Meaghan Haugh

Rider University’s Model United Nations Team received two top honors at the conclusion of the National Model United Nations Conference, held from March 28 through April 1, inside the U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Representing Venezuela, the Rider delegation competed against more than 300 groups from American and international universities, and received the prestigious Outstanding Delegation award, the highest distinction a team can obtain.
There was Rider representation on several committees, including the General Assemblies, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Commission for Sustainable Development, and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Partners on the committees were responsible for writing position papers defending their country’s stance on three topics. The Rider students also received an Outstanding Position Paper recognition for the overall quality of the nine papers submitted by the team.

“The performance this year was absolutely outstanding. It definitely surpassed last year’s team,” said head delegate Ally Watson, a senior Political Science major. “We received the same awards as last year, but we definitely put in more effort this year.”

While the team met regularly as an evening class (POL 295 Special Project: National Model United Nations), the students also prepared and conducted extensive research outside of the classroom. Broad knowledge of a team’s designated country is pivotal because its members must remain in character as delegates in order to be successful during committee meetings.

“We had to have a mindset of the socialist, anticapitalist country. We were Venezuela. Our character as a nation was very aggressive in its beliefs and policies,” said team leader Joseph Gallant, a senior Political Science major. “Throughout the whole case, we examined Venezuela’s background – what it is, how it formed and the ideology of its leader, Hugo Chávez.”

In February, the Rider team was able to meet German Mundarain, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, in New York. It was the first time a Model U.N. Team from Rider was able to meet the ambassador of the country it was representing. Watson said the meeting was extremely helpful.

“He didn’t just give a straight party platform,” she said. “He also gave us a diplomatic perspective. He helped us to really capture the essence of what a Venezuelan diplomat is, particularly where our political perspective would lie as a diplomat and not as a politician.”

This year, Watson and the three team leaders selected 14 students out of a pool of 60 applicants. The team encompassed a range of majors, class levels and global perspectives. All these different views worked to the group’s advantage, as they interacted with people representing various cultures at the competition.

“Those skills that they have from their majors definitely helped,” Watson said.
We opened the doors to all majors in order to capture those strengths that other departments have. We want to make sure that this is a university-wide project.”

For example, Gallant and Elizabeth Muller, a senior Spanish and Global and Multinational Studies dual major, represented Rider on the High Commissioner for Refugees. Gallant, who wants to work in international human rights law, said the committee deals with human rights issues.

Meanwhile, Wendy Granados, a Behavioral Neuroscience major, was one of the only two freshmen on the team. Granados of Las Vegas, whose parents are from Mexico City, was a student in Wooster High School’s International Baccalaureate Program in Nevada. She is fluent in Spanish, English and French. Granados and Chin Chang, a junior Biochemistry major, were able to apply their science background while serving on the Commission for Sustainable Development.

This year’s team leaders also included Jonathon Padron, a junior Political Science major; and Michelle Liebner, a senior Political Science and Global and Multinational Studies dual major.

The rest of the 2010 delegation included: Jacqueline Bonforte, a senior Political Science major; Jennifer Campbell, a freshman Secondary Education and Spanish dual major; Charles Cartagena, a sophomore Economics and Political Science dual major; Michael Compton, a senior Sociology major; Stephanie Foran, a sophomore Global and Multinational Studies major; Casey Langweiler, a junior Political Science major; Madiha Latif, a sophomore Psychology major; Benjamin Mendelson, a senior Political Science major; Isaac Miller, a junior Accounting and Political Science dual major; Leeann Sinpatanasakul, a senior Environmental Science and Political Science dual major; and Barton Thompson, a sophomore Global and Multinational Studies major.

Now in its 43rd year, Rider’s Model U.N. Team, under the advisement of Dr. Barbara Franz, associate professor of Political Science and director of the Area Studies Program, gives students a chance to experience how the United Nations handles and resolves world problems and issues.

Granados, who came to Rider because of its Behavioral Neuroscience program and its close proximity to New York City., said the Model U.N. experience has encouraged her to pursue a doctorate degree at the United Nations University in New York.

“I learned about the opportunity through the conference,” explained Granados, who aspires to work for the World Health Organization in the area of International Health Standards.