The inaugural session of HenMUN, the University of Delaware Model United Nations Conference, took place this past weekend. In attendance were over 350 delegates from across the nation.
There was a vibe of newness around this conference that was unafraid to declare itself “HenMUN I” in a circuit where most major conferences are reaching their silver and gold anniversaries. A conference that evolved from a single piece of looseleaf paper, dutifully preserved by its creator Max Kramer, the first Secretary-General of HenMUN.
The conference was full of fresh ideas in Model UN, which were incredibly well executed by the secretariat and staff. I was particularly taken aback by the speed and quality of feedback response. Secretary-General Kramer had a constant buzzing in his ear about how committee was going, and liberally commissioned new crises and events for committees that were going slowly to liven things up. After receiving complaints about a lack of crisis committee assignments, the Secretariat elected to turn two committees on their heads, fusing the UNDP and UNHRC into a joint summit within 5 minutes of the beginning of committee. There was the distinct feeling that the Secretariat and Staff were intent on actively molding the committee proceedings as they went, where so many other conferences are content to just let things play out.
Another driving theme of the conference was realism. The Secretary-General seemed somewhat disillusioned by the growth of fantasy committees, as well as the tendency of high school MUN to deviate from, in the words of Secretary-General Kramer, what the United Nations actually does. To this effect, chairs and topics emphasized realism in committee, rejecting overextensions of committee power, and taking the jurisdiction of each committee very seriously. This was visible in GA proceedings, especially in committees like DISEC and SpecPol. In Historical General Assembly, the delegates were spoken to by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and journalist who involved leading figures in Iran during the Hostage Crisis that the delegates were discussing.
The keystone offering at HenMUN I was the United States National Security Council 2001, which simulated the events immediately following September 11th, 2001. In this tasteful and well-produced committee, delegates held committee in a room where the walls were covered in monitors, which simultaneously played the living history of 9/11 when committee began, a moment which held a certain gravity with the delegates as they scrambled, sizing up their own portfolio and flinging directives at the chair, in full George W. Bush roleplay. This committee, like other specialized committees, experienced a thrilling midnight crisis, and recieved great attention from the crisis team and Secretariat throughout the weekend.
I think by this point it’s clear that HenMUN I wasn’t just a beta test: it was a conference with an incredible vision that was fleshed out by the hard work of a dedicated and knowledgeable staff. From the professional quality of the delegate materials, multimedia preparation documents, and website, to the well-catered advisor lounge, everything felt smooth and neat, even the chaotic crises.
How was this possible? Secretary-General Kramer answered this question in one word: “Persistence”. He cites that success hinged on his refusal to compromise on his vision, and his bold funding and invitational outreaches. In Director-General Patrick O’Gourman’s words, “success for us meant insisting on stubbornly sticking with our vision, and letting our plan evolve to fit the reality of the situation”. This strategy worked very well, as a piece of looseleaf paper (where so many great ideas go to die) evolved into a highly orchestrated, weekend-long experience for delegates.
“Anybody who wants to run a conference can do it. You just have to be persistent and surround yourself with the right people” says Kramer as he gives a thankful nod to his Secretariat around him, who are all dutifully typing out urgent emails and text messages.
The Secretariat and Staff look forward to an expanded HenMUN II, to take place next year, and are already bursting with new ideas. To see more HenMUN I pictures, please see the album on the Best Delegate Facebook Page
Best Large Delegation: Oceanside High School
Outstanding Large Delegation: Charter School of Wilmington
Best Small Delegation: Belen Jesuit Preparatory School
Although Belen Jesuit neared Oceanside in number of gavels, Oceanside clearly dominated the conference, winning at least Honorable Mention or Outstanding Delegate Awards in every committee, and frequently winning Best Delegate awards. The Charter School of Wilmington also had a formidable showing.