ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
This year marked the fifth annual HenMUN conference at the university, a student-run model United Nations experience that brings local high schoolers to campus for debates and simulations about domestic and foreign policy issues.
On Friday, HenMUN festivities began with the arrival of local high schoolers, who, during their time at the conference, were referred to as “delegates.” Shortly after they arrived, delegates were broken up into committee groups, each comprised of a specific aspect of foreign relations, domestic policy and media.
This year, the topics of discussion encompassed a global perspective, with forums entitled “Economic Commision for Latin America and the Caribbean,” “World Health Organization (WHO)” and “International Monetary Fund.”
Junior international relations major and Secretary-General of HenMun Gerard Weir said that since its inception, HenMun has grown in its participation, with more than 500 students representing a myriad of high schools competing this year.
Olivia Davis, a sophomore international relations major and Under-Secretary-General of Economics and Social Councils for HenMUN, said that the topics of discussion are generally picked according to their relevance in the news. For example, one of the discussions hosted at the conference this year was on opioids and narcotic use in the United States, both of which have seen a recent uptick in abuse and overdoses among Americans living in rural enclaves.
When the delegates enter their respective forums, they are no longer solely classmates or friends. They play specific roles, and the delegates attempt to win “points” from the moderator of each forum by posing their argument and talking points in a cohesive, persuasive manner.
After each forum has ended, the moderators, all students, decide on the winner. They look at the many aspects each delegate brought, including a distinctive position paper on the topic at hand. Without it, a delegate cannot receive the honor of Best Delegate.
“We like to say that our conference has a training edge,” Gabby Ward, junior and the director of Business and Hospitality for HenMUN, said. “Those who come here to win leave better prepared as delegates.”
Both Ward and Davis, who hold executive positions on the HenMUN board, took part in the Model UN experience as high schoolers.
While acknowledging the competitive nature of such conferences — including HenMUN — Davis notes that the true take away is not who wins, but how much one learns and becomes aware of the issues afterwards.
“We are a highly competitive environment,” she said. “But no one is too competitive [to the point] that no one can learn.”
According to Weir, education is indeed their main objective. Improvement of public speaking skills, negotiating skills and preparation for leadership roles in the future is what Weir said he hopes participants get out of the conference.
Each year, those in charge of HenMUN decide on the future of the conference, what went right, what went wrong and what improvements should be made. This year, the group decided on a theme: “Fostering Diplomacy.” As HenMun continues on, Weir hopes that they can expand their reach while maintaining their standing amongst other model U.N. conferences.
“We would like to expand our reach,” he said. “We would like to expand the regional reach of the conference in the future, being that we are such a young conference in a competitive region.”