James Kennedy, a marketing major, found a seat at the table among delegates from other schools that attended the eighth-annual Pennsylvania United Nations Conference (PUNC).
Kennedy sat in silence, glancing at his name tag with a misspelled “SUNY Plattsburg,” listening to the committee representative for Israel give his speech. They went around the room introducing themselves by their Model UN roles.
He thought to himself, “Great, I’m going to have to compete with people who can talk like that.”
Kennedy felt it in his chest. He was nervous for a moment, but remembered that he liked being nervous because that meant whatever he was about to do was exciting. When his moment to speak finally came, he knew he had to set himself up for success.
Kennedy came home from his Spring Break trip to Pennsylvania State University with a gavel and certificate naming him the highest honor: “Best Delegate” of his committee, ISIS 2016.
The team of 12 PSUC students involved in Plattsburgh State’s Model United Nations club came home with Kennedy’s win. They also received business and political science major Kevin Clayton’s tie for honorable mention, which translates to third place in his committee, a few verbal commendations and an overall “Outstanding Small Delegation,” or second place of all of the 14 small delegations in attendance.
“We have probably close to a 90 percent win rate in the past four conferences we’ve been to,” President of Model UN and economics, history and political science major Adam Saccardi said.
PUNC is in its eighth year, and Model UN has been attending the convention since the club’s creation five years ago. It has become an annual tradition.
Students from every school in attendance are divided into predetermined committees that are based on worldly scenarios of the past, present or future. After the opening ceremony, delegates are separated from their universities and divided into committees in which they try to achieve one goal depending on what committee they are placed into. The debate begins immediately. For two days, there are continuous problem-solving and debating opportunities in which each individual delegate is graded on multiple criteria.
During this conference, Saccardi was placed in the committee with the focus on the Warsaw Pact. The people in his committee had to negotiate how they were going to institute reforms that Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union was trying to institute in the ’80s. Clayton was a part of the futuristic 2095 Mars Colonization Initiative representing Cuba. He researched how Cuba could potentially colonize on another planet, coming up with new ideas along the way.
Computer science major Sapoon Dutta was placed in a unique committee, after not being given any prior research or information.
“I was in the AD-HOC, which is basically the emergency committee,” Dutta said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
He was chosen to be military chief of the UN. It started by debating about the Kashmir territory between India and Pakistan.
Dutta had an advantage because he had preexisting knowledge of his home, India.
With only two weeks of experience in Model UN, Kennedy was able to communicate effectively, represent Egypt and be on top of his committee. Dutta recruited him for the club because he found Kennedy to be intellectually capable with much potential.
“I probably had some of the most intellectual conversations I’ve had in a long time,” Kennedy said. “I talked about things I never really would, people our age never really get into like foreign policies of countries and religions and ethnic discrepancies.”
Dutta claims he knew Kennedy was going to win before receiving the award that Sunday. However, Clayton said they are more invested in bettering themselves, learning skills such as focus, eloquence and public speaking than winning.
Kennedy’s prizes are a token of his “intellectual ability” as well as his ability to show “intellectual prowess.” Model UN is a place for him to further experience the intellectual conversation that he loves.
“Our student body needs to be dynamic,” Kennedy said. “If all of us just learn out of a classroom, how far could we really go?”
Email Lisa Scivolette at firstname.lastname@example.org