Anna Zuckerman is the Secretary General of Pennsylvania State University’s very own 8th annual Pennsylvania High School United Nations Conference, PHUNC. Zuckerman’s involvement with the Penn State International Affairs and Debate Association (PSIADA) began her freshman year as a crisis staffer at PHUNC VI, later moving up the ranks of the Secretariat as a crisis director at PHUNC VII, and finally culminating as Secretary General her junior year. Outside of her work in conference administration, Zuckerman also competes on the collegiate circuit at Boston University’s BarMUN and University of Pennsylvania’s UPMUNC.
PHUNC VIII is the most philanthropically focused iteration in the conference’s history, this being largely due to Zuckerman’s bold reform instituted within the first month of her time as Secretary General: the creation of a new Secretariat position, Director of Philanthropy.
Much like many other Model UN conferences, PHUNC chooses an annual charity cause, and a sizable donation on behalf of the entire conference is donated upon conclusion of the conference weekend. The charitable aspect of Model UN, however, is typically considered secondary to the other happenings of the conference. The PHUNC Secretariat has long rejected this tangential degree of philanthropic engagement that most conferences embody. As Zuckerman puts it:
“Most conferences will haphazardly pass around an envelope in every committee, and call it a day. At PHUNC, we pride ourselves on bringing the vigor of competitive Model UN into our philanthropy.”
At PHUNC, philanthropy actually begins months before the conference weekend even arrives. Delegations engage in group fundraising at their home schools to raise money for the conference cause. Because of this pre-conference work, PHUNC’s presence on the regional circuit expands greatly, and the magnitude of the conference’s total donation skyrockets.
If competitive Model UN centers largely around the incentive of awards, then what better way to kickstart philanthropic efforts than by bringing awards into it? PHUNC is one of the only conferences in the competitive Model UN sphere to actually offer a Philanthropy Delegation Award, which is awarded to the delegation which yields the highest USD charitable contribution per capita, as to not give bigger delegations an automatic advantage. With the added component of competition, many delegations choose to throw themselves into the fundraising, as to show up at the conference weekend with the highest summation of funds. The Philanthropy Delegation Award was launched for the first time ever at PHUNC VII, and was a radical success in bolstering the eventual charitable donation for the conference. Hence, the undeniable result of integrating a competitive twist into conference-wide philanthropy was wild and unquestionable success.
Zuckerman reflected on the often self-indulgent nature of highly cutthroat, competitive Model UN. The nuance of the PHUNC approach, however, lies in the notion that the Secretariat does not seek to eliminate competitive Model UN, but merely shift the focus towards philanthropy:
“Competitiveness, awards…they are not the enemy. We just want to push the focus away from personal gain; redirect that competitive drive towards mutual societal benefit.”
Given the centrality of philanthropy at PHUNC each year, the Secretariat is extremely deliberate and thorough when selecting the annual charity. Zuckerman confirmed that the selection process is, in fact, several weeks long, and entails multiple rounds of voting and Secretariat-wide discussions to research and debate the best charity of choice for each conference iteration.
Zuckerman predicts that PHUNC VIII’s contribution to the elected charity–One Dollar for Life–will be at least doubled what the conference’s charitable donation was last year given the ongoing and unstoppable expansion of the philanthropy program.
Related Article: What Does it Take to Design a Model UN Committee for Impact?
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