Being a Head Delegate by Valerie Starobrzenski

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2016 CCNY MUN Head Delegate, Valerie Starobrzenski (first row/right), with her team

Participating in 2015 National Model UN Conference as part of the City College of New York (CCNY) delegation and representing Uruguay was one of the most immersive educational experiences I’ve ever had. Not only I learned about the world’s pressing issues and how the UN operates, but I also enjoyed meeting and working with people from all over the world. I knew I wanted to have that experience again, and that is why I decided to become a Head Delegate and take part in the 2016 NMUN Conference.

I recognized that the role of Head Delegate came with a large load of responsibility, and is easily one of the most stressful positions in the Model UN program. There are two essential tasks a Head Delegate has to fulfill. First, Head Delegate is the point of contact between the delegation and the NMUN Staff. And second, Head Delegate helps to prepare delegates for the conference, and has to make sure they have the most positive experience during this event.

While leading the delegation in the conference may be the most important part of the job, the work of a Head Delegate begins long before the conference starts. As early as the beginning of September 2015 me and my co-head delegate, Eli Ramos, received an email from the NMUN organizers about registering our school for the conference that would be taking place at the end of March 2016. In the application we had to indicate the size of our delegation, past participation history, and list our top 10 preferred countries that we would like to represent. A few weeks after submitting our application the country assignments were distributed among the participating schools, and the City College of New York was honored to represent Ghana. We had to fill out a few more forms and have the school pay the registration fees. Unfortunately, after the reorganization in the International Studies department, that had been funding the Model UN program in the previous years, there were no more funds available, so we had to look for other sources. I set up a Go Fund Me campaign, and we were even considering having students pay for participating in the conference. Luckily, thanks to the persistent efforts of professor Rafal, and with the help from the International Studies program administrator Johanna Ureña, the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership agreed to fund the CCNY delegation at the NMUN 2016 Conference. A special thank you to Dee Dee Mozeleski, the Director of Institutional Advancement, for helping to make it happen!

As the spring semester began, the real work started. We only had a little over a month before the conference, and so much work to do! First of all, we had to allocate committee positions among the delegates, so that they could research Ghana’s standing on various issues assigned to the committees, and then write a position paper on them. The CCNY delegation was going to represent Ghana in 8 committees: GA1, GA2, GA4, CSW, HRC, UNICEF, UNHCR, and UNEP, having 2 delegates per committee. With the class meeting only once a week, it seemed almost impossible to pick 16 students for the conference out of 36 registered for the class in such a short amount of time we had before the conference. The competition was really high! My co-head delegate Eli and I, along with professor Rafal and our committee advisors Anasimon Adel, Taimoor Arif, Claire Lynch, and Sarah Mourssi who kindly agreed to help us with preparation for the conference, were closely observing the students during every class. Each one of us was assigned one committee to oversee. While assessing the students’ performance, we were paying attention to their communication, leadership, and public speaking skills, participation in class activities as well as their results on the weekly quizzes, and the quality of their position papers. Everything was documented in our shared Student Performance spreadsheet.

About 2 weeks before the conference the decision had to be made, as the deadline for submitting the final number of delegates including their names approached. This was the hardest part of the job, to properly evaluate everyone and make a final selection of students that would represent the City College of New York at the 2016 NMUN conference. The fact that students had to take a whole week off from school and work to be at the conference added even more trouble to the process as some of the students weren’t able to do that. Also, the conference was taking place around midterms week, and many professors wouldn’t agree to reschedule their exams. There were countless last minute changes during the week before the final submission deadline. Our delegation list changed 3 times a day, everyone was stressed out because things didn’t want to go as planned. But in the end everything worked out well. It was such a relief when we finally submitted the list of people to the NMUN conference. I felt like we had a great team put together!

The conference started on Sunday evening, however we had to be at the Sheraton hotel, where it was taking place, earlier in the morning for registration. As a Head Delegate it was my duty to register our delegation, receive name badges, placards, conference programs, and distribute everything among the students. The fact that I participated in the same conference a year ago as a delegate made the process significantly easier and smoother, and helped to avoid many questions about logistics as I was already familiar with most of the registration procedures and the hotel itself.

For the next 4 days me and my co-head delegate Eli along with the committee advisors and professor Rafal were doing our best to ensure the students were making the most of their experience at NMUN. Each of us had to be familiar with the conference’s agenda, including committee session schedules and different events organized by the NMUN for the delegates, such as opportunity fairs and seminars. We had to know exactly where each one of our delegates was during the conference hours in order to be able to find them quick when necessary. We created a group chat for instant communication among all of us. Throughout the conference we were trying to be there for our team as much as we could to answer any questions about procedures, give advice on writing position papers, practice speeches, help with any issues they had to deal with in their committees, if they needed to talk, or vent, or Advil, or anything else. When they needed a short break from the conference, we were there to bring them coffees and snacks. From my personal experience in the previous year, I knew how important it was to have that kind of support.

The NMUN Secretariat held daily Head Delegate and Faculty meetings where we could provide feedback about the conference and bring to the secretariat’s attention any points of concern. This is why it was important to gather information from our delegation over the course of each day. Most of the complaints were regarding delegates having national symbols of the countries they were representing on their clothing, which was prohibited by the conference rules. Some delegates didn’t stay in character and would disregard their countries real position on the issue discussed just so they can be included on a position paper. These types of issues were addressed at the Head Delegate meetings by the participating schools. The Secretariat also provided us with any updates on the conference agenda.

On the last day of the conference the awards were announced, and the CCNY delegation won “Distinguished Delegation”, the second place award. It was well deserved as everyone worked hard in preparation for and during the conference. We all felt really proud of ourselves! Walking out of the United Nations Headquarters, where the closing ceremony took place, with a reward was undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments in my college life.

The experience of Model UN is like no other. For anyone interested in international and public affairs, it is a great opportunity to observe politics and diplomacy in a real world setting, and most importantly be part of the process. The broad range of skills one acquires during the conference is vital not only in one’s career but also in life. Though it doesn’t come without its challenges, Model UN is definitely among best available methods to educate students about diplomacy and negotiations, research and policy writing, public speaking and teamwork.

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