Model UN wins big, again

Dr. Aubrey Westfall | Courtesy
Dr. Aubrey Westfall | Courtesy

Five days in New York meant another successful Model UN outing for VWC

By Courtney Herrick

While March was coming to a close, VWC’s model United Nations group attended a conference in New York City that lasted a total of five days.

“Model UN is a large simulation of the workings of the United Nations,” said Aubrey Westfall, assistant professor of political science. “Each school or group represents a country in several committees of the United Nations. Over the course of one week, delegates attend multiple committee sessions with the goal of drafting resolutions for a vote.”

During those five days, the group represented the Islamic Republic of Iran in 10 committees. Two students represented the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in a Security Council Simulation.
Representing Iran did not seem to be too daunting for junior Katie Stefano.

“In high school, I represented the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in a women’s issue committee. While being Iran on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference committee had a very similar feel to it, representing Iran was easier. It was easier for many reasons. Chief among them, I was far better prepared and this wasn’t my first conference.”
Stefano didn’t hesitate to admit that, though representing Iran was doable, it was not easy and proved to be challenging at times.

“As Americans, we have been socialized to view Iran and their policy in a particular and hostile way. It was very challenging to turn off those indoctrinated feelings and give Iran the benefit of the doubt while studying their policies and getting to know their culture.”

As a team, the delegation won its second consecutive honorable mention award. Three conferences are held per year. This latest award brings the total of team awards the team has achieved in three years to three honorable mention awards and two distinguished delegate awards.

Aoife Branco and Ashley Bologna won the best delegate award, making it the second time individual VWC delegates have been recognized.

“The award is awarded to delegations by their peers, those people working right alongside you all week, seeing the entire extent of your work,” Branco said. “It is an absolute honor to have received this award, and, to be honest, I couldn’t believe it when our delegation was called.”

Additionally, Jessica Mackey became the first Marlin to apply to chair a committee at the conference. Westfall describes her role as “a position of great responsibility, as she was one of four chairpersons responsible for running four days of formal committee meetings.”

The team’s hard work and dedication during the conference did not go unnoticed, given the awards it received and its adviser’s pride in her team.

“I am so proud of the team and what they have accomplished since my first conference four years ago,” Westfall said.

Westfall has seen her team more than double since she became the adviser for the group. She has also seen the preparation for the conference become more rigorous, which has, in turn, created a better outcome for the team at conferences.

Like Westfall, junior Alexis Turner-Lafving has seen the team grow in strength and become a better group overall.

“I believe that the team has gotten stronger, more cohesive, and better prepared for conferences,” she said. Turner-Lafving continues to return to the team because it pushes her to explore new topics and develop a better understanding of international relations. Model UN has become an important part of a lot of the team members’ lives. “Model UN is a living, breathing competition. It’s not something you do only once,” senior Joshua Beatty said. Beatty is appreciative of the academic and social growth he has experienced while a part of the team. But his biggest takeaway from the conference is the lifelong friendships he has made throughout the years.

The conference in New York City was the first time seniors Aoife Branco and Mindy Bertram led the group as head delegates. “Being a head delegate was an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience for me,” said Branco. “It offered me a different perspective when approaching this conference and challenged me to always be operating at my very best.”
Bertram expressed sentiments similar to Branco’s, describing her position as “one of my favorite leadership assignments of all time.”

One of the favorite moments for the students who attended the conference was the closing ceremony held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. “By far my favorite experience was during closing ceremonies when the deputy security general of the UN, Jan Eliasson, gave the closing speech,” Bertram said. “He said, ‘Where is hope? You are the hope. We know the world as it is and we must also understand the world as it should be.’”

The Model United Nations team will be experiencing many changes in the coming months, with Dr. Westfall leaving the college in May and much of the team graduating. But the current team has confidence in the future of the program at VWC.

“With all the changes that are going to happen over the next few months, I’m confident that the team will continue to grow and prosper under new leadership,” Mackey said..”As a Model UN veteran, having attended six conferences, I encourage all students to explore participating in this life-changing conference. It was the best decision I ever made in college and I know you all will think so too.”