May 8, 2014 by Isabel A. Rodriguez, NMSU News Center
New Mexico State University’s Model United Nations team members recently returned from a trip to New York City where they earned the Distinguished Delegation award at the Model United Nations Conference – a distinction that placed them in the top 15 percent of participants.
“The officers and I handpicked this team and watching them grow and going to conference and watching everyone shine, that was most important to me,” said Lydia Hammond, NMSU Model U.N. president.
This marks the eighth year in a row that the team of students in the College of Arts and Sciences earned top honors at the conference. The students raise money to attend the conference by hosting various fundraisers throughout the year.
In addition to the delegation award, 14 NMSU students earned individual awards.
“Since this was my second year, I was able to use the stuff I learned last year to push myself to a higher standard,” said Theadora Trejo, NMSU Model U.N. vice president of operations. “I was able to develop a more sophisticated strategy.”
Representing Morocco, 20 NMSU students served on 12 committees with “delegates” from 250 colleges from all over the world.
“To prepare, we take a class where we learn about the country, do various assignments and a lot of research to get in that mindset,” said Hammond, a graduate student in government. “It’s a hard transition to go from being an individual to being a representative of that country. You can’t say ‘I’, it’s ‘we’re,’ ‘the Kingdom of Morocco feels…’ That’s what’s cool about the team. It gives students a chance to learn about something they might never encounter in school.”
A few of the committees were General Assembly First Committee, Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The delegates’ responsibilities included writing reports and coming up with a resolution that gets voted on and possibly passed.
“The first topic was to ensure the universality of the chemical weapons convention and the second was protecting chemical weapons safety in political transition, said Trejo. “I’d never heard of the chemical weapons convention and I had to be able to talk about these things as an expert.”
Last year, the NMSU group partnered with the National Japanese Model U.N. team. Students said they were able to apply that experience to this year’s event.
“I think we learned a lot about strategy. The Japanese team was really focused on strategy, and playing the debate game,” Hammond said. “We got better. We had a plan. There’s not one set strategy, but that idea of thinking long-term about the end result more than just day by day helped us.”
Delegates are given their assignments in November, and in March they each submit position papers on assigned topics. Of the team’s 10 individual awards, eight were for written reports. Two students received individual awards for the work within their committees.
Hammond and Julia Downs had the opportunity to serve on the Security Council, which Hammond described as the most coveted committee to many delegates.
“The council’s initial topics were the situation in Syria, peace consolidation in West Africa and peacekeeping operations,” said Downs, sophomore government major. “We chose to deal with peace consolidation in West Africa, but then a new topic that we had not prepared for was brought to the table by a few delegates. Luxembourg and the United States wanted to discuss the situation in the Ukraine, which passed and we spent a good day and a half on. After this, we had a crisis situation, which introduced another new topic, the situation in Nigeria.”
Sophomore languages and linguistics major Jasmine Bentley served on the General Assembly First Committee.
“I want to work for the U.N. as an interpreter so when I came here, I didn’t know exactly what we’d be doing but I definitely knew it was going to give me insight,” Bentley said. “When we got to conference, it solidified that this is what I want to do.”
Her committee focused on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the relationship between disarmament and development and prevention of an arms race in outer space.
“The biggest challenge is finding consensus,” Trejo said. “There are a lot of different personalities, different countries represented, and trying to uphold the values of that country – doing that and not getting angry or frustrated – being diplomatic about it is one of the biggest challenges.”
Bentley was surprised to realize just how much she would learn in her first year as a Model U.N. student and how prepared she was to participate.
“If you go in with a strategy, people can tell if you know what you’re talking about,” Bentley said. “I knew what to expect. Everything we’d done all year had fallen into place.”