Students Return to Chicago for 35th Annual Model UN Conference


Students gathered for a photo on the first day of conference after listening to an opening ceremony welcoming them to Model UN. From left to right: Annie Gibson, Erin Golden, Madeline Schutte, Delia Connelly, Cian McKenna, Lillian Dirickson, Valerie Barrett, Yzabelle de Luna, Teige Donehoo and Avery Nelson. Photo courtesy of Tracie Truax.

Yzabelle de Luna, Graphics Editor

On Feb. 2, 10 students led by advisors Alison Valentine and Tracie Truax left for Chicago to participate in the 35th annual Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC) conference. Over the next four days, they worked with students from all around the world to figure out ways to solve contemporary world issues.

The National Model United Nations (NMUN) is an organization that brings students together to simulate the United Nations by representing individual countries and their interests to debate real world topics such as human rights, international security, technological developments and much more. Since 1927, the organization has expanded its conferences from New York out to partners around the globe. The MUNUC conference is held annually in the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Students at STCE have been attending MUNUC for over 17 years.

“Ultimately, [the goal is] to come together to try and problem-solve because these are groups of kids who really care about what’s happening in the world,” said Truax.

For the past few years, conferences have been held virtually over the course of one day due to COVID restrictions.

Truax described the virtual conferences as “a really good attempt at trying to keep kids involved and still providing a pseudo experience, […] but there is no comparison to those in-person, real world connections that you can make with students from all over the world.”

Each day had its own schedule that allotted time for training sessions, committee sessions and breaks in which students were allowed to wander the hotel and city on their own.

Students each had their own committees that varied on their focus and formality, ensuring that each student had their own unique experience.

Some students participated in large assemblies made up of hundreds of participants, while others participated in smaller committees with around 20 others. Regardless, all students had the opportunity to challenge themselves with their public speaking, critical thinking and collaboration skills to solve whatever problems they were faced with.

Sophomore Valerie Barrett said, “My committee was really entertaining: instead of students representing countries, we were all Walt Disney’s closest friends trying to build EPCOT in 1967. It felt super competitive at first, but once we got further into the conference everyone became friends.”

One of the main takeaways students reported on was interacting with people and cultures from all around the world.

“There were so many kids from all around the world. My committee had kids from China, Puerto Rico and Turkey. It was really interesting to hear about their lives and experience,” said Barrett.

Sophomore Cian McKenna elaborated on this saying, “I think I gained a lot of open-mindedness, as so many people from so many places got to share their opinions and it really broadened my horizons; as a suburban kid in Illinois it’s hard to imagine how many different kinds of people and opinions there are until you get to see and experience them all.”

“[I think I gained] confidence,” said sophomore Maddie Schutte. “I’m more confident talking to people I might not know because that’s what I did at Model U.N. and it made me some good friends.”

When asked what she hoped that students took away from this experience, Truax said, “I think everyone goes into it with a different expectation, [but] I just hope that whatever the expectation is that students have, they find value in the process. […] And I hope that students come out of this believing that everybody can make a difference. That if you care enough that you can work towards making the world a better place.”

The Model U.N. club meets after school periodically starting at the beginning of the school year up until the MUNUC conference itself, with occasional leadership opportunities being provided along the way in between preparation for the actual conference.

“If you are at all interested in anything related to inter-national politics, international relations, or if you care about global and world issues and you are looking for an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone, […] I don’t think any student should hesitate [joining],” said Truax.