The Model UN season is back! Santa Margarita Catholic High School kicked off the Model UN season with the South Orange County Model United Nations (SOCOMUN) conference shortly after the real United Nations started its own 67th session. The conference featured a capacity crowd of over 1,300 freshmen and returners, including many alumni of our Best Delegate Academy Model UN summer camps who were either chairing or participating at the conference.
SOCOMUN is the largest one-day novice “training” conference in the world. It’s not only highly recommended by Best Delegate, but by advisors from the circuit; I always hear from newer teachers who said they registered because this conference was consistently recommended by other teachers around the circuit. With that in mind, I want to share five key takeaways into what makes a successful novice conference.
1. Emphasize the novice and training aspects. SOCOMUN is meant for novices and is meant to be a training conference. Their philosophy is to ease delegates into their first experience rather than making them dive into the deep end and feel lost. The conference is only one day with most committees being small and in a classroom setting. Freshmen committees (actually they just get a room and topic without even a committee name attached to it to avoid confusion) start off with icebreakers followed by a 30-minute session that explains the flow of debate and rules of procedure. The chairs are there to guide the delegates on their first Model UN experience.
2. The conference is divided into 3 levels. Most of the committees are freshmen-only. For novices who aren’t freshmen, there are Not Freshmen committees. Finally, there are also Advanced committees for those who have significant Model UN experience. This is all meant to create a learning environment where the experience levels are similar and students are not intimidated to participate for the first time.
3. The chairs are highly trained, welcoming, and helpful. This is not just my analysis. This is feedback that I heard from others as I roamed the halls. One student advisor remarked that the chairs are highly trained, professional, and are able to guide committee. Other teachers and parents remarked that the staff has been very welcoming and helpful inside and outside of committee. All this creates a positive experience for the first-time student or parent.
4. Closing Ceremony is like a happy pep rally. There are a lot of awards presented during Closing Ceremony and they do it efficiently with 29 committees presenting in 22 minutes. I estimate that about 40-50% of the committee received awards. Students are always happy and surprised — I heard it again this year when a delegate remarked “How did I win an award? I only spoke twice!” But at a one-day novice conference, that’s already a big accomplishment! Having spoken to many Southern California MUN alumni who’ve started at SOCOMUN, they mentioned that winning that initial award at the conference was what really boosted their confidence to stick with Model UN after having been in school for less than a month.
5. Allies help support the conference. SOCOMUN is highly successful because of the Santa Margarita team and the work that advisor John Remmell puts in, but at the same time they recognize it is important to get allies involved. For example, they always invite a few senior officers from other schools to help chair the conference. The parents of the students are also highly involved as they help setup and cleanup the advisor’s lounge (which was generously stacked with breakfast and lunch) and with the delegates’ lunch. Many parents from other schools also visit. It’s important to get allies such as other schools and parents involved so that there is external support for the conference.
Like usual, we’ll end the article with the liveblog of the conference. Check out the staff and delegates in action, including a good number of our Best Delegate Academy Model UN summer camp alumni from both the Yale and UC Irvine camps!
Thanks to Santa Margarita advisor John Remmell for having me stop by and for his continued support of Best Delegate. It was wonderful seeing everyone again! We look forward to seeing everyone again and meeting others on the road this year!