A Tale of Two Circuits: 5 Key Differences between the World Division and National Division, and What They Can Learn From Each Other

by Ryan on May 5, 2011

Only a few schools, such as FIU, attend conferences in both the World and National Divisions

The Best Delegate team has been visiting different Model UN conferences around the country all year and we’ve noticed that two different groups of schools attend college Model UN conferences.

One group mostly attends the conferences hosted by U.Penn, Georgetown, Yale, U.Chicago, and Berkeley, and this group views the Harvard National MUN Conference (HNMUN) as their “super bowl.” We call this group of schools and the conferences they attend the “World Division” circuit.

The other group mostly attends independently-organized conferences such as Model UN of the Far West and American Model UN, and they view the National MUN Conference (NMUN) as their big conference of the year. We call this the “National Division” circuit.

The two circuits are not mutually exclusive. Schools such as Florida International University and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Venezuela attend both HNMUN and NMUN. Schools are free to register for conferences of either circuit (although the bigger conferences have waiting lists). Nonetheless, college Model UN in the United States has evolved into these two separate circuits.

What’s the difference between the two circuits? More importantly, is there something that they can learn from one another?

To answer these questions, I compared the Top 25 North American schools in the World Division and the 23 US-based schools that received Outstanding Delegation at NMUN. Combined with my observations from live blogging the World Division conferences and NMUN, I noticed 5 key differences.

Click “Learn More” below to find out what the 5 key differences are!

1. Different types of schools make up the different circuits.

World Division – These schools tend to be smaller and more exclusive institutions, with an average acceptance rate of 36%, and two-thirds are private. Almost all are part of the US News Top 100 National Universities rankings or Top 100 National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings.

National Division – These schools tend to be larger and more open institutions, with an average acceptance rate of 67%, and one-third are private. Half are part of US News rankings and these schools are split between national and regional rankings.

2. Different types of organizations host the conferences of the different circuits.

World Division – The conferences are organized by student organizations staffed almost entirely by undergraduates from a single school. Most of the conferences take place at a hotel in the same city as the hosting school.

National Division – The conferences tend to be sponsored by non-profit organizations independent of any single school, such as the National Collegiate Conference Association (NCCA), which sponsors NMUN. The NMUN staff comprises mainly graduate students from different schools, and the different NMUN conferences take place in different cities – NY, DC, and various locations abroad – but the NCCA is based in Minnesota.

3. Different types of committees are featured on the different circuits.

World Division – Committees range from “traditional” simulations of the General Assembly, ECOSOC, and Security Council, to “creative” committees unrelated to the UN or modern international organizations – a few simulations are completely fictional. All of the World Division conferences include crisis committees and several (Columbia CMUNNY, Yale SCSY, Georgetown NCSC, U.Chicago ChoMUN, etc.) feature them almost exclusively.

National Division – Committees tend to be more traditional simulations that strive for realism. NMUN prides itself on having rules of procedure that more accurately reflect those used at the UN. A few NMUN committees, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, write reports instead of resolutions – this is a more accurate reflection of the documents these bodies produce.

4. Different types of feedback drive the different circuits.

World Division – Their leaders are students, from the head delegates to the secretary-general to the club president. The primary source of feedback comes from head delegate meetings that take place at each conference.

National Division – Their leaders are professors and professionals. Half the members of the NCCA board of directors and the NMUN board of advisors are professors. The boards also include professionals who work in international affairs, including former ambassadors. NMUN holds separate meetings for head delegates and faculty advisors.

5. Different types of funding sources finance the different circuits.

World Division – Many schools host conferences. Of those surveyed, 76% host a conference for high school or middle school students, and 40% host their own college conference. For most of these schools, the conferences they organize serve as a fundraiser for the travel teams to attend other conferences.

National Division – Few schools host a conference. Of those surveyed, 35% host a high school or middle school conference and only one hosts a college conference. However, students from these schools go on to staff independently-organized conferences.

Model UN is part academic and part social. In this picture, reporter Ann Curry speaks as part of a panel at NMUN -- an "academic" event.

The differences between the two circuits are not about which approach is better – rather, their differences reflect what they value about Model UN.

Model UN is part academic and part social. The activity teaches students about the UN and international affairs (academic), as well as how to communicate (social). The former is about hard knowledge, whereas the latter is about soft skills.

In committee, the academic part shows through research, the content of speeches, and the quality of resolutions. The social part comes out in the interaction between delegates, speech delivery, and negotiating resolutions. When delegates talk about how “competitive” a conference is, they’re referring to the social part of Model UN.

Outside of committee, conference-sponsored events can either have an academic purpose – expert panels, in-committee presentations by professors, mission briefings, movie screenings, etc. – or a social one, particularly the delegate dance. Events such as the leadership summits that have been hosted at NCSC, UPMUNC, and McMUN are also “social” – they teach delegates about the importance of networking.

Neither part is “better” than the other – the combination of the academic and social parts is what makes Model UN such an engaging experience. But what’s interesting is how this distinction frames the key differences between the two college Model UN circuits.

The National Division is focused on academics, whereas the World Division emphasizes the social part of Model UN.

All of NMUN’s committees are related to either the UN or modern international organizations. The conference prides itself on having more accurate rules of procedure and producing reports in some committees instead of resolutions. The NMUN staff consists primarily of grad students who spend a considerable amount of time during the conference to review working papers and provide delegates with feedback.

In contrast, World Division conferences have been focusing more and more on creative committees, many of which are unrelated to modern international affairs. This suggests a trend towards the social part of Model UN – many of these small, crisis-based committees have less to do with international relations and are more focused on the dynamics of group decision-making. It’s also not necessary to follow strict rules of procedure in these small bodies – many operate under a “permanent moderated caucus” format.

This distinction between the academic and social parts of Model UN is reflected in how the different circuits feel about competition and view the purpose of awards.

NMUN aims to de-emphasize awards and competition, and when I asked delegates and staff what makes the conference different, many said it was less “competitive” than World Division conferences. However, any conference that gives awards values competition to some extent, and NMUN delegates were proud to receive awards. But here’s what’s interesting – the delegates I spoke with who received awards attributed their success to hard work and preparation – they associated awards with the academic part of their Model UN experience.

In contrast, the World Division schools share a sports-like rivalry. Delegates strategize with their teammates between sessions about how to elevate their standing in committee, how they think they’re perceived by their chairs, and they assess the personalities of other delegates in their committees – these discussions are very focused on the social part of Model UN.

Delegates at NMUN talk about receiving awards as recognition of their hard work and preparation, whereas delegates at World Division conference talk about winning awards as part of an intercollegiate competition. For the National Division, Model UN is an academic exercise – for the World Division, Model UN is a social sport.

The two circuits literally spend more time on the different parts of Model UN that they value, as can be seen in the conference schedules of their largest conferences, NMUN and HNMUN.

NMUN scheduled 24.5 hours for committee sessions across five days and 4 hours for one social event, the delegate dance following closing ceremony. The conference featured panels with experts on international affairs and mission briefings with UN ambassadors, which took place outside of scheduled committee sessions.

HNMUN scheduled 20 hours for committee sessions across four days and 7.5 hours across three social events on each night of the conference (casino and club night on Thursday, cocktail hour on Friday, and the delegate dance on Saturday). The conference also featured lectures by Harvard professors, which took place during committee sessions.

Comparing the schedules of both conferences, NMUN allotted 4.5 more hours for committee sessions, devoted an entire morning to mission briefings, and organized multiple panels with international affairs experts and professionals. In contrast, HNMUN allotted 3.5 hours more for social events and organized two more social events than NMUN.

Of course, conference schedules don’t necessarily dictate how delegates at both conferences spent their time. Delegates at both conferences spent considerable time between committee sessions to work on resolutions (academic), as well as skip entire committee sessions to sleep in or do some shopping (social…kind of…). And the schedules of both conferences are not one-sided – they make time for both the academic and social part of Model UN.

Nonetheless, conference schedules reflect a deliberate decision of the conference organizers regarding how delegates should spend their time and what the conference values. And although NMUN and HNMUN make time for both the academic and social parts of Model UN, their schedules emphasize one part of the other.

Neither division is completely academic or social – they simply place a different emphasis on each part – and this is driven by the different types of Model UN participants they serve.

How did the National and World Divisions become more academic or more social? Look at who provides the feedback that drives these conferences. From their board of advisors to their feedback sessions, NMUN mainly listens to faculty advisors and professors who take their students to the conference as part of a class. In contrast, the World Division conferences are run by students for students.

Of course, conferences of both circuits bring out both the academic and social parts of Model UN. However, the design of each conference – specifically their committee types, schedule, and culture – emphasizes different parts of Model UN.

And again, neither approach to Model UN – whether it emphasizes the academic or the social – is better than the other. But the differences between the two circuits mean there are a few things that they can learn from one another.

More and more World Division schools, such as West Point, are starting to host their own conferences. National Division schools should pick up on this trend.

What the National Division Circuit Can Learn

From my conversations with advisors at NMUN, the key issue facing many schools is fundraising. Most schools pursue traditional fundraising approaches, such as seeking grants from their student assembly or their academic departments (especially if Model UN is part of a class). In contrast, many of the World Division schools host their own Model UN conferences, which serve as fundraisers for their travel teams to attend conferences (although this is not true for some schools whose conference-organizing teams and travel teams are independent of one another).

NMUN and the NCCA should help schools host their own conferences for high school and middle school students. The conferences do not have to be large endeavors – they should start small, with one or two committees, and then grow in size and scale as conference organizers gain experience.

Besides raising funds, running conferences provides additional benefits. Designing a committee and writing background guides can be integrated in the curriculum of a Model UN class. College-run conferences prompt the high school students in attendance to consider applying to the host school. Conferences also create publicity for the Model UN program, which can drive recruitment and additional funding. Chairing a committee helps students become better delegates and organizing a conference is an opportunity for students to learn business skills.

What the World Division Circuit Can Learn

The key issue facing World Division schools is a lack of communication. The only time the conferences actively seek feedback is during the conference itself. Since the conferences are student-driven, feedback gets lost when conference organizers graduate, and it leads to miscommunication between schools.

In contrast, it seems that NMUN receives feedback throughout the year because it has a professional staff and a board of advisors. As a result, their conference feels more deliberate by design – the conference actively meets the needs of its “key customers,” e.g. faculty advisors and professors.

Each of the World Division college conferences should have a small “board of advisors” comprising former head delegates and Secretaries-General, both from the hosting school (internal directors) and other schools (external directors).

Make it an honor to put someone on your board, and use your board to make your conference better. Make the Secretariat accountable to the board by providing monthly or quarterly updates, such as a PowerPoint presentation on the changes you’d like to make for next year’s conference – this is actually a good learning opportunity for what it’s like to work at a big company.

Each conference is like its own small non-profit, and just like a non-profit, a conference should have a way to gather outside perspective. Having a board is not about ceding control of the conference – it’s about customer feedback and quality assurance.

What the Two Circuits Have in Common

Both circuits are expanding in the United States and abroad. In addition to their flagship NYC conference, NMUN takes place in DC and Europe, and I heard they’re thinking about starting another conference. HNMUN just launched its Latin America conference, and its high school counterpart, HMUN, already hosts conferences in China and India. And more and more schools in the World Division are starting to host their own college conferences, such as West Point, NYU, Cornell, and UCLA. (Check out this related Best Delegate post on the Top 12 Scheduling and Marketing Trends in Model UN)

Clubs and conferences of both circuits are experimenting with social media. NMUN delegates were particularly active on Twitter. Many conferences have Facebook pages that they’ve used to communicate announcements, and which also help keep delegates in touch after the conference ends.

And most importantly, students of both circuits enjoy learning about international affairs, traveling to cool places, and making friends. No matter the circuit, the conference, or the club, I see delegates who have fun while learning about the world, themselves, and each other in the process.

The two circuits share the essential elements that make Model UN great – everything else is simply another opportunity for us to learn from each other.

Do you agree on what makes the World Division and National Division different? Let us know what you think in the comments!

  • Katie

    I think your analysis is interesting – one point I would like to highlight is that 1/2 of all schools that attend NMUN are student run – the Faculty Advisor’s might be more visible at the conference, physically and due to their parallel program of events, however Head Delegates who serve as the equivalent of the FAs for their teams have just as much power and ability to influence the conference via the HD meetings, and other avenues. At least 1/3 of the schools that win Outstanding or Distinguished delegations are student run, and NOT funded through their school. Which is very different from WorldMUN programs which are from private schools with lots of funding. A large portion of the student run programs also do host their own conferences. One other element you don’t mention is the quality of the staff – It is extremely hard for one school to produce enough quality staff to fill a conference – having attended WorldMUN and NMUN and compared the quality of the staff, I can speak from experience that the difference is clear. A diverse staff from a wide range of backgrounds and education levels (half of NMUN staff are undergrads, not graduates as you stated) provides the best experience for delegates. I for one am proud to be part of NMUN, and I can’t wait for next year.

    • KFC

      I don’t disagree with how a diverse staff provides a great experience for delegates (I ran the UNA-USA MUN conference which also drew an internationally diverse staff) but I do want to defend the benefits of having one staff from one school:

      1. The judging styles are consistent, and consistent to that school’s reputation, particularly if the chair also competes on the college circuit. “World Division” schools need to know the appropriate leadership style to use (aggressive vs. diplomatic) as well as the culture of the conference and having all staff from one school makes that easier to determine.

      2. Having a staff from one university allows for deeper networking. Delegates get to know the host school and its staffers better (which will pay dividends in the intercollegiate “World Division” circuit), and the staffers from the host school can easily connect with each other on people, news, and ideas that they know or learn about at the conference.

  • Andrea

    NMUNERS rock 🙂 always knew it! lol That’s sooooooooooo awesome. Jokes aside, great post, lots of information and constructive criticism. Couldn’t agree more!

  • Delegate

    “and this group views the Harvard National MUN Conference (HNMUN) as their “super bowl.””

    I’d have to disagree with this comment. Not to say that HNMUN isn’t a great conference – it is, but because of the competitive nature of the World Circuit as you mentioned, and the fact that there are few conferences that are universally attended, I would argue that the World Circuit doesn’t have one “championship” but instead several “big matches” if you will. UPMUNC and HNMUN are clearly two examples, and I think NCSC is also another good example. CMUNNY and SCSY are also on the radar, but even then, I think that a lot of schools on the World Circuit have a two-criteria approach to how they qualify conferences:

    1) Quality of Conference
    2) Schools attending (and what team they send)

    Some may criticize this as elitist, saying that this strategy is self-serving, an old boys’ club etc. I would disagree, because first of all, schools that prove themselves are eventually considered schools to look at in “schools attending”. Second of all, schools usually attend or send a certain level of team based on conference quality. So even though it’s two criteria, the second is somewhat a repeat of the other, but still important.

    From experience on the circuit I know that several schools decided to skip out or downgrade the team they sent to SCSY this year based on the quality of conference last year, and that’s happening again this year – and as a result SCSY is viewed as somewhat on the decline by several of the top five schools (not that these are the only ones that matter, just that these are the only ones whose opinions I’m aware of.)

    That was a particularly lengthy post, but in sum:
    1) There is no one championship, but several difference very competitive conferences
    2) The teams that attend usually determine the competitiveness of the conference, though teams often leave a conference due to quality – so quality does matter
    3) I would say that now that BD has rankings, a good portion of the next ranking system should include values for the schools that attend.

  • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

    So, the “super bowl” line was a reference to what a Yale delegate called HNMUN after winning Best Large Delegation this year — http://bestdelegate.com/hnmun-2011-americas-best-model-un-team/ — We can debate whether HNMUN is the “championship,” but I think we’d agree it’s the largest and most “competitive” of the World Division conferences.

    I’d also say that your criteria reflects a World Division-based “perspective.” Looking at the “schools attending” and determining who’s “proved themselves” is about competition, i.e. the “social” part of Model UN. In contrast, I would think that National Division schools don’t look at conferences in this way — rather, their advisors / head delegates would probably ask, “Will this conference be a good educational experience?” i.e. the “academic” part of Model UN.

    And I bring this up because the question you’re implying is, “Why don’t more World Division schools attend NMUN?” — which is a good question. I just don’t think the World Division schools looked at the list of schools attending NMUN and decided against going — which would be elitist. I think it’s just that NMUN has a different focus than what World Division schools are looking for — they have different perspectives on Model UN.

    • Delegate

      I definitely agree that my reply reflects a World Division mentality, but that said I think that a World Division mentality is the way the World Division should be ranked. Regarding the Yale Delegate’s comment, it may be Yale’s Super Bowl but it’s not necessarily the World Division’s super bowl. That said if you were just quoting a Yale delegate it’s one thing, it seemed like BestDel had also decided that HMUN was the superbowl, hence it being weighted more heavily.

      Its obvious that HNMUN is the biggest conference, but I don’t think its universally the most competitive conference – with Harvard and I believe Georgetown not in attendance, you’re missing two heavyweights who bring strong contenders.

      I don’t think I was really getting at the question you posed, but it is a decent one. I don’t think NMUN has any particular attraction to World Division delegates, and part of it is the schools attending. Quite honestly, if three of the top 5 teams attended NMUN, there would be more pressure on other World Division teams to go. The conference roster, and the qualities of teams being sent is of significant importance to the decision making processes of many teams – I say that as someone who was part of the conference selection process at one of these schools and someone who has talked to other teams about it as well.

      You can call that elitist, but I would disagree. We do that in part because it allows us a self-evaluation, and in part because we know that:
      1) We will be challenged with better competition
      2) The conference has some basic level of quality – if the conference is terrible schools will eventually begin to leave.

      Not to be too harsh on Yale but I think SCSY is a good example – the conference has been a little bit under par for a year or two (perhaps more, don’t know) and has been steadily losing teams. Several teams made the decision to go largely because of the other teams in attendance. After the conference, several teams had conversations about whether or not to attend the next year. While the decision obviously isn’t entirely based on who’s going, it’s a significant part of the consideration, and weighs heavily enough to keep people attending conferences that aren’t considered the best (but in the end a badly run conference will weigh more than good teams attending because good teams will just leave.)

      • KFC

        I agree that the attending schools at NMUN make a big impact on why the “World Division” schools do not attend that conference, but I disagree with the two reasons you provided.

        1. I don’t think the lack of say, Harvard, Chicago, and West Point at NMUN automatically disqualifies that conference from being competitive. I’m pretty sure NMUN is a challenging conference — and much more so if you’re used to playing by the World Division philosophy, rules, and judging criteria. Furthermore, schools like Florida International and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello win more awards than the vast majority of schools that attended HNMUN (for example, they won more awards than West Point, etc.) and they attend NMUN too (and win). And judging a conference’s competitiveness by top 3 schools does a disservice to all the other schools that truly make a conference competitive — HNMUN is competitive because there are MANY good delegates in each committee, not just because there are a few good delegates. The point is, NMUN draws high quality teams (albeit teams that do well under NMUN’s philosophy and rules), so it’s not the real reason why World Division schools attend.

        Rather, I think the real, subtle reason is that the social networking component are so far apart. World Division schools tend to be in the U.S. News Top 100 Nationally ranked universities and they want to attend conferences with teams from peer institutions — and attend conferences that emphasize the social component to facilitate this interaction. Why? Not necessarily because they are elitist, but because they connect better on the same level, particularly in terms of career interests (i.e. networking). Delegates in the World Division schools know delegates from all the other teams. And delegates from these schools are all on a similar mission that drives them: to graduate from a top research university and (for most delegates) go into a similar set of top law schools, investment banks, consulting firms, international affairs institutions, graduate programs, Peace Corps or Teach for America, etc. That’s not to say NMUN attendees don’t go into these fields either or that one is better than the other, but I doubt the vast majority of them have the same career interests. The point is, teams pick conferences where there are teams of other delegates just like themselves.

        2. I’m not sure if your two paragraphs are connected but if so, it seems to imply that NMUN isn’t at the basic level of quality for World Division schools to attend and that’s why they don’t choose to attend that conference. I would disagree with this argument. NMUN is well-run and one of the points Ryan made in this article is that having a board of directors allows them to do so, whereas chronic miscommunication during Secretariat transitions among World Division-hosted conferences (you bring up SCSY as an example) hinders conferences from improving. Furthermore, from everything I’ve heard from these schools, NMUN has always been well-run, and in fact, NMUN is quite proud of their commitment rates — it publishes a list of teams that have attended the conference for years, including some with 40+ years of attendance: http://www.nmun.org/ny11_downloads/11%20NMUN_NY_Program_web.pdf

        Instead of quality of the conference, I think the real reason why World Division schools do not attend NMUN is because it is so different from everything they’re used to — the focus on accuracy of policy and research, the strict rules of procedure, the emphasis of the academic exercise over the social components, the way awards are judged and given, etc. My alma mater, UCLA, went to NMUN during my freshman year. The head delegate said it wasn’t a good conference but had difficulty elaborating why, and so when I became head delegate, I never took my team there. In retrospect, it wasn’t because the conference wasn’t good — it just wasn’t good compared to what we’re used to seeing at the HNMUNs, UPMUNCs, and McMUNs of the world. The point is, teams pick conferences because of quality (like you mentioned) but they also pick conferences that simulate Model UN the way they are used to it being simulated.

        • anonymous at UChicago

          I think that of of the real reasons the World Division does not attend NMUN is the lack of crisis committees. On the World Division, we prepare almost exclusively for crisis and that is the type of committee which excites us not only in a social manner but also in an intellectual one. With that I disagree about your assessment that National Division is more academic than the World Division. It requires just as much prep work if not more to go into a creative committee than a modern day GA. In a modern day GA it is fairly easy to find your country’s position on a topic but to find Lord Thomas Tennison’s opinion on the Wars of Spanish Succession is much more difficult. Additionally crisis committees require the delegate to be constantly thinking, not only in terms of what a resolution might say but also in terms of how to respond to the committee crisis but also to a number of personal crises you may be involved with at any given moment. At UChicago hosting a conference more like the National Division is done by our sister organization MUNUC exclusively for high school students. This prepares us to see a different side of the MUN experience. By hosting ChoMUN we get to see the opposite side of a crisis committee which allows us to refine our crisis skills even more.

          The real reason the P5 wasn’t at NMUN … because they were at ChoMUN instead.

          • Katie

            So just like in the real UN, the “P5” are what’s holding up progress in Model UN…..

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think you can say any conference on the so-called “World” Circuit is really a championship. Even if you look at Best Delegate’s on top 5 ranked schools there is no one conference that all the school’s on that list compete against each other at, and only one that more than three compete with each other (UPMUNC).

    The reason for this is obvious: pretty much the best conferences are hosted by the top schools, so that will always leave out at least one of the top contenders in a head to head matchup. This is a perennial problem with college rankings in the “world” division. Even HNMUN, which you describe as the championship, is missing Harvard and Georgetown, in my mind this excludes it from being any kind of true championship.

    A true championship conference would need to have two things: all of the top programs competing against each other and all of those programs bringing roughly the same number of delegates. Until that happens, no conference will really be the pinnacle conference.

    • KFC

      I don’t think Ryan originally intended to imply that HNMUN is the championship. He used a common reference point (Super Bowl) to make a point that HNMUN is the largest of all the conferences that the World Division schools attend and in this article will represent the typical conference on the World Division circuit. If you want to get technical, the better sports analogy would have said HNMUN is one of several BCS Bowls, but I don’t think many readers would’ve understood that analogy.

  • KFC

    I think readers who are commenting about how HNMUN should not be considered a championship are missing the point of the article. The point of the article is to describe two sets of values and consequently how conferences differ to serve those sets of values to its corresponding set of participants. It’s not about HNMUN itself but rather the circuit that it represents.

    However, the comments are valuable:

    1. It clearly shows the competitive mentality of the World Division circuit.

    2. It distinguishes the two circuits in one other way that Ryan did not mention in the article: the “National Division” probably has a true championship conference in NMUN (all schools attending; staff drawn from different schools) whereas the best team on the “World Division” circuit can only be extrapolated from performances at multiple major conferences since teams cannot attend their own conference. Ironically, the National Division schools are probably less conscious about a so-called championship while the World Division schools are on average much more competitive and conscious about rankings.

  • Justin

    While the “national” and “world” classifications are interesting, it’s also important to note many programs (particularly those on the west coast) attend neither NMUN nor HNMUN. UC Santa Cruz, for example, only attended conferences hosted by other UC schools (SBIMUN, UCBMUNC, and LAMUN). UCI attended UPMUNC, UCBMUNC and a conference in Spain. USC attended SBIMUN and LAMUN. Many newer programs do not have the resources to attend large, faraway conferences, while others do but choose not to attend either (like Cal State Long Beach, who attended SBIMUN, Bonn International MUN, and UCRMUN).

    Perhaps recognition a “local” league is necessary as well.

    • KFC

      It’s not about just NMUN vs. HNMUN but rather the circuits they represent. I would count these West Coast conferences as part of the “World Division” circuit and these West Coast schools that attend to be part of that circuit. They are, after all, student-hosted conferences with student-led teams. UCBMUN is somewhat of the connector here — they draw many schools from the East Coast to their conference.

      However, there are many West Coast schools that I could classify as “National Division” schools even though they may occasionally attend a student-run conference. Most of these are Cal States, community colleges, or smaller private schools and they attend NMUN or previously attended the PAXMUN conferences. UCRMUN even bills their conference as a preparation conference for NMUN.

      • SKK

        I mentioned in this in a comment on a different article, but I’ll mention it here too. Not all student-led conferences are the same, so you can’t lump in the West Coast student-led teams/conferences with WorldMUN if they run their conferences with the same value system of NMUN. I think most West Coast teams that don’t attend WorldMUN would be insulted to be considered part of that “circuit” in your methodology, and it’s possible though I’m not sure that the ones that do, but are for whatever reason part of your “Nationals circuit” would similarly be surprised. This is a major weakness in the classification system.

        Additionally, plenty of teams spend their whole year preparing for MUNFW, the largest conference by delegate count on the West Coast, so you may need to expand your number of “circuits” if you’re doing it that way. And if you’re classifying by student-run or not, you need more subcategories, because lumping in the schools that value preparation and education (and are student-run) with the schools that value crisis and fantasy committees (and are student-run) doesn’t make sense.

        • KFC

          I agree with your arguments and particularly that the main differentiator between conferences is the value system (e.g. closer to HNMUN’s or NMUN’s) and not necessarily if it is student-led or organizaton-led. I mentioned UCRMUN as an example but yes, there are other student-led conferences that should be classified as part of the National Division.

          Ultimately, teams will automatically be classified by the conferences they attend. If they attend conferences in both circuits and win, they will show up on both rankings. Florida International University is a prime example of this.

  • Anonymous

    Why not interview someone from a school that goes to both World and National conferences? Maybe have this person write a guest post as to what they perceive to be the major differences between both circuits.

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  • Super Bowl Champ

    First point:
    Let the P5 speak for themselves and do not lump us all together. You said, “The real reason the P5 wasn’t at NMUN … because they were at ChoMUN instead.” I say ‘not so fast, my friend.’ Let us get the facts straight first.

    P5 attendance:
    Yale wasn’t at ChoMUN
    Penn wasn’t at ChoMUN
    Harvard was at ChoMUN
    Chicago hosts ChoMUN
    Georgetown was at ChoMUN

    Okay, let me get my math straight here. That means that 3 out of the P5 did not compete at ChoMUN. Sorry to burst your Maroon bubble, bubble boy, but it doesn’t look like the P5 wanted to kick it in Chitown that weekend. Taking Best Delegate’s top 10 standings into account, 5 out of the 1-10 schools did not attend ChoMUN either.

    Second point:
    Your assessment of Crisis Committees is ridiculous. The crisis committee trend is overblown and is, to be honest, watering down the circuit. I fully understand that the opportunity to dress up and play make believe excites many on the World Division. I mean come on, who doesn’t want the opportunity to experience Halloween 7-10 times a year?

    Our division’s fascination with portraying Lord Thomas Tennison, flying around like Harry Potter, pretending that we are prancing around Middle Earth, or simulating Josiah Bartlet’s West Wing cabinet is laughable. The Best Model UN Programs and teams should be based on who is the best at Model UN, rather than who can simulate ‘Jesus vs. Satan’ the best. If you want to create a Model Crisis Conference Circuit or Model Method Acting Circuit, then go on ahead and create one. Do not; however, lie to yourself and pretend that reliving your favorite Disney movie or bedtime story against only 12-15 other delegates somehow makes you the best Model UN delegate.

    I understand that traditional conferences tend to drag on and may at times get boring. Guess what? That is exactly how the real world works. Finding real solutions to real problems takes time. Simulating real world issues and finding solutions to these problems should be what Model UN is about. The opportunity to solve real world problems and live in the present may not carry a lot of weight or mean much to the good ole boys in Chicago, but it certainly means something to a lot of us out here. Running around a hotel with a loaded water gun or toy pistol does not therefore make crisis committees more academically rigorous. If anything, it makes a bunch of incredibly intelligent college students on our circuit look like nothing more than emotionally immature teenagers.

    Last point:
    The reason why HNMUN is seen as a “Championship” is precisely because it still aims to somehow simulate the UN. The only other conferences that strike a balance between Candy Land (crisis committees) and Reality are UPMUNC, NMUN, and World Mun. I know everyone down at Georgetown would like to believe that not participating at HNMUN does not subtract anything from your “powerhouse” status. Guess what? It does.

    • Best.Comment.Ever.

      “Running around a hotel with a loaded water gun or toy pistol does not therefore make crisis committees more academically rigorous. If anything, it makes a bunch of incredibly intelligent college students on our circuit look like nothing more than emotionally immature teenagers.” Brilliant!

      • anonymous at UChicago

        Do your research. Lord Thomas Tennison was a real person and he was on the body drafting a real document like the one the committee at ChoMUN was simulating. Also just because you talk about the real world being boring doesn’t mean that the actually interesting crisis committees run this year are any less real. In other conferences when the delegates are debating current issues in a GA or an ECOSOC, the solutions they many times come up with are more like candy land then the solutions found in Crisis committees. Also the topics used at many non-crisis conferences are many times just as foolish as the Harry Potter committee you speak of above. If you examine the list of committees from the most recent crisis conferences (including ChoMUN) the majority are not based in fiction, rather they are based in real historical scenarios. Why else do we study history other than to learn from the past and hopefully use that information to make a difference.

        Also very few delegates who attend either the national division or the world divisions’ conferences are ever going to work for the UN. Most will go out into the world, where the skills they learned from doing Model UN will help them in their personal and professional lives. Skills like speaking, note/resolution/directive writing, and bloc building can be helpful what ever profession a person enters into. It is ludicrous to think that GAs and ECOSOCs are any better than crisis committees at this type of education. Both require research, professionalism and the skills it takes to succeed in life.

        • Katie

          Since I do work at the UN, as a result in part of my Model UN experience and also serving on more ECOSOC’s than I can count as a staff member and delegate, I can say without a doubt that if you spoke to anyone in the international field – who does take this work and these issues seriously – they would think that doing “crisis” committees instead of serious study and thought in a simulation of a real committee would be someone not worthy of working in our line of work.

  • Katie

    Apologies in advance for any typos in the post – it got long 🙂

    I think an important point needs to be made about the “types” of schools that attend NMUN vs. WorldMUN. Just because a school is ranked highly – does not mean that their Model UN Program is good. It does not mean that every single delegate is magically way smarter than delegates at schools which aren’t ranked as highly. Please let that marinate. You, students who attend Harvard or Yale or any other top ranked school – are NOT better than other Model UN students by virtue of the fact you attend those schools. Excelling in Model UN is not the same as excelling in AP Math or Art History in High School. So please, lets stop thinking that because your school is ranked and you got in, you start on a “different” level than everyone else.

    In fact, I think one additional factorshould be considered when thinking about what makes a good delegate, and as a result a good team, which I have seen greatly contribute to NMUN in particular:

    Non-traditional students: Those who often attend public universities, or even god forbid … community colleges (gasp!) often have certain personality qualities that some, not all by any means, 18 – 22 year olds don’t have – such as maturity, being polite, respectful, having practical and relevant professional experience to draw on – making them stronger and better able to do well as a delegate. Additionally, many times these students in particular have a higher sense of responsibility, personally, as well as to the program, which as a result means taking the conference more seriously, thus working harder for longer hours and maybe even sleeping at night.

    Non-traditional students often also have a shorter time in school – maybe they are transfers, or are at a 2 year program, thus they want to make the absolute most out of the 1 maybe 2 times they will attend a big conference. In addition, these and other students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds might have made significant sacrificies that some of those at “Top” schools might not have to make.

    Not EVERY person who attends one of the schools that goes to WorldMUN, etc. are rich. I want to stress I’m sure there are many, many examples of people who aren’t like that.

    However, you cannot deny that there are a lot of students who fit the sterotypical, privileged upper middle class bill attending WorldMUN – as there are in NMUN and related conferences. However, the proportion of non-traditional students, from non-4 year private universities is much higher – which I believe means we have a group of people who on average care more, work harder, and bring some incredibly diverse experiences to the table.

    I’ve been to many of the conferences in the “WorldMUN circuit” and also attended many regetional conferences and NMUN – there is a difference in the approach to MUN, as stated above.

    In my opinion, I found an appreciation for more than just ethnic diversity at NMUN related conference, meaning in particular, I found an acceptance of people that are not from Top 100 schools that I really find more in line with my personal values. I can name many schools who attended ChoMUN, WorldMUN, HMUN, etc. who are not from the east coast / ivy leage or internationally recognized universities who found themselves marginalized and not viewed as serious contenders for recognition at these conferences. I personally, wasn’t part of that group – and found I was accepted very freely, but the fact that anyone experienced that at all is something I think people who attend those conferences should think about. There are many community colleges and public universities that have just as strong, if not stronger programs that students who attend WorldMUN, etc. will never, ever get to meet – I think a conference which combined both groups would be fascinating to see and I know who I would by in large put my money on as performing stronger at the conference…

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  • SKK

    I attended UPMUNC as a delegate a few years back, when I attended a community college, and was one of two non-Ivy League schools’ delegates to win an award. At the time, Yale won the majority of awards, and uniformly my delegation complained about the quality of a few countries that were represented by Yale. This post is not designed to complain about Yale – frankly, I thought they were the middle of the pack that year, and teams get better or worse every now and then so having a weak year isn’t reflective of the long-term strength or weakness of the Yale team.

    This post is designed to highlight that Yale’s own conference was doing country assignments the week after UPMUNC, and Yale won the majority of awards. I don’t know how many great countries UPenn’s team got at Yale, but I know that the perception of that being the intent was very high among the delegates. I know that I’ve been labeled a delegate that shouldn’t be taken seriously because I was “from a shit school” and thus not worthy of consideration by Yale (though I was good enough to win an award).

    Now, why is this how I interpret what happened? Because of the level of arrogance displayed by some of these teams based on their schools being excellent and highly-ranked. For example, this idea that five Model UN teams can be labeled the “P5″ of Model UN. First off, I’ve never seen any of those schools besides Chicago at a non-Ivy League/”World Circuit”-type conference. Chicago, by the way, was good, but who gave them or any of the other four the right to label themselves the five Gods of Collegiate Model UN?

    Secondly, any good student of the United Nations will tell you that it’s the P5 (the real one, not MUN teams that have an inflated self-worth) that blocks most of the needed progress and actions that would otherwise be taken in the world by the UN. In other words, the P5 are often an impediment to progress. The fact that those five Model UN teams are likening themselves to those five countries speaks volumes about either their values or their level of understanding of the United Nations.

    Which leads me into another point, that about the Super Bowl Champ comment above. There’s a difference between two types of committees both referred to as “crisis committees.” A Security Council, with a well-managed simulation of an unexpected but plausible real-world event (assassination of a world leader, uprisings in an area of the world, etc.) is a REAL crisis committee, and in moderation can be beneficial to the simulation. I think it gets out of hand when it’s 10 committees like that, all having crises going on, because it undervalues research and preparation done before the conference in favor of talents like natural charisma and ability to BS. But as I said, in moderation it’s not bad. Harry Potter committees, or the NFL Draft, or Middle Earth, are not crises. They’re fantasy simulations. Imagine if, when assigned a country like Canada, you were allowed to send one delegate to the GA, one to ECOSOC, one to UNDP, and one to the basement where they’re playing Dungeons and Dragons. Now tell me how this is different. Super Bowl Champ has it completely right – it makes people look like morons, and it’s not real Model UN.

    The last thing I want to mention is the utter insularity of the viewpoints of some of these people – not just the schools mentioned but a few others too. In California, there are people who do a conference nearly every month – maybe just a 2-day with 3-4 schools, or maybe a 500-1000 person simulation. But there are so many schools that do it in California that there is a lot more experience created. As a result, California produces some of the best delegates out there. The Northwest has a thriving MUN community, though slightly smaller, and Texas has a lot of strong schools as well. Finally, the Southeast (lower Atlantic seaboard) and Midwest both have one big annual conference in addition to sending their teams to out-of-region big conferences, and have strong, though spaced out and less-frequent conferences and teams. But by focusing exclusively on the DC-to-Boston-to-Chicago triangle, you’re dismissing those teams without even ever having seen them at a conference. That’s not a good way to make an accurate ranking. I hope as MUN becomes more prevalent, it becomes more well-funded around the country as well, and teams can meet other teams from around the country and really get a better idea of how they do it. I know my team could learn a lot from teams in the other corners of the USA – I hope that the Northeastern rich-kid schools decide they can learn from outside their well-heeled circle of friends as well.

    Finally, as another person who has worked at the UN due to my involvement in Model UN and actually DIRECTLY due to my involvement in National Model UN in particular (I got my foot in the door due to a few people that came as observers and speakers to NMUN one year), I can tell you that it does help. Whoever said it “can’t” help has either never been to NMUN (or any conferences outside their normal sphere), or didn’t go with an open mind. Kudos to Ryan, a guy who comes from the Northeast, for going to NMUN with an open mind and providing an honest and neutral opinion based on the information he absorbed with his eyes actually open.

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