This weekend the College of William and Mary will host the 22nd annual William and Mary High School Model United Nations Conference. The event, which is organized and run by the International Relations Club, invites high school students from all over the country to participate as delegates in a traditional Model U.N. competition.
Participating high schools at WMHSMUN, pronounced wuh-MIS-men, are selected on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most delegates hail from Virginia and surrounding states, but this year delegates from as far away as Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas will be in attendance.
Secretary-General of the conference R.C. Rasmus ’09 believes the conference’s setting, on old campus in Blair Hall and Tyler Hall, makes it unique.
“WMHSMUN takes place at William and Mary, one of the most beautiful and historic campuses in existence,” Rasmus said. “Every year, several delegates take the opportunity to get to know the university during their visit, and some wind up falling in love with the College while they’re here.”
The College’s conference is also one of the largest on the East Coast, with around 1,200 students scheduled to attend this year. Rasmus said the conference puts “heavy emphasis on diplomacy rather than simple competition. To this end, WMHSMUN’s most prestigious honor, the Michael Charles Coon Award, is not given to the school with the most winning delegates, but the one that most embodies the spirit of diplomacy over the course of the [conference].”
The event begins this afternoon and the first committee session will be held this evening. Afterward, delegates will have the chance to go on a ghost tour of Colonial Williamsburg.
Saturday is devoted to committee sessions, but following dinner, delegates have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of social events, including the annual Delegate Social and Movie Night. There will also be a game night, a new addition to the conference this year featuring various Vegas-style casino games.
The Model UN system is designed to educate students on international politics and the global community. As diplomats, students are expected to represent the political views of a particular country, both past and present to come to a resolution that is consistent with the country’s foreign policy. According to Rasmus, selecting which committees will be featured is a challenge in itself.
“[Picking committees is] an intense and collaborative process, one that involves the entire WMHSMUN Secretariat and a number of our committee directors,” Rasmus said.
Certain popular committees are annual conference fixtures, such as the United Nations Security Council and the Disarmament and International Security Council. But each year, the Secretariat works to offer fresh and exciting committees to students. This year will feature numerous historical committees and agencies, including a Cherokee Chiefs vs. U.S. Senate joint committee based in 1838 that will focus on the Trail of Tears, and a committee of the British East India Company in 1756, among others. A crisis committee headed by Nakul Kadaba ’11 will introduce different crises during committee sessions to keep participants on their feet.
Last year, the IR Club started IRC Cares, a service initiative designed “to get the club and community more involved in international development issues,” according to the conference’s website. This year’s beneficiary is the non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders. Delegates raised over $1,000 last year and IRC hopes to improve that number this year.
Organizing the conference is no easy task; planning for next year’s conference is already underway. The new secretariat will be selected a few weeks after the conference ends and begins meeting weekly in February. Each year the secretariat strives to make changes and improvements to keep the event as one of the premier Model UN Conferences nationwide.
“Everyone who participates really makes the conference run,” said Mary McKillop ’11, IR club director of public relations. “Without the general staff, the committee would stop. Our directors did a fantastic job even before the conference started, writing the background guides. They set up what they hoped to see happen by giving the delegates a sense of history of what has happened in previous conferences.”