Model UN attends Cornell, wins a historic award

The Model UN team poses on stage at Cornell Conference- Courtesy of Robert Cerniglia ’24

What do you do when Thanos invades your Model United Nations Conference committee? 

To some, Model UN may seem like a very academic-based sport, where knowing facts and going through boring parliamentary debates and procedures is the only way to succeed. Though this may be true for a select number of committees at Model UN conferences, what really matters is quite different. 

To do well, at the most basic level, you need to be able to win over other people. Simple as that. Just talking to, making connections with, and collaborating with strangers is the most important thing you can do in and out of committee. It is a great place to learn and grow, and that is exactly what the Haverford team did at Cornell University’s Model UN Conference on April 20-23. 

Cornell Model United Nations Conference (CMUNC) is known as a smaller conference, meaning committee sizes are manageable—the perfect environment for beginners to learn. 

Haverford usually sends a team of both inexperienced and slightly experienced students to Ithaca, NY, for this conference. Among the students who attended were Third Former Ryan Shams, Fourth Formers Milan Varma, Finn Kelly, Mason Wiegand, and Matthew Yerger, and Fifth Formers David Stewart and Robert Cerniglia. This team comprised different levels of experience—from a single conference under one’s belt to absolutely no experience—but they all shared the drive to succeed. 

Unlike conferences like ILMUNC (Ivy League Model United Nations Conference), the committees at Cornell were smaller and therefore more malleable to the individual who took the lead. Haverford adopted new strategies and made new connections to succeed in their respective fields and committees. Cornell had some of the most intriguing conference topics many of Haverford’s delegates had seen before. 

Fourth Former Finn Kelly is a first-year Model UN student participating in his first Cornell conference.  

“My topic was about the advancement of women’s rights around the world, also known as the World Conference on Women. I got to represent the country of Israel, which is doing a great job in the world right now in terms of advancing women’s rights,” Kelly said. 

Model UN requires you to have a strong presence on your committee. 

“I got to be a power player in the room, to be honest.”

Finn Kelly ’25

Kelly said, “I got to be a power player in the room, to be honest. There were a lot of countries’ arguments I could really shut down in the room and work to get a resolution passed.” 

Not only did Kelly utilize the skills of public speaking and communication, he learned more about this topic and expanded his global perspective.

“[I learned] not just about Israel, but a lot of the other countries as well,” Kelly said. “There were 50 kids in that room, all of whom had done their own research, and as the weekend passed, I got to hear each country’s position on this specific topic. This topic was also really useful, and I came out of the weekend much more knowledgeable and informed.”  

Of course, not all committee sessions go the way one would want them to. Things go wrong, like any other aspect of life. But at the very least, Model UN students make connections. These connections may last a lifetime or create strong friendships as you get to know your fellow delegates.

“You get to meet so many cool people. It’s a unique experience in that way,” Kelly said. 

Cornell was not only a great experience for the first-time attendees, but it was also a blast for the more experienced students as well. Out of all the conferences of the five experienced members who attended Cornell, this trip had the most unique and interesting crisis committees. 

These committees can come in many shapes and forms, but what sets them apart from general assemblies (or GAs) is the pace and crisis backroom feature. In a crisis committee, an event happens that needs to be addressed urgently. Many “directives” or plans for action that get submitted to the backroom are passed, creating a sort of storyline for the participants. In addition, delegates can submit their own personal or joint directive to the backroom to get a secret plan into motion that fits their own interests. 

Fourth Former Mason Wiegand touched on this aspect of the teams’ trip up to Ithaca.

“…It throws you into a roleplay situation where you’re not you anymore. You are this character, and it makes you think outside the box.”

Mason Wiegand ’25

“I really enjoyed my committee,” Wiegand said. “It was the AFL-NFL merger in the 1960s. I was the owner of the Rams, and I think what’s really interesting about Model UN is that it’s not just the large committees such as the social humanitarian ones, it’s way more than that, it goes in-depth into niche things… It can be anything, and it throws you into a roleplay situation where you’re not you anymore. You are this character, and it makes you think outside of the box.” 

A committee on the sport of football is something that most students wouldn’t think of when they think of Model UN, but these unique committees make the Model UN experience different and fun from conference to conference. 

The Haverford team won three awards on this trip: the Best Small Delegation award and two honorable mentions earned by Fifth Formers David Stewart and Robert Cerniglia. 

“We’ve had boys win individual awards, but we’ve never won a school or group award, so that’s a historical first,” Model UN coach Mr. Kevin Tryon said.

“I just threw myself into the room, and as my chair (committee leader) said, I had a sway from day one. I also tried to be loud and vocal,” Stewart said. 

“Have a goal and get a head start early on. Also, don’t just try to play the game of trying to win an award, try to focus on having fun and getting things done.”

Robert Cerniglia ’24

Cerniglia shared similar advice.

“Have a goal and get a head start early on. Also, don’t just try to play the game of trying to win an award, try to focus on having fun and getting things done,” Cerniglia said.

You may be wondering where the whole Thanos thing comes in. The most unique committee at Cornell was by far the Marvel committee (though many others come in a close second). 

Haverford was also represented in a Marvel-themed committee at Cornell, playing the role of Hawkeye. This committee featured everything from the Sokovia accords, Thanos invading the Earth, characters dying, infinity stones, and Skrulls invading the (actual) United Nations. This committee was the perfect representation of how eventful an academic Model UN conference can be, and how much fun it can entail. 

When Thanos invaded the Earth, the Avengers banded together to take his ship down, limited to a brief 20-minute meeting time. Afterward, characters focused on a variety of paths, with some trying to get power for themselves through the infinity stones while others tried to secure 401k pension plans for retired heroes.