After three consecutive years that saw the team from Rider capture Outstanding Delegation honors at the National Model United Nations, Madiha Latif ’12 knew her group was ready for a bigger challenge. The Political Science, Global and Multinational Studies, and Economics triple major from Orlando, Fla., who is also the head delegate for the Rider team, chose to represent Iran, an often-renegade nation in a forum where diplomacy and the ability to forge alliances are paramount.
“We had to submit a list of 10 countries, and I put Iran at the top,” explained Latif, who also served as head delegate as a junior and has been a member of the Model U.N. delegation all four of her years at Rider. “I’ve seen most of the Middle Eastern countries get slammed there, so when we looked at Iran, I said, ‘why don’t we do it?’”
Latif’s instincts were right, as Rider’s portrayal of Iran earned the group a fourth straight Outstanding Delegation award at the 2012 National Model United Nations Conference in New York. Two individual committees also claimed Outstanding Position paper honors. With more than 350 colleges and universities from around the world taking part, Rider’s Outstanding Delegation Award places it in the top 3.5 percent of the competing schools.
Once the decision to represent Iran was in place, the delegation completely embraced the idea, according to English major Matt Brokaw ’12.
“We really did take ownership of it,” said Brokaw, of Marlton, N.J. “After it was over, one of the secretaries general told me that we were the best Iran he’d ever seen.”
Dr. Barbara Franz, associate professor of Political Science and adviser to the Model U.N. group, feared they might have taken on more than they needed to.
“Despite their adviser’s worst fears, they brought home the highest awards again!” said a slightly chagrined Franz. “The students did awesome. They really stepped up and I was proven wrong!”
The Rider delegation began work in September 2011 with a determination to attract students from beyond just Political Science, and their efforts were successful. This year’s delegation featured students with such diverse majors as Biology, Theater, and Computer Information Systems.
“It was good to have someone from the sciences who could bring a deeper perspective on issues like the environment,” explained Latif, who added that she also screened candidates for strengths and weakness with the belief that a sense of firm diplomacy is one’s best asset inside the U.N.
“You need the ability to negotiate and be calm in an aggressive setting,” she explained. You don’t need to be aggressive and confrontation, but be able to take control of a situation in as calm a way as possible.”
Staying in character while faithfully representing Iran provided its challenges, but the Iran delegation carefully researched its positions, even visiting the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in New York embassy for guidance.
“A diplomat told us that Iran is always willing to negotiate with any country, even the United States and Israel, in a committee setting,” Latif said. “That surprised us, but we used it.”
Though the group had its conflicts, its diplomatic skills won the day, surprising many of the other delegations.
“Even though we were one of the more hard-line countries, (our individual committees) were really some of the more approachable groups,” said Luke Sharples ’14, of Fairfield, Conn.
The ability to think on their feet also served the delegates well.
“It’s not always what you know, but how well you’re able to synthesize the information in front of you,” said Jason Kanterman ’13, of Somerset, N.J. “The U.N. isn’t about regurgitating information. It’s more about knowing what you can put together to form a solution.”
Ndonga Sagnia ’13 of Nairobi, Kenya, agreed. “A lot of really smart delegations that were really well prepared just didn’t know how to work with people,” said the Finance and International Business major.
Other members of the Rider delegation included:
Peter Baldeo ’12, a Politcal Science major from Ringwood, N.J.
Andrew Connard ’15, a Global and Multinational Studies and Political Science double major from Penobscot, Maine.
Nathaniel Culp ’14, a Biology major from Egg Harbor City, N.J.
Ross Dammer ’15, a Global and Multinational Studies and Political Science double major from Voorhees, N.J.
Arthur Dowers ’15, an undeclared major from Cranbury, N.J.
Justin Esteban ’14, a Biology major from Bethel, Conn.
Rebecca Grossman ’14, a Theater major from Metuchen, N.J.
Maryia Iaskevich ’13, a Global and Multinational Studies major from Lawrenceville, N.J.
Ayesha Khan ’13, a Global and Multinational Studies major from Clarksburg, N.J.
Alexandra Lipari ’12, an Economics, International Business, and Global and Multinational Studies major from Leonia, N.J.
Michelle McBride ’13, a Sociology major from Trenton, N.J.
Ajamu Offord ’12, of Jersey City, N.J.
Daniel Pace ’12, a Biochemistry major from Point Pleasant, N.J.
Luis Del Rosario, a Computer Information Systems major from Fair Lawn, N.J.
Murat Yildiz ’15, a Political Science major from Cranbury, N.J.