High-school students flood Canisius College for a successful Model United Nations

By Justin Smith
Assistant News Editor

This past Thursday approximately 400 students from 18 area high schools flooded the Canisius College Student Center and Montante Cultural Center for the International Relations program’s 37th Annual Model United Nations Conference. Led by Dr. Jonathan DiCicco with a support system of dedicated students, this conference is reportedly the best since he had taken on the role of chairperson.

Jesse PR Prieto ‘16, Secretary General for the conference and News Editor for The Griffin, expressed his excitement to give students the opportunity to hone skills such as public speaking and conflict resolution. He went on to say that “the conference is a great showcase of the opportunities that Canisius has to offer International Relations students. Several students approached me voicing their excitement to apply to the College.”

For those unaware, Model United Nations is a simulation of the international body in which students research the positions that governments have taken on a particular issue such as the civil war in Yemen or mass migration into Europe. They then meet to debate and argue these points, practicing rhetoric, analysis, and problem solving.

“Representing a country other than the United States can be a challenging task,” said DiCicco, Director of the International Relations Program at Canisius and coordinator of Thursday’s event. “Delegates need to learn about the politics, economy, culture, government, and interests of their assigned country, and then represent those interests in the deliberations and negotiations over particular issues and problems.”

Those delegates—the high school students who attend the event—are the main focus of the coordinators, such as Model UN Diplomacy Organization (MUNDO) President Desmond Metzger ‘18.

“It’s really all just about the high schoolers,” said Metzger. “That’s why we’re doing this—to help them all out and give our school a good name.”

Planning for Thursday’s conference began in April and continued all throughout the fall semester, according to DiCicco.

 “Topics for discussion need to be identified, developed and researched,” said DiCicco. “Topic guides need to be written, edited, and posted online, schools need to be registered, and their students assigned to particular councils and countries; rooms and equipment need to be prepared.”

Sophomore Caitlin Orgek ‘18 was this year’s acting Topic Guide Coordinator and played a key role in the smooth organization of the conference.

“I drafted about half of the topic guides,” said Orgek. “Dr. DiCicco and I came up with the topics for the conference at the end of the last school year. Then, over the summer, I worked on about half of these topics, first researching the general topic, the history, and the United Nations’ involvement with the issue. Then I wrote the draft with a general outline of the final project.”

The amount of coordination going into this year’s conference represents a difference from last year, primarily because the school didn’t have a MUNDO club last year. Metzger credits not only himself and Orgek with building up the club, but also says Nathan Baumgartner (MUNDO Vice President) and Kirra Quarrie. Metzger thinks this year’s presence of MUNDO will have a positive influence on the conference.

“[I think this year’s event will be] a little better,” said Metzger, “because now that we actually have a club designated for this that’s actually well-structured we decided to train people … and we have more supplies and more resources.”

DiCicco also spoke to this popularity of this year’s conference, saying they expect “students from 18 different high schools from as far as Palmyra-Macedon to as close as Canisius High School and City Honors.”

 “I for one am impressed with the incredible level of interest in the United Nations and in this simulation exercise,” said DiCicco. “We’ve even had to turn away high schools because there’s more interested students than we can accommodate.”

Yet, when all is accounted for, the value of the event will be determined by what actually happens at Thursday’s conference, not just the perceived-success of the preparation which makes the event possible. Again, the various coordinators interviewed largely agreed that success would be defined by the high school’s students reactions and responses to the day’s events.

“The conference is a success when all persons involved commit to simulating the various councils with enthusiasm, seriousness of purpose, decorum, and genuine openness to others’ points of view,” said DiCicco.

Another thread running through the coordinator’s comments was how this event can leave high schoolers with a good impression of Canisius and possibly serve as a recruitment tool.

“This event is a great way for Canisius to get their name into high school seniors’ heads,” said Orgek. “So many high school students come to this conference and get to see many different parts of Canisius and experience what it is like to be on a college campus.”

Yet, aside from just attracting students from the school, the coordinators also shared the sentiment that the conference had inherent value, whether it be simply an opportunity to discuss and debate key issues affecting the world today, or the imparting of skills such as public speaking, teamwork, and compromise.

“Whether we appreciate it or not, we are all global citizens,” said DiCicco. “To be a good citizen, one should be informed about global issues, concerned about transnational problems, sensitive to others’ perspectives on these problems, and open to using diplomacy and cooperation. Model UN simulations like ours provide opportunities to students to put themselves in others’ shoes and to practice civil debate over important, controversial issues, with an eye toward developing shared solutions.”

By all accounts this year’s conference went remarkably well; perhaps better than any previous conference. Such success is a positive sign for International Relations at Canisius and bodes well both for the future of the program as well as the student club MUNDO.

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