Model United Nations and Student Experience

3 mins read

By Ryan Ryu ’25

Model United Nations (MUN) is an educational simulation and competition that allows students to role-play as delegates to the United Nations and participate in a simulated UN session. MUN aims to educate and engage the next generation in international affairs and diplomacy while fostering the development of critical thinking, public speaking, negotiation, and leadership skills. MUN had its roots in the late 1940s and was first held at Harvard University in 1950. Since then, it has evolved into a popular educational resource for students globally, with thousands participating in local, regional, and international events.

Model UN started as the Model League of Nations Assembly. In 1947, two years after the League of Nations transitioned into the United Nation, the Model League of Nations Assembly became the Model United Nations Assembly. The Model UN program, like its forerunner, has traditionally been a student-driven organization. 

The program has been and remains a collection of independent conferences. In the 1980s, an important organizing force, the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), recognized the momentum of the Model UN programs and founded its Model UN and Youth Department to coordinate and track the development of the Model UN on a global level. 

MUN is well-established and widely recognized for its educational value, with a growing number of schools and universities offering MUN programs, particularly in Asia and Europe. In a typical MUN event, participants are assigned a country and expected to represent its views and policies in committee sessions. These sessions involve debating, negotiating, and working together to draft and pass resolutions on various global issues. 

The increasing importance of international relations and diplomacy and the recognition of MUN as a valuable tool for personal development drives its popularity. MUN provides a unique opportunity for students to become active global citizens while gaining a deeper understanding of global issues, learning about different cultures, and developing critical thinking, public speaking, negotiation, and leadership skills.

In February, 15 students from The Frederick Gunn School Model United Nations program traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 60th North American Invitational Model United Nations (NAIMUN), the Western Hemisphere’s preeminent high school Model UN conference. 

Gunn students were among more than 3,300 participants at the four-day conference, one of the oldest in the country and most competitive in the world. Since the start of the Winter Term, Gunn students had been preparing to represent Libya and Panama and their policies in roles on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and other Economic and Social Councils (ECOSOC). 

Students from across the states share their own experience of MUN conferences:

“The United Nations — an international body of unity through memberships of nearly every country in the world. Not only has the idea of international affairs fascinated me through the computer screens, but local political campaigns in Massachusetts, arguably the breadbasket of diplomacy, have drawn me deeper into the world of leadership and decision-making. Participating in Model UN since freshman year of high school has expanded my experience in my interests and tested the limits of what I can achieve in research, patience, public speaking, and especially resilience. My end goal in participating in Model UN conferences isn’t necessarily to bring home any special award but rather to make new friends through meaningful interactions with others that come from all corners of the earth. My first conference at BosMUN last year blew my mind away because everyone was so nice compared to the super toxic and tryhard people the upperclassmen informed me of. I was able to especially connect with those within my bloc to form a successful resolution to the issue in my committee. I also learned a great deal of information about thorium. I look forward to other exciting conferences in the future like NAIMUN where I get to meet new people and discuss new pressing issues!”                        -Aden Huang’25, Winchester High School, Winchester, MA. 

“I started doing Model UN because it coincided with my love for history, philosophy, geopolitics, and public speaking. It allowed me to pursue my academic interests despite not being related to an actual class of mine. My favorite thing about Model UN is the community — the way in which delegates from around the world gather and discuss current issues. Since starting Model UN, I’ve learned to stress collaboration over argumentation and work with fellow students who have very disparate interests or opinions. My goal in Model UN is to become a stronger speaker and be able to hold my own against the juniors and seniors who lead unmoderated caucuses and speak eloquently on the fly during moderated caucuses and round robins. Taking part in Model UN has also helped me feel more confident as an individual and appreciative of the work that actual United Nations Delegates take part in.”                                           -Ethan Moon’26, Brentwood School, Brentwood, CA

“I started doing Model UN in my sophomore year of high school to explore different opportunities my school held and discover possible new interests and hobbies. After attending my first conference, YMUN 2022, I fell in love with it. I loved learning about my topic in-depth and learning how to debate and argue certain topics and discussions. Model UN overall has helped with my debate and speech skills and my writing and researching skills. My goal moving forward is always to get at least an honorable delegate, and if not, always try my best.”       -Leyla Parsi’24, Brentwood School, Brentwood, CA.

Photo credit Ryan Ryu ’25

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