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Home > Students' NMUN Venture Earns "Outstanding Delegation"

Students' NMUN Venture Earns "Outstanding Delegation"

April 28th, 2011

By Sarah Pride. Pictures by Sarah Saunders.

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Most of Patrick Henry College's delegation to the 2011 National Model United Nations conference in New York City

By the time Patrick Henry College’s delegation walked into the National Model United Nations (NMUN) conference at the beautiful Sheraton hotel in New York City, its members had already undergone a grueling series of challenges. By the time they walked out of the closing ceremonies held in the actual United Nations General Assembly on April 21, the PHC students had earned the distinction of Outstanding Delegation, an award only given to 19 out of the over 300 teams in competition.

It was the second time in three years that the PHC delegation has been so honored. Model United Nations is an academic simulation of the UN that gives students first-hand experience in multilateral diplomacy, bringing together students from a variety of different countries, backgrounds, and political views to discuss solutions to global issues such as nuclear proliferation and human trafficking. Always a rigorous intellectual and diplomatic exercise, students are required to articulate complex international policy principles and viewpoints in a diverse setting, working on and—in PHC’s case—often managing committees with more than 200 individuals.

For this year’s team, the rewards of competition were sweet indeed, even more so because the road to New York City proved long and arduous. Senior Natasha Malik, the main organizer for this year’s PHC team and one of the head delegates, relates how challenging preparation for the event can be. When the interviewer for her upcoming summer Charles B. Koch Foundation internship asked her to describe her most challenging experience, she named NMUN team prep without hesitation.

Students Joanna Griffith, Megan Conlon, and Sarah Saunders explore New York City

Malik had originally begun outlining NMUN plans with former PHC student Alyssa Farah last fall, before Farah left college to work full-time for the Laura Ingraham show. Left on her own at first, Malik eventually recruited a handful of new head delegates to share the workload—sophomore Aaron Strassner, senior Timothy Hrushka, and sophomore James Nelson.

Even then, not unlike past delegations, Malik and her entire team had to spend the majority of their time fundraising, rather than researching their assigned topics. To pay for travel and conference expenses, they had to raise $14,000. Starting in January, says Malik, they wrote “tons and tons of letters,” yet at the start of April, two weeks before the event, they had only $6,000.

“I sat down and realized there was no way we could do this as planned,” she states. “We had to cut ten of our 28 original members, based on meeting attendance and fundraising.”

Since teams compete by sending two-person partnerships to represent their assigned countries in one the competition’s 20 select NMUN committees, losing so many members disrupted a number of PHC’s partnerships. The College had also originally begun researching to represent both Hungary and Montenegro, but had to consolidate into representing Hungary alone, forcing a quick mental switch for the students who had spent their time focused on Montenegro.

Even after the initial months of effort and team rearrangements, to reach New York City PHCers had to rely on the grace of God and the generosity of others. Malik shakes her head in gratitude recalling the adventure of the week. While PHC alumni Jonathan Roose, Aidan Grano, and Joseph Alm, all attending grad school in NYC, hosted some of the PHC delegates, four more students found lodging at King’s College. The remainder stayed in a hotel—the $1000 bill paid with funds made available through Academic Affairs, with oversight by PHC’s Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Frank Guliuzza.

Natasha Malik (L), Megan Conlon, Sarah Saunders, and Michelle Wright in the UN General Assembly

“We were all over New York City,” Malik marvels. “I was so overwhelmed by the sudden changes in details. For example, we found rides to the bus stop only the day before. So I didn’t know how the conference would work.”

Arriving at the Model UN conference, however, the College’s “Hungary” delegation functioned like a well-oiled machine. The first night, sophomore James Nelson and senior Timothy Hrushka applied for chair and “rapporteur” positions in their committees. Nelson soon found himself keeping order over 300 delegates in the General Assembly First Committee. And as a rapporteur in his own committee over the course of the week, Hrushka handled logistics, ensuring that working papers were transformed correctly into written resolutions to hand in for final reports and helping his chair and the NMUN staff director for that committee in every way possible.

“The staff director for the General Assembly First Committee came up to me and said that James [Nelson] was absolutely capable, the best chair he had ever had,” smiles Malik proudly.

Nelson delivered the final report for his committee at the microphone in the actual UN General Assembly hall on the last day. He says that one of the best things for him was getting to know the NMUN staff, adding that they encouraged him to apply as NMUN staff himself, something he thinks he might enjoy trying for senior year. Next year, he would like to step up and help fill the huge gap Malik will leave in this student-organized endeavor when she graduates.

“We live in a very flat world,” emphasizes Nelson. “Now more than ever, relations between nations are very important. If we Christians all just step away from the United Nations, these bodies will get worse very quickly.”

PHC students Andrew Leaming, Michael Brooks, Chandler Karadsheh, Michelle Wright, Natasha Malik, and Sarah Saunders wait to enter the UN General Assembly

All the PHC team members say that it was their ability to be diplomatic and understand different sides of an issue that earned them the top team award at NMUN. The staff judges look for people’s ability both to stay in character as their country and to work with others. Junior Megan Conlon, who with sophomore Michael Brooks and seniors Michelle Wright and Joanna Griffith each earned individual delegate awards in their committees, explains that “PHC students have no trouble talking to people. We’re very comfortable in a social setting, helping people improve their ideas.”

Conlon says that it was challenging, however, to represent Hungary, a socialist nation. When looking to build rapport, PHC team members sought out delegates representing European Union countries, since that’s what Hungary would do in reality.

“We had to avoid the United States,” Conlon muses. “That was hard, since the French kids were representing the U.S., and I kept wanting to explain what the U.S. would actually do.”

But that very challenge demonstrates the true value of an exercise of this sort. It helps young people from across the world step into each other’s shoes. More than 50% of delegates travel to NYC to compete from other countries.

Conlon, Brooks, and Wright with their individual delegate award certificates

“As Christians, we are presented with the unique opportunity to share the Gospel with fellow students from around the world,” says Malik. “The relationships that we build over our week in New York continue into the school year, allowing our team to be a witness of Christ’s light and love to unbelievers searching for truth.”

Many of the PHC students who competed last week desire to work overseas one day. Malik has family background in India and hopes one day to apply her passion for international justice to combat the evil of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking has been the subject of many of my research papers at PHC,” she explains soberly, “and it has undergirded my involvement with our International Justice Mission club. It has reached even into my research for NMUN. My dream is to help eradicate trafficking one day, and also in a practical way to help the women and children impacted.”

The pull overseas has also drawn Hrushka, Nelson, and Brooks, although they don’t know yet exactly what form it will take. Hrushka has lived with his family—now including nine siblings—in Singapore and the Philippines for missions work and in Japan and Germany while his father worked in the military. After he stepped out on his own five years ago, he spent a year in the United States in Georgia at Covenant College, then a year in Hungary for overseas study before transferring to PHC.

“My little brother back in Germany was also competing in NMUN at the high school level in Dublin that same week,” he notes wryly.

Looking forward to next year, Nelson, Brooks, and others hope to build on the foundation set by Malik and alumni such as Jonathan Roose (’10). They plan to streamline this monumental student project and look for more means of assistance by starting fundraising in the fall. Meanwhile, they give the glory for this year’s unexpected achievement to God.

Members of the 2011 Outstanding Delegation from Patrick Henry College: Daniel Broaddus, Michael Brooks, Megan Conlon, John Ehrett, Zachary Enos, Andrew Fetters, Joanna Griffith, Timothy Hrushka, Chandler Karadsheh, Andrew Leaming, Natasha Malik, Seth McKinnis, Josh Mechaelson, James Nelson, Aaron Strassner, Robert Saunders, Sarah Saunders, Colten Wilson, Michelle Wright