This article was submitted by Thomas Schalke of Bard College
This past February, Bard College hosted a unique conference called: Bard One Day Youth Model United Nations (BODYMUN). This conference managed to compress the entirety of a three-day conference into a mere three hours. Bard Model UN created a teaser of the Model UN experience designed to entice students who may have thought that Model UN wasn’t for them, or for those unwilling to commit to a full conference.
BODYMUN was also noted for its international nature. Thanks to this conference, Bard leveraged its relationships with Smolny College, and the American University of Central Asia, to allow students from Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan to actively engage as participants in the conference. Further, Rory Mondshein, President Emeritus of Bard’s Model UN team and one of the primary organizers of the event, was able to bring a delegation from Indonesia to participate in the conference through her connections with Best Delegate, the source for everything Model UN.
The international students appreciated the conference largely because of the helpfulness of the staff. Travelling internationally to attend a Model UN conference when one is new to Model UN is a daunting task or new delegates, but Bard students worked hard to help. They assisted in transportation, and were available during the conference to assist with parliamentary procedures.
Waode Dwi Rahayu Merdeka Wati, the head delegate of Universitas Hasanuddin, states “We are so happy that our Model UN team managed to join Bard Crisis. Our delegation received more than what we could expect, for the first time in our Model UN history we were given an opportunity to taste a crisis simulation. Being in something new to was a terrifying thing, but luckily, the crisis director tutored us in parliamentary procedure of crisis simulations. Aside from that, Bard College Model UN students also provided us with significant assistance such as they guided us to Bard College and they managed all of our itinerary needs during our stay there. We might only know each other from social media, but the moment we met felt as if we had been best friends for years. This kind of hospitality is what would make us the most. Thank you Bard College.”
BODYMUN sought to provide a Model UN experience that everyone could enjoy, even if they had little to no background in International Relations or Model UN. The short duration of the conference allowed people to participate who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to experience Model UN. Most large Model UN conferences require students to miss class, do weeks worth of extensive research, and spend an entire weekend away from campus with almost no time to do homework. This is an enormous commitment to make, and can sometimes dissuade people from taking part.
Jeyrana Shafiyeva of Smolny College, states “Participation in BODYMUN was my first serious experience in United Nations simulations so I would like to express my gratitude to its organizers, Bard and Indonesian students for making it interesting, valuable, and unforgettable.”
The international nature of BODYMUN was also a boon for some of the American students who participated. One of the many benefits of Model UN is that students are forced to consider issues from another person’s point of view. They not only seek to understand what a country has done about a topic in the past, but also attempt to accurately reflect the countries’ future decisions. “BODYMUN was really a great experience having all of these people from all over the world discussing international affairs. You got to see many different global perspectives on issues through intelligent discourse”, says Templeton Kay, from Red Hook High School.
Cooperation with the Indonesian delegation from Universitas Hasanuddin, BODYMUN was also able to begin a cross-cultural exchange through Model UN. “With abundant fun and challenges the Crisis Committee had, there is no doubt that the Crisis Simulation would be the new trends for Indonesian Model UN Conference” says Riyad Febrian Anwar, Vice Head Delegate of Universitas Hasanuddin.
James Ketterer and Jonathan Becker, the professors of Model UN, considered the MUN conference a great success.
Ketterer, Bard’s head of Center for Civic Engagement says, “The Bard Model UN team has been working hard to develop a multifaceted approach to learning about international organizations and the conduct of diplomacy. The event on campus this semester successfully included a partner MUN from Indonesia and also presented MUN and its work to new students.”
Becker, Bard’s vice-president and Dean of International Affairs and Civic Engagement adds, “Bard considers itself a private institution in the public interest. For us, civic engagement is not just something we facilitate for our students; it is woven into the fabric of the institution. Bard Model UN’s initiatives, like Bard’s One Day Youth Model UN (BODYMUN) and our annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet, reflect the college’s commitment to active civic engagement and global citizenship. This year, Bard Model UN was fortunate enough to take their active engagement across borders by inviting students from Hasanuddin University to participate in our annual Conference for a Day. The conference, itself, was fantastic, and, to me, exemplified exactly what it means to be a part of a global community.”
Beyond being an excellent conference, which brought students together from all over the world, BODYMUN also worked to correct some of the misconceptions that existed about it, which may prevent students from joining. Most of the misconceptions about Model UN revolved around people being afraid of the workload, doubting they would enjoy it. Many seemed to think that Model UN conferences were particularly nerdy ways of role-playing, which nothing could be learned from. However, as an activity, Model UN has the potential to teach students a multitude of important life skills, including giving participants in the confidence the necessary skills to speak in front of large groups of people, and teaching students the intricacies of foreign affairs.
Rory Mondshein elaborated further on some of the misconceptions Model UN faces, “one of the main reasons that people do not join is because they are under the impression that Model UN requires a specialization in politics. We developed this Conference for a Day to show people that Model UN is an open and inclusive activity that anyone can jump into, regardless of their specialization. We frame Model UN as a learning experience, and we show our participants that Model UN delegates are always improving.”
BODYMUN was a resounding success. In addition to bringing students together from across the globe for this innovative one-day conference, BODYMUN was able to create a more easily accessible environment for students to actively participate, and was able to move towards abolishing the misconceptions and prejudice against it.