and organization. The planning group for the conference was about 20 club members last year, while this year it has increased to about 30. Since our conference is in November, a large portion of our planning has to occur over the summer. In addition, I keep both the website and our JJMUNC Staff Facebook group updated with any pertinent information, including deadlines for completing background guides, and send repeated reminders to all involved.

What does JJMUNC look like now (how many students, committees, etc.)?
JJMUNC right now has more than 200 student delegates participating in seven different committees. At JJMUNC we strive to have a dynamic variety of General Assembly, Specialized, and Crisis committees. We try to not focus our committees on the same topics year after year. Out of our seven committees this year, we have two GA (World Health Organization and International Court of Justice), three specialized (Ministry of Magic, National Basketball Players Association, and Republican National Committee), and two crisis (Triple Ad-Hoc Committee of the Secretary General and the American Revolution).

Do you have any advice for other students looking to start their own conferences?
Do it! Running a conference is a wonderful experience. It bolsters your local Model UN circuit, increases your member base within your school, and introduces you to a wide range of other MUN delegates whom you may see at other conferences. Any conference that you attend would likely help you in hosting an even better conference of your own. Useful resources to also consider include contacting members of the Secretariat from other local conferences for input, and following up with the various Model UN forums.

Interested in becoming a MUN leader like Daniel? Check out the Model United Nations Institute this summer!

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MUN Institute Alumni Spotlight: Darna Tajonera

Darna and her cousin, Best Delegate co-founder Ryan Villanueva, at the Santa Margarita annual MUN Awards.

Darna and her cousin, Ryan Villanueva, Best Delegate Co-Founder and Executive Director at the Santa Margarita annual MUN Awards.

Everyone’s MUN journey is different. Some delegates start off with natural confidence, debate skill, and public speaking prowess. Other delegates start off shy, and slowly build their skills as their confidence grows through practice. No matter how your MUN journey plays out, each delegate goes through formative experiences that have positive outcomes for their confidence and skills.

Darna Tajonera is one of those delegates. Her MUN journey began in 2014, when her cousin, who happens to be Ryan Villanueva, told her about his awesome job at Best Delegate. As a 7th grader, Darna had never participated in MUN before, but she opted to participate in the MUN Institute Junior Diplomat program at U.C. Berkeley in July of 2014.

Throughout the program, Darna worked on her public speaking and debate skills: “[At the beginning of the week], I was using filler words and mixing my words up. I was still confused about the process of MUN and its purpose, however, throughout the week I got more familiar with it.”

Now, almost two years later, Darna’s skills have evolved. “[Now], I am much more confident when I speak. I focus on projecting my message to the other delegates in committee. Before, I relied so heavily on reading my speeches off a notecard, but now I am warming up to memorizing my speeches and saying them with meaning.”

Darna’s skill progression has grown so much over the past couple years that she won the Best Delegate award for representing Italy in the General Assembly at Gaucho MUN, hosted by U.C. Santa Barbara. She also won a team award and was selected to speak at her high school’s annual MUN Awards this year.

Santa Margarita students at their annual MUN Awards.

Santa Margarita students at their annual MUN Awards.

Darna is especially grateful to be a part to the MUN program at her high school, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (SM). The program, which has been profiled previously on Best Delegate, focuses on building a supportive team community while encouraging students to be confident in their everyday lives.

When asked what makes SM’s MUN program stand out the most, Darna mentioned the team’s advisor, Mr. Remmell. “Dedicating hours on end to our MUN program as well as being a determined teacher, Mr. Remmell is one of the best teachers I have ever had and [has facilitated] a great start to my MUN high school career. [He] has led us to be outstanding MUN students who are confident and achieve our goals.”

In addition to bringing home numerous awards each year, SM’s MUN program also runs the South Orange County Model United Nations conference (SOCOMUN) each year, which is the largest one-day conference in the world. Darna is very proud of working on SOCOMUN – “[The conference] is a great learning experience and helps test out the waters for what delegates are getting into for the rest of the year.”

Overall, Darna has worked extremely hard since the beginning of her MUN journey until now. By attending the MUN Institute and working on her public speaking, debate, and caucusing skills, she has grown her confidence and has found success in many aspects of the MUN world. We’re so excited to see what she does next – congratulations Darna!

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What gives the MUN Institute its heartbeat? Is it the teachings that lead to the continued successes of students who applied them in the real world? Is it the expertise they bring with them, or even the innovation they leave behind? Absolutely. But, a closer look at the MUN Institute will show you that the constant behind it all is surely one thing: the people.

The summer of 2016 will be my third summer spent with the MUN Institute; I’ll have seen it as a student, as a diplomacy fellow (one of the college aged mentors), and now as the President of the Alumni Board. And, I’ve found that the reason I keep coming back is incontestably for the people.

Ryan Opening 2013One of these people, is Ryan Villanueva, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the MUN Institute. I’ve been a loyal disciple to his Socratic MUN pedagogy since the moment I first sat down with him, because he was the first person to teach me to do Model UN the right way. You can see that powerful moment captured in this photo, where I, with my backwards cap and all blue get-up, sat in the front row to listen to Ryan open up the Georgetown Flagship program in the summer of 2013.

Ryan explained that, “Model UN literally gave me the skills, and the confidence, to get into college; then learn how to manage teams, and how to lead, and that helped me launch my career after college. I think everybody who goes through Model UN and takes it seriously, realizes how much this activity meant to you, how much it did for you, and the environment and the community it created for you to achieve certain things in your life. I teach Model UN because I want to share that. I honestly see Model UN as my life’s work, and doing what I can to improve the activity, and share it with other people so they can have this transformative experience, is what drives me. It’s a vision that I call MUN for All. MUN is such a powerful and transformative activity, that every student in the world should have this opportunity. I think that Model UN should be in every country, available in every school, and accessible to every student, because it’s just that powerful of an activity.”

Ryan Villanueva with a student during an unmoderated caucus during the MUN Institute @ Harvard University 2015

Ryan Villanueva with a student during an unmoderated caucus during the MUN Institute @ Harvard University 2015

Ryan and the entire MUN Institute Staff bring passion, precision, and innovative spirit to the classroom. The staff create a sense of community and an insatiable desire to learn.

This culminates to what I now know as the MUN Institute’s core values. Passion for Model UN, bringing out the best in each other, being open to feedback, and professionalism. This is the Modus Operandi for the MUN Institute, and the environment in which everyone who is ever a student here will have the opportunity to learn Model UN within. It is both the vehicle of change for our beloved activity, and the change itself.

 

Ryan leading closing ceremonies at the Harvard iteration of the MUN Institute 2015

Ryan leading closing ceremonies at the Harvard iteration of the MUN Institute 2015

Ryan elaborates on this environment created by the MUN Institute staff, saying, “When I think about my goals for the staff, and what I want the staff experience to be, I really do believe in Best Delegate’s culture, and what we refer to as core values. I want the staff to live out those values through the summer, and in the process, I hope it will make them better teachers, but also bring them closer together as a team, through sharing these values. And, at the end of it all, I think it will make the program that much better too. When I was in college, and starting my career, I didn’t realize how important this was, but now as executive director, and as leader of a team and within community, you very much realize the importance of core values. They aren’t just words you write down, you frankly have to live them, you recruit by them, and you hire, and you train by them. And these four, for us as a team, have proven very key.”

What impresses me the most about Ryan in his interaction with Model UN as a whole is his dedication to not just give back to an activity from which he received so much, but to ameliorate both local and global Model UN. His insatiable desire to teach Model UN the right way, and passion for the activity itself and it’s real-word applicability, have rubbed off on the staff at the MUN Institute, ultimately leading to the learning environment the MUN Institute is famous for upholding.

Ryan teaching a group of exchange students from China at the Harvard 2015 iteration of the MUN Institute

Ryan teaching a group of exchange students from China at the Harvard 2015 iteration of the MUN Institute

The perpetual innovation in Model UN that can only be found at the MUN Institute is best described by Ryan himself. He notes, “We’re really trying to push this activity forward. It starts from understanding; there’s not one right way to do it. From the beginning of Best Delegate’s history, we’ve tried to visit different conferences, and meet different clubs and teams, to primarily understand, what is everybody doing? Then, the next step is to identify the themes to how people are teaching and approaching Model UN, and how we could look at Model UN in a single framework. For everybody else that now joins into Model UN, they should be aware that there’s this spectrum, and there are choices you can make, and most importantly, Model UN can serve your educational objectives. Before Best Delegate, no one’s tried looking at MUN this way. By making this perspective possible, so other people can look at Model UN holistically, I think it helps improve the activity, and now enables us to look at MUN critically. What should MUN be teaching? What are the best practices for teaching MUN? It’s part of a thesis that’s been brewing ever since we’ve started Best Delegate.”

Ryan during a simulation at the MUN Institute in the summer of 2015

Ryan during a simulation at the MUN Institute in the summer of 2015

As increasing numbers of alumni from the MUN Institute graduate high school, the number of acceptances to the world’s best universities of these alumni increases at pace, and this is no coincidence. The MUN Institute has consistently held it’s central focus on teaching key skills such as public speaking, research & writing, and diplomacy. What’s taught at the MUN Institute isn’t applicable to one exclusive domain, and that’s shown best by the diversity of college acceptances throughout our alumni pool. Ryan analyzes this trend, saying, “The goal [of the MUN Institute] is education. The goal can’t be MUN for MUN’s sake, it must serve a larger purpose. Our core focus is MUN, but, we’re about education through Model UN. Because we’re passionate about this activity, and we know how powerful it can be, we want others to experience it too. That brings in all these schools and all these students, who’ve never done or never even thought of Model UN before, and they’re able to enter that world through this curated professional experience and training, and go back to their schools and start Model UN programs for their school districts, or even a whole part of the country. What you literally have at the MUN Institute is some of the best MUN student leaders, and the best MUN expertise, and you’re putting us in a room with a hundred students who’ve never done MUN before (or are just starting) and then letting that magic happen. This is central to the MUN Institute.”

 

Ryan Columbia“Part of the job is setting a vision for [each] student. You layout this vision for them, and in that week, you need to inspire them to believe that this is possible. You’ll turn to a student who’s never done MUN before, and say, “you can do this too, and we will help you.” And over the course of that week you do your best to give them the skills, the knowledge, and the training, so that when they leave, they can do it on their own, and they can slowly make their way through that vision, with you on the sidelines cheering them on. That’s what we’re trying to create through Model UN.”

 

Ryan’s permeating positive affects that ripple through the MUN Institute are best exemplified in his goals for this coming summer. What he aims for, and what he achieves with Model UN through the MUN Institute is nothing short of revolutionary. Ryan explained his goals for the summer through the medium of his work in the lead-up, explaining,

Ryan teaching at the inaugural Advisors Institute at Georgetown 2015

Ryan teaching at the inaugural Advisors Institute at Georgetown 2015

“Right now I’m in charge of designing the curriculum for the summer, and a big thing that I want is for the staff to not only teach it successfully, and achieve certain educational objectives, but I want them to be able to look at this curriculum and say ‘Wow, where has this been my whole MUN career?’ Not only is this going to be the easiest, most efficient way to teach students Model UN, and the most effective way to help experienced students get better at MUN, but I would love to hear from our Diplomacy Fellows something like “I’m going to be able to use this to help myself become a better Model UN delegate, and share this with my team”. My goals for the summer are especially focused on the Advisors Institute, because it’s one of the most groundbreaking things we do at the MUN Institute. We not only train hundreds of students, but we train teachers. If you’re talking about scale, and impact, and for MUN for All, you need to be able to support teachers. So we’re going to teach teachers MUN, and I want them to look and this and say, this is what my students need, and with this material, we will start an MUN program. Beyond that, it’s goals for the entire student experience, I want everyone to walk away happy.”

Ryan&KFCPeople like Ryan are the heartbeat for the MUN Institute. His character, winning hand-diamond, and overall amiability and professionalism are infectious to both staff and students at the MUN Institute, and help everyone to achieve his vision of living out our core values while we learn and share together. 

For the time being, Ryan’s goals are for an unforgettable staff and student experience this coming summer, that leaves students with a chance to achieve all of their educational objectives through Model UN. Ryan has never been someone to look exclusively in the short-term, though, and through his work with the MUN Institute, he’s one step closer to achieving the life-long dream that is MUN for All.

Ryan sharing“What would it take to realize this vision? This is a 15 to 30 year idea, and you have to plan for this over decades. It even ties in to global educational goals; I look at the SDG’s over the next 15 years to be accomplished by 2030, and the goals of education are related not just to ensuring that children have access to primary and secondary education, and that it is of quality, but that it teaches civic engagement, that it teaches responsibility and tolerance, and to be educated about global problems, and to be inspired to one day solve them. Model UN is couched within a global education movement, that is about improving access to education and the quality of education everywhere, throughout the United States, and the World. When I look at Model UN that way, that’s what drives me. This will take the rest of my life to make that vision a reality. I don’t know if I’m going to be the one teaching it for the rest of my life, but I know that a significant part of my life will involve this activity, making it better, and making it more accessible for people all over the world.” – Co-Founder & Executive Director of the MUN Institute, Ryan Villanueva

 

Article by Diplomacy Fellow, and President of the Alumni Board, Steve Tempesta

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