This past Saturday, Claremont McKenna College’s Model United Nations team hosted a high school MUN Conference to outstanding success. Spanning almost two full days, McKenna MUN 1 – the inaugural conference in what many hope can become an annual tradition – boasted the participation of eleven High Schools, many of whose students expressed that they were very pleased to have been invited.
“I really like the environment,” said Benjamin Yeh of Los Alamitos High School, “It’s different than High School. High School conferences are bland, college conferences are vibrant.” Far from the only high schooler to compliment the conference, however, other students voiced their content as well. Kevin Gawora, a senior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, spoke of the Committee Chairs and their expertise, saying, “the Chairs were knowledgeable and knew what they were doing. It seemed to me like they put a lot of effort into setting up topics.”
Sophomore Tess Hubbeling (CMC), the Senior Staff Member of McKenna MUN responsible for logistics, was equally pleased with the conference. “The enthusiasm of the students has been really exciting. To have them come here and be so excited and earnest is amazing.” Manav Kohli, Chair of the DIPEX Committee in which students engaged in a game of Diplomacy, stressed how impressed he was with the students. “High Schoolers are really competitive in MUN. They are really knowledgeable and they research really well.” At one point in the game, Kohli said, students were “referencing events that took place in the 1800’s.”
Typically, satisfaction on behalf of all parties involved in an event is a sure sign of the event’s success, but there was an additional occurrence on Saturday that cemented the conference’s inaugural triumph. In the middle of my conversation with Hubbeling, a bold student whose MUN Badge indicated that he represented Germany interrupted our conversation to deliver Hubbeling a rose saying, “you deserve this.” The presentation of a rose to one of the event’s chief organizers should serve as a testament to the conference’s execution.
In addition to providing a forum for outstanding high school students to showcase their MUN talents, one of the primary purposes of McKenna MUN 1 was exposing the participating high schoolers to a great deal of what Claremont McKenna College has to offer. As Daniel Shane, the head of McKenna MUN, put it, “the students listened to lectures given by CMC professors, enjoyed chocolate covered strawberries, and had a social in the village – a really good intro to CMC in a short period of time.” Given that a conference such as the one held over the weekend may be one of the only opportunities for many of the students who participated to experience CMC, it was imperative that McKenna MUN 1 be successful – and by all accounts, it was. “I spoke to a lot of the high school advisors over the course of the weekend,” said Neil Malani ’13, “and they made a point to tell me how much their students liked CMC as a college. They mentioned the beauty of the Kravis center, the quality of their committee leaders (CMC students), and – without any prompting at all from me – told me they expect a lot of their students to apply to CMC purely as a result of the MUN weekend. That just reminded me how great CMC is and how easy it is to fall in love with the place.”
Going forward, the highly decorated McKenna MUN team hopes to expand the program and become more competitive. The crux of the issue is that being nationally competitive in the MUN sphere means competing against (and hopefully beating) colleges and universities on the east coast who have long-established, widely renowned MUN programs. Unfortunately, the largest obstacle preventing McKenna MUN from doing so is funding. Without the necessary financing to attend east coast conferences, McKenna MUN attends only local college conferences, meaning that they travel almost exclusively to California schools. Their performances at these conferences, however, has been remarkable – McKenna MUN has been ranked the top collegiate Model UN program in California two years running.
This weekend’s McKenna MUN 1 conference was a big step in the right direction for a program that has demonstrated its excellence and is looking for more opportunities. The conference came together as a result of the coordinated efforts of MUNers, non-MUNers, faculty, and the administration across CMC, demonstrating yet again our school’s versatility and ability to collaborate. In the future, the McKenna MUN team hopes to make this conference an annual affair, as well as potentially hosting a collegiate conference similar to the ones they currently attend. If prior performance is any indication, their success in both endeavors seems probable, if not certain.