Think about every closing ceremony that you have ever attended. At how many of them do you recall the following phrase being boldly asserted: “This is the best conference yet.”
It seems that the “best one yet” proclamation has lost its meaning when every year, at every conference, someone asserts it proudly.
When I spoke with the Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC) Secretary-General Philip Crean, I preempted the declaration by asking, “do you really think MUNUC XXVIII was the ‘best yet,’ or is that something you have to say?”
Crean’s assenting response started our conversation about the building blocks upon which MUNUC has been built. It is this foundation, Crean argues, that separates MUNUC from other conferences. Rather than rest on the laurels of its established reputation, MUNUC is committed to improving itself each year.
“In fact, MUNUC is one of the best conferences in the country and the best in the Midwest. Our Conference Review last year found it to be on the top three nationwide.”
One way that I believe MUNUC could evolve is to begin to award Best Delegate gavels and delegation awards, which the conference currently does not do. Instead, MUNUC awards Outstanding Delegate awards to top performers and insists that delegation awards would tamper with its educational mission.
This does not, however, mean that MUNUC is not a competitive conference. Unlike other major conferences, such as Harvard’s HMUN where five schools won over 25% of all awards, there is a greater distribution of individual awards across multiple schools. This implies a better committee experience with greater participation across conference attendees.
In fact, MUNUC is one of the best conferences in the country and the best in the Midwest. Our Conference Review last year found it to be on the top three nationwide.
Each February, MUNUC hosts over 2,500 students, mainly from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. However, its international attendance and growing representation from the East coast and West coast are points of pride for Crean and the MUNUC secretariat.
Conference metrics aside, MUNUC has been able to be a force for social change, a champion of educational empowerment, and a leader within its community. MUNUC’s repeat attendance rate for schools beats out any other major conference; quite an accomplishment for an operation of their scale.
“I do not think geography alone factors into a school’s decision-making process to attend,” Crean explained. MUNUC places a heavy emphasis on students’ educational experience, a point of differentiation Crean’s team looked to expand upon this year.
“We wanted to implement a practical pedagogy structured around giving immediate feedback to delegates.”
This year at MUNUC, the dais of each committee was required to track overall performance for delegates in the following areas: committee participation, engagement, writing, speaking, and collaboration. Individual committee staffs were encouraged to create their own tracking mechanisms, rather than the Secretariat designing a conference-wide matrix.
“Feedback is particularly important for MUNUC delegates because, for many, this is the one overnight conference they attend during the year,” according to Crean.
Many of MUNUC’s accomplishments this year took place outside of the conference weekend or specifically made the conference possible for some schools to attend.
“One of my biggest points of pride this year was that we were able to fund 100% of financial assistance requests. MUNUC awarded over $20,000 in conference scholarships, travel and lodging assistance, and other financial support,” Crean gleamed.
MUNUC has separated itself from many other conferences by focusing on its community. Aside from their financial assistance program for the conference, MUNUC offers in-school teaching for Chicagoland area schools, and hosts another conference, CHIPMUNC, specifically for training and providing opportunities to lower-income school districts.
It is easy for a conference to tout its educational mission for all; it is much harder to prove it through action.
MUNUC aims to continue its growth in the future with three initiatives in China: as a member of the WEMUN Expo, a training partner in Alpha Partner’s Pegasus program, and its first self-branded conference in Hong Kong this July.
Did you attend MUNUC XXVIII as a delegate or faculty advisor? How was your experience compared to past years and other conferences? Did MUNUC live up to its high standards? Comment in the section below.