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Northern Vermont University Students Attend First Virtual Harvard National Model United Nations Conference


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Northern Vermont University Students Attend First Virtual Harvard National Model United Nations Conference

Johnson and Lyndonville, Vermont — Northern Vermont University Model United Nations Club participants spent a weekend as delegates of Moldova, Sudan, and Nicaragua during the 67th annual (and first virtual) Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) conference, held February 11-14.

Hosted by Harvard University in Boston and staffed by Harvard students, the conference draws 2,500 college students from across the world to experience what it’s like to be a citizen of another country so unlike your own. Student delegates take on the role of the country they are assigned to, and actively debate for their country’s position during a selection of forums just like occurs during UN negotiations.

“In being a delegate, you step outside your comfort zone and experience what the rest of the world is like,” said Alexandra Huff ’23, a Moldova delegate this year and an NVU-Lyndon dual major in Broadcast and Digital Journalism, and Digital Communications: PR and Marketing. Delegates take on a character and see what international policies mean to that country, she said. “You’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; it gives you a unique perspective.”

“It offers a real-world experience and chance to get out of the classroom and experience this simulation of global politics in action,” said NVU Faculty Advisor David Plazek, who introduced the Model UN club to both NVU campuses, first as faculty at Lyndon in 2009 and then as faculty at Johnson in 2013. “The students learn by doing and meet people from all over the globe.” The two clubs joined together this year, and will continue on as one unified NVU Model UN club, Plazek said.

Students from 32 countries around the world Zoomed into this conference this year, from the U.S. to Venezuela and Serbia to India. Led by Plazek and student Head Delegate Grace McGee, the NVU team consisted of Magnificent Schmidl, Robert Bettis, Kayla Irick, Maria Mesquita, Alexandra Huff, Quinlan Peer, Patrick Wickstrom, and Kaitlin Flannigan.

For Grace McGee, an NVU-Johnson student graduating in spring 2021 with a major in Biology and a minor in both Math and Global Studies, she has “learned how big, and small, the world is. [Before this] I could never have imagined spending a weekend working with people from around the world on common goals; it’s a unique experience.” 

While McGee represented Nicaragua for the Special Summit on Sustainable Development committee, other NVU students served as representatives on the Legal, Economics, and Finance committee and the Disarmament and International Security committee. The students debated the legal right to education, the balancing of Inuit traditions and modern economies, international security, and megacities and rural development. 

The experience extends beyond politics, too, putting the students in touch with peers from around the world to network, make new friends, and learn about different cultures.

“Every year I look forward to seeing my friends from Pakistan,” said Huff, who marked her third year of participation in the conference. 

Beyond the committee and caucus sessions, the virtual conference included a variety of ways for the students to interact, including a career and opportunities fair, an online concert, and students also set up their own Zoom chats. For instance, some NVU students Zoomed with students in China during Chinese New Year celebrations, and talked about real-life experiences with people in Ghana.

“The energy and vitality of the students at this event— whether virtual or in-person — is palpable. The students arrive at the conference on Thursday and when I join them on Friday they are already glowing from the experience,” Plazek said. “We live for that, and it happens all the time with Model UN. It’s an invigorating experience. It brings me joy.”