Rider’s Model UN team wins awards after in-person conference is canceled

In 53rd year, student team extends University’s winning streak
Sophia Brana

Members of Rider University's delegation to the Model United Nations competition won two awards this year, burnishing the winning legacy of the University’s Model UN program, which has participated in the competition for 53 years.

“These awards acknowledge the hard work undertaken by our delegates to prepare for the competition,” says Dr. Barbara Franz, a professor of political science and the faculty advisor to Rider's Model UN team.

The national Model UN competition takes place each spring semester, with student teams — representing a different country each year — working for months to prepare for the national conference. This year’s conference in New York City, in which Rider was to represent Nepal, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite being canceled, the program was still able to recognize winners and distribute awards.

Seniors Lena Vandam and Toni Davis-Wilson won the GA2 Position Paper Award for their paper, which focused on financing for development, information and communications technology for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. Vandam, a philosophy major, and Davis-Wilson, a double major in criminal justice and sociology, emphasized Nepal’s partnerships with international organizations to address preventative and post-disaster relief operations.

Vandam, who is new to the team this year, says she is grateful to the team leaders who worked to prepare the team.

“Our team leadership did an excellent job preparing us by emphasizing the importance of both position papers and conference presence,” she says. “Unfortunately, the conference part was cut short, which made the position paper part our only time to shine. In the end, the General Assembly 2 award represents a team effort, and my partner, Toni, and I are grateful for the efforts of the entire team. To me, this was a rewarding experience after all.”

Juniors Ryan Leighton and Angel Upchurch won the High Level Political Forum Position Paper Award for their paper on building partnerships to achieve sustainable development goals and ending abuse against children.

Leighton, a double major in political science and history, and Upchurch, a criminal justice major, focused on strategies Nepal is implementing to act in accordance with Sustainable Development Goals and uphold Nepal’s constitutional protections for children.

“It was disappointing to hear the news of this year’s New York conference being canceled,” Leighton says, “but I’m enthusiastic about the future and know our team would have done an outstanding job if we were able to attend.”

Franz notes that the spirit of the UN is particularly important at this moment in time. She says, “The organizers of the conference canceled the event but emphasized that, as the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, they hope all nations remember that, like our conference simulations, the fundamental basis of the UN is collaboration and cooperation.”