Model UN builds diplomatic skills and finds success

The Model United Nations gathers for its yearbook photo – courtesy of Mr. Kevin Tryon

This summer, world leaders from across the globe will meet in India at a summit known as the G20 to discuss the climate change crisis and many other topics. The G20 and the United Nations share similar goals regarding the cooperation between international organizations and countries to achieve shared goals. The G20 focuses primarily on “international economic development,” and the UN is committed to “maintaining international peace and security.” 

The United Nations focuses on bringing together countries that often support different policies to promote international cooperation, social progress, and better standards for human rights. These objectives—and the diplomatic skills they require—are essential, especially for high school students, which is one of the main reasons Model United Nations came to be. 

Model UN teaches students tools such as diplomacy, collaboration, and teamwork. It also educates a younger audience about the UN. It is an opportunity for students to work on their public speaking, resolution, and argumentation skills which they may apply later in life. 

Haverford’s Model UN team just put their skills to the test at the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC) at the University of Pennsylvania along with 2000 other student delegates. Haverford delegates had the opportunity to connect with students from completely different areas and sometimes countries, as well as get hands-on experience with simulated UN delegations. Fifth Formers Luke Fesnak and Ethan Lee were honored with verbal commendations, adding their names to the long list of Haverford students who have won awards. 

I liked it a lot more than I thought. I thought the workload for Model UN was perfect, it was pretty localized in time before conferences.

Luke Fesnak ’24

Haverford Model UN has had a long and successful history. 

History teacher and Model UN Faculty Advisor Mr. Kevin Tryon said, “I’ve helped with Model UN since 2013, either assisting or leading the group.” 

Mr. Tryon also mentioned the many teachers who had led the club before him, including Mr. Evan Wilson, Mr. Rory Hart, and more. 

According to Mr. Tryon, the skills Model UN develops include “public speaking, the evident skill of writing a coherent, concise, position paper, and [the] intangible skill of assessing a room and figuring out how to work it, to get your position to basically convince others about the clarity and authority of your position.” 

These skills are the reason so many students from around the world participate in Model UN. Conferences also keep delegates “quite abreast about what is happening in the world, more so than any curriculum,” Mr. Tryon said. 

Learning more about the state of the world and the way decisions are made are essential tools for high school students, and Model UN provides the perfect way to learn them. 

Fifth Former Luke Fesnak started Model UN early in sophomore year and got into it “because [he] was looking for something to do.” 

Fesnak said, “I liked it a lot more than I thought. I thought the workload for Model UN was perfect, it was pretty localized in time before conferences.” 

A common misconception is that academic clubs such as Model UN are major time commitments where students devote hours of time to succeed, but Model UN can be a manageable and flexible club that looks to teach students skills and get them experience, not overload them with work.

Fesnak also mentioned that Model UN is a great social experience.

 “The social aspect of it was really fun. I met a lot of people, I made a lot of strong relations with upperclassmen which I never expected, and that’s why I stuck with it,” Fesnak said.

The social aspect of it was really fun. I met a lot of people, I made a lot of strong relations with upperclassmen which I never expected, and that’s why I stuck with it.

Luke Fesnak ’24

The relationships that students form through Model UN often last a lifetime and bring the Forms closer together. 

Fesnak added that, from doing Model UN, he learned “how to be friendly without seeming fake [and] how to be polite to people who you don’t know,” which are some of his most valued takeaways. 

Genuine friendships and interests can be hard to generate at times, but the most important skill a person can learn is how to be true to one’s self and to operate with honesty. 

Fesnak added that the reason Haverford’s Model UN club is so effective is because of its leadership. 

“I think we have people who are really supportive at conferences and really friendly. What I love is that we have dinner together, we hang out, and even in internal conferences (FordsMUN), we support each other because we know each other, we can laugh, and address serious topics while also being appropriate and having a lot of fun,” Fesnak said. 

The current Haverford Model UN team captain, Sixth Former Isaiah Schuchman, is a figure many members of the team look up to and come to for advice. Shuchman said that he got involved with Model UN because he “liked public speaking” and “[has] an interest in international relations and debate.” Shuchman said, “I did Model UN in middle school, and I enjoyed the conversations and topics we covered.” 

Model UN is a club that picks up students of a variety of ages, and you will often find Third through Sixth Formers participating in the same committee.

Shuchman said, “In freshman and sophomore year, I actually didn’t attend a conference, because of COVID, and in junior year I really got thrown into the deep end and went to ILMUNC. I was one of the only juniors on that trip, so I ended up being head delegate, so I kind of got forced into a new leadership role that way, and I ended up winning my committee.” 

Picking something up after being shut off from it for two years is no easy feat, but Shuchman shows that with hard work, anything can be accomplished.