March 2021 – Drew University thrilled about 200 local middle school students with a virtual Model UN Conference.
The students, selected by the Northern N.J. Gifted and Talented Student Consortium, participated in the ninth annual conference, typically held on Drew’s campus, in a three-hour virtual event.
The conference opened with remarks from Jinee Lokaneeta, chair and professor of political science and international relations, Patrick McGuinn, professor of political science and education, and Carlos Yordán, associate professor of political science and international relations. The participants also watched a short video highlighting Drew’s political science and UN-based opportunities.
Using Zoom breakout rooms, students were then split into groups—four “assemblies,” each with three “committees.” Each group was led by a Drew student volunteer.
“The Model UN Conference is a great opportunity for the Drew student volunteers to gain leadership experience and get the chance to share the knowledge they’ve learned in classes, campus programs, and clubs,” said McGuinn, who coordinates the event.
“Many of the Drew volunteers participated in the Model UN as middle school or high school students themselves.”
Prior to the event, the middle schoolers studied an assigned country and topic. This year, the topics were three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): good health and wellbeing; clean water and sanitation; and reduced inequalities.
Students prepared position papers on their country’s perspectives on the given topic and how they felt the UN should respond.
“My favorite part of today’s activity was discussing and negotiating with the other countries,” said Katherine Williams, an 8th grader who represented Poland. “I really appreciate this opportunity!”
"I got to expand my researching, debating, and speaking skills all in this one event."
“I adored obtaining more information pertaining to the precise terminology that must be utilized,” said Sarah Carroll, who represented Afghanistan.
“My favorite part about Model UN was debating possible solutions to [the reduced inequalities topic],” added 8th-grade student Sean Curnow, representing Cuba. “I got to expand my researching, debating, and speaking skills all in this one event. It takes a lot of work to get information on one UN SDG for one country, let along 17 SDGs for 193 countries!”
In all, the event was an immersive experience for Drew students and an engaging learning opportunity for some of New Jersey’s finest young scholars, who came away with an impressive view of Drew.
“I have been pondering a career in … international affairs/politics,” said Carroll, also an 8th grader. “It was a pleasure to acquaint myself with the opportunities Drew could [provide], especially while remaining close to home!”
This story was written by Morgan Alley C’22.
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