The College of William and Mary hosted approximately 1,000 high school students for the 25th annual William and Mary High School Model United Nations Conference from Nov. 18 to 20.
The College’s Model UN team, which is part of the International Relations club, administered the conference, known as WMHSMUN. The IR club event attracted high schools from places all around the country.
“We have actually 1,000 high schoolers that come from all over the country, about 60 schools or so, mostly in Virginia, Maryland, some from North Carolina,” Secretary General Will Shimer ’13 said. “This year, we’re excited to welcome some schools from California, Florida and even Costa Rica.”
Expanding the Model UN program and attracting schools from diverse locations was an important goal this year for Registration Director Brendan Greenley ’13.
“I wanted to get schools that could increase the level of debate,” Greenley said.
For the Model UN team, WMHSMUN is an essential fundraiser. Proceeds from the event fund the club’s trips to nationwide conferences throughout the year.
“After a while, you couldn’t ask club members to pay for a bus to Georgetown or up to Pennsylvania, so we needed a club fundraiser, and a lot of colleges around the country started running high school Model UN conferences,” Shimer said. “We charge the high schoolers to come here, and we use that money to travel to other college conferences.”
In addition to raising funds, the conference is meant to encourage conversation and debate among high school students about world issues. The committees the students served on and the topics they discussed reflected current events, and thus were subject to some unpredictability.
“We had the Apple Board of Directors, and then Steve Jobs dies, and so it’s like, ‘Oh. How do we deal with that?’” Shimer said. “Or, we have Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and of course everything with Syria and Libya — it’s constantly changing.”
WMHSMUN also serves as a means of attracting prospective students to the College.
“It’s a great way to promote William and Mary,” Leena Al-Souki ’14 said. “Lots of the high school students who come here to the conference decide that they really like it. They see how we work, how organized we are, and they see William and Mary and how awesome it is, and a lot of them come here because of the conferences that we do.”
Between the opening ceremonies on Friday and the closing ceremonies on Sunday, students attended committee sessions, a ghost tour, a delegate social and a keynote presentation by a member of the U.S. Department of State.
“I think it went really well,” Greenley said. “Of all the emails I’ve gotten, I haven’t gotten a single complaint. Everything from the keynote speaker to the closing ceremonies went flawlessly.”
The Model UN team’s next project is the William and Mary Middle School Model UN Conference, which will take place in February. Meanwhile, planning will begin almost immediately for next year’s high school conference.
The Woodlands Hotel and Suites served as the primary lodging facility for the high school students who participated in the conference.