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Build Community, Build a Better Delegate Experience: Interview with Notre Dame Model UN

Emilia Castelao, originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, began her Model UN career in college on a whim. What originally began as a fun pastime eventually developed into a larger career emphasis. Now, in her penultimate year at the University of Notre Dame, Secretary-General Castelao leads the Secretariat of Notre Dame Model United Nations (NDMUN) to another year of expansive success. 


In recent years, NDMUN has expanded at an impressive rate. The conference’s third iteration, an intimate gathering of delegates, attracted a small sum of 100-150 delegates. After two years of targeted reforms which bolstered the credibility and legitimacy of the new conference, NDMUN V is expected to yield somewhere between 450-500 delegates. 


Castelao attributes much of NDMUN’s success with expansion to the efforts made to build secretariat camaraderie. 


“Often, secretariat bonding is left till the last minute. At NDMUN, we know that secretariat camaraderie is essential to conference success.”


Castelao fondly describes the positive relationships between different members of the conference administration. She emphasises that all members of the conference staff–chairs, Secretariat members, crisis staffers alike–were equally involved in a strong team bond which yielded a superior conference experience for delegates in attendance. 


“As Secretary-General, I deliberately placed an emphasis on community because that’s my favorite part…it enriches the academic experience”


Evidently, the notion of building community as a means of heightening the conference experience is something that carries over to the delegate experience, too. Castelao reveals that the secretariat spends an extensive amount of time planning delegate programming events. One specific point of pride for the NDMUN Secretariat is the trivia night, in which delegates and conference staff members come together to celebrate academic excellence in a fun, lighthearted environment. Another event contributing to delegate community, a staple of most high school Model UN conferences, is the delegate dance. 


“These community events have an unspoken importance…I think they actually heighten the quality of committee sessions. Delegates feel comfortable to participate fully.”


According to Castelao, the same is true for the conference administration. Secretariat camaraderie facilitates an environment in which conference staffers feel comfortable coming forward with new ideas and fresh committee suggestions. As such, NDMUN continues innovating and sustaining consistent growth as a conference. Last year, NDMUN capitalized on past success in offering another hybrid G.A. and crisis committee. Backed by secretariat camaraderie, this committee offering entailed chairs, crisis staffers, and crisis analysts all working together to create a truly revolutionary delegate experience. 


NDMUN V is set to take place from March 19-21, 2021, and registration is currently live. For those looking to reinvigorate their Model UN experience for the coming 2020-21 season, NDMUN is setting the stage for the best delegate experience attainable.

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