About Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's students take Manhattan

31 March, 2017

Saint Mary's Model UN delegation standing in front of UN

Twenty-one Saint Mary’s students have just returned home from New York City, where they got an experiential crash course in international diplomacy at the National Model United Nations (NMUN), the largest United Nations simulation in the world.

Representing Portugal, the Saint Mary’s delegates were among some 3,000 students in competition from around the world at NMUN’s Conference A, and this year earned a raft of awards recognizing their achievements.

Students Elinor Hammond and Sara Little earned Outstanding Delegate awards for the efforts, simulating the work of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. Analia Lowe and Jermaine Addo won an Outstanding Position Paper award, and the delegation overall took home an Honorable Mention Delegation award. Besides taking part in the Model UN itself, Saint Mary’s students attended a mission briefing hosted by Portugal’s Permanent Mission to the UN, and had an opportunity to discuss UN policy with Portuguese diplomats.

“It was inspiring to see in person how an organization like the UN works, and comes together,” says Hammond, who is pursuing a double major in International Development Studies (IDS) and Political Science. “It showed how messy the reality of diplomacy is, but also how critical the work is.”

Students delegations at NMUN are assigned a country, learn its history and position on major contemporary issues, and represent the country in negotiation about real-world concerns—which this year meant a focus on issues such as the crisis of protracted refugee displacement in Europe, education in Africa, and others.

“It happens fast,” says Sara Little, an IDS student pursuing a minor in Political Science. “You walk in and it’s ‘what country are you?’” and it starts. You have to be prepared, you have to have your speaking points, you need to be able to change your approach and what you’re thinking. It’s extremely demanding.”

Little says this kind of experiential learning experience brings students closer to the issues and ideas they study in class than they could get in class alone: “It brings home the importance of consensus and negotiation in a way the classroom can’t explore as fully, and makes you aware of the pitfalls of the process as well. It sounds simple to say, but it really makes you aware that these international bodies are not idealized things; they’re made up of individual people, each with their own interests and ideas.”

For that reason, says IDS/Political Science student Jermaine Addo, who was at NMUN for the second time in as many years, “You have to be flexible. You really come to understand how this institution, even if it’s imperfect, is about consensus and the common good.”