MUN hosts first in-person HoMMUNC in three years


Sophie Rukin, Staff Writer

Last Saturday, the Model United Nations (MUN) team hosted over 600 students from 40 different schools across the tri-state area for a day of diplomacy and discourse at the 37th annual Horace Mann Model United Nations Conference (HoMMUNC). After two years online, the conference fully transitioned back to in-person this year.

Planning for HoMMUNC began in late June of 2021, and required countless hours of organization and communication, MUN Secretary General (SG) Nitika Subramanian (12) said. “It was the first HoMMUNC in-person in three years, so that is a huge deal,” she said. “It’s a lot about organizing the team, organizing supplies, and communicating with the new advisor.”

The first order of business was contacting schools to compete in the conference, Subramanian said. “We lost a ton of instructions and infrastructure from past years, so we had to start by making a call sheet and calling 200 to 300 schools.” 

Club members then wrote background guides for participants, Lily Wender (11) said. Sophomores and juniors in the club each wrote 20 to 30 pages of information that students needed for their conference topic, including the history, potential solutions, and current actions, she said. “My topic was mental health amongst children, so I had to research past action taken on mental health along with how different blocs [groups of countries] were handling it.”

As the date of the conference approached, younger club members stayed after school to compile supplies, Asha Tandon (10) said. “We were helping to do all the legwork that goes into the conference like stuffing folders, making placards, making name tags, and doing all the things to make the conference run smoothly.”

One challenge students encountered was juggling the after school work and the preparation needed to speak in their own delegations, Andrew Ziman (10) said. “It was tough finding a balance between helping the team prepare and preparing myself.”

While supervising and assisting the younger students, the three SG’s sent out assignments and communicated with schools, Subramanian said. “We had to give each individual student their own committee assignment, meaning we made about 700.”

In addition to planning the event, most MUN students acted as chairs, moderators, or delegates at the conference itself, Miller Harris (12) said. “I was the chair of a crisis committee, so I basically acted as a link between the delegates and what was going on in their ‘crisis simulation.’” Harris did a variety of jobs — including acting as Boris Yeltsin — and he responded to letters from delegates, he said.

Students arrived at the school early Saturday morning dressed in blazers, pantsuits, and dresses, prepared to represent their countries. Delegations and crisis committees occupied almost every large gathering space at school, from the Recital Hall to the Atrium. The school was alive and packed; faculty advisors gathered in the student lounge, MUN leadership troubleshot problems, and delegates heatedly discussed their resolutions.

Wender chaired a delegation of middle schoolers that focused on mental health services for children, she said. While HoMMUNC is mainly for high schoolers, there were two middle division committees for students to learn about MUN and decide if they wanted to stick with it in the long term, Wender said. At the committee, the students rotated between moderated caucuses where delegates gave speeches on subtopics of the main topic, and unmoderated caucuses where delegates worked together on their resolutions, Wender said. “One of the moderated caucuses that came up on my committee was the effect of the COVID pandemic on mental health.” 

Working with middle schoolers was a great experience, United Nations Development Program Committee Chair Nate Chiang (11) said. “It was a lot of the middle schoolers’ first conference, so I really wanted to encourage them to stick with MUN through high school.”

Alexander Doft (8) found the middle school committee to be a great learning opportunity, he said. “HoMMUNC was so much fun and a lot of other people should do it since it helps you improve skills such as debating and public speaking.”

Ziman enjoyed how the conference gave him the opportunity to be a mentor, he said. Ziman partnered with a first time MUN participant for his delegation. “At first my partner didn’t want to speak that often,” he said. “I pressured him to speak because I knew that he would ultimately benefit from more exposure to speaking, and by the end of the day I saw that his confidence had really improved.” 

Alisa Buitenheis (9) partnered with a sophomore mentor since HoMMUNC was her first tournament, she said. “It was a great learning experience, and I felt guided and included by my mentor and the Model UN team as a whole.”

Returning to in-person added to the HoMMUNC experience, Harris said. “I really enjoyed being able to see the delegates’ faces during the crisis updates, as well as doing some fun acting, and bringing my friends into the skits.”

While hosting and planning in person tournaments is a lot more work than hosting online tournaments, it was worth it, Subramanian said. “I cannot emphasize enough how rewarding HoMMUNC was,” she said. “There’s something so special about people enjoying the day, and to know that you made that possible.”