February has always been an important month for delegates across the world for the past 60 years with Harvard National Model UN attracting thousands of delegates to the United States to clash ideas without forgetting to “make five new friends”. Last February, however, meant a whole lot more for the Bard College Model UN team who also hosted the second Bard One Day Youth Model UN (BODYMUN). According to President Emeritus Rory Mondshein, “Bard developed the Conference for a Day in response to dwindling membership and a lack of interest. When we asked students why they were not interested, we kept hearing that they were either intimidated or could not make the time commitment. Recognizing the many factors that contribute to the overall disinterest, we developed a comprehensive program that incorporates all of the aspects of a regular Model UN conference in just three hours to make a smoother transition.”
In order to peak students’ interests, the Bard Model UN team incorporated crises, which were also aimed to help students with their extemporaneous speaking skills. Though they were incredibly short-staffed, the Bard students were determined the Bard Model UN team was determined to put on an amazing conference, and, thanks to Bard’s partnership with Smolny College and AUCA as well as Mondshein’s Best Delegate partnerships, Bard Model UN was able to bring their vision to the global sphere by hosting their first ever international Model UN conference with participants from Russia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia.
The lucky Model UN club from Indonesia was Universitas Hasanuddin‘s (Unhas), whose Secretary-General, Riyad, had worked with Mondshein in the World Federation of the United Nations Association (WFUNA) Camp in Korea last year. Enthusiastic with Universitas Hasanuddin students’ unique perspective and believing that their presence could contribute to the committee, Bard College Model UN team prepared for weeks and kept close contact with Unhas delegates for BODYMUN, with a Bard student actually studying Bahasa Indonesian for the occasion.
At the conference, students received a short Background Guide and Portfolio Powers to inform their positions without the hassle of doing research. The topic of discussion was Cold War 2020, a futuristic simulation that places the Cold War in the context of current geopolitical dynamics. Throughout the three hour session, delegates received numerous crisis updates, and communicated with staff to develop interesting crises that ensured that all delegates felt included.
The result was very satisfying for all parties. Sri Rahayu from Unhas mentioned, “Bard kids are very friendly and lovable,” and other Unhas students were notably amazed by BODYMUN’s crisis experience and recognized the great power within the relatively small Bard College Model UN team. Riyad himself stated, “For years of attending MUN simulations, I have never felt so happy, challenged and enlightened only for a day simulation. Salute to Bard College MUN club for making such outstanding simulation!”
The positive remarks also came from other international delegates. Zukhra Iakupbaeva, a visiting student from AUCA in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, said, “I liked that BODYMUN consisted of students from different countries such as Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the US. It created an atmosphere of the real UN where people from different countries come together to discuss the global issues. The funniest thing was [Riyad’s] representation of the Ukraine, which made it really funny.”
Oguljemal Yaryyeva, a student from Turkmenistan, currently studying at Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia, recalled, “it was great having Indonesian delegates at the BODYMUN conference. I enjoyed working with Winda Zedilla and Rezky Muhlis during unmoderated caucus. As the representatives of Germany, France and Sweden, we put our effort to pursue the interest of European Union. I am thankful to the organizers of the conference for such an interesting experience.”
The most wonderful response, however, actually came from Bard professors who were pleasantly surprised by their students’ ability in holding an international conference. James Ketterer, a Senior fellow at Bard College and co-professor of Model UN, remarked at the practical learning opportunity of the conference: “The Bard College Model UN team is pleased to host this event and honored to have the team from Indonesia be part of it. These events offer an opportunity for learning more about the dynamics of diplomacy, the nature of international politics and the different points of view that must be included in any effective cross-cultural dialogue.”
And Jonathan Becker, the Dean of International Affairs and Civic Engagement, Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and co-professor of Model UN, also pointed out the cross-cultural engagements within the Model UN community provided through the conference. He stated, “As the Director of Civic Engagement at Bard, I try to encourage my students to host events that can give back to the local communities. This year, we are excited to take our active engagement across borders, and invite Hassanuddin University to participate in our Conference for a Day. The opportunity for our students to engage in a cross-cultural exchange will be very rewarding, and, to me, exemplifies exactly what it means to be part of a Model UN community.”
James Brudvig, the Vice President of Administration at Bard College, also came and greeted the Indonesian delegates. He was “really impressed with the amount of work that Bard students put into the conference” and thought that the conference was “wonderfully organized.” He also “liked watching Bard students interact with the Indonesian delegates.“
Though the conference was met with phenomenal responses, Gabriel Matsakis, Bard College Model UN team’s current President, humbly reflected that “Bard is a small liberal arts college, so our delegates have never written background and crisis guides for thousand-person conferences. This was a new experience for us, and it was challenging, but our MUN students formed a strong coalition to bring it to life. The attendees became really involved, and helped make it a phenomenal simulation.” Gabriel, who was happy to host Unhas students at Bard, also personally hoped that “[Bard and Unhas students] are able to work together in the future to improve both teams, and to maintain the many friendships [they] made that weekend,” something we, Indonesian delegates, will always look forward to as well. Those who are looking forward for other or further partnerships are welcomed to reach Bard College by their website.
(Pictures courtesy of Tamar Sandalon, Bard College)