Emerson students take part in first Model UN

by Beacon Staff • February 22, 2006

According to founder Lauren Johnson, a junior print journalism major, Emerson does not have an established MUN chapter, but several Emerson students are working hard to get it going.,Emerson students expanded their efforts to start a Model United Nations (MUN) chapter by sending 16 representatives to the Harvard National Model United Nations Conference (HNMUN) 2006 last weekend.

According to founder Lauren Johnson, a junior print journalism major, Emerson does not have an established MUN chapter, but several Emerson students are working hard to get it going.

This year's event at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel was the first time Emerson had officially sent members to a MUN conference.

With more than 2,500 students from 181 colleges and 24 countries participating, the HNMUN meeting seemed to live up to the Web site's claim that it is "the oldest, largest and most prestigious simulation of its kind."

Members of a MUN convention research particular countries-this year, Emerson students represented Haiti and Somalia-then work together at these events to pass resolutions in committees organized around certain areas of international interest, such as weapons policy or health care.

As one of the Emerson students who represented Haiti in the Disarmament and International Security Committee, Johnson said she saw "a glimmer of hope" as the country elected former president from 1996-2000, Rene Preval, last Thursday after relatively peaceful elections.

"I'm hoping he's going to communicate with other world leaders and maintain ties with the US," she said. "I hope this leads to something good for this country."

The international community has closely watched the Haitian elections in anticipation that the nation may achieve more stability since the previous president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was removed from the country in 2004.

"Things have been going fairly smoothly in our committee," Johnson said. "You really have to keep in mind your own country's position and [that of] other countries, too."

The United Nations supports the more than 400 MUN conferences that are estimated to take place annually because the conferences are considered a global teaching tool. The participants of the conventions submit recommendations to the UN, governments of different countries and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

"What I love about Model UN is that it's an interactive way to learn about what's going on in the world," Johnson said. "I knew something . about Haiti, but [the conference] got me to really look into it, look at the causes for some of the reasons why this country is so unstable."

The Emerson students' advisor is Dr. Gregory Payne, an associate professor in the department of organizational and political communications, whom Johnson credits as playing a significant role in starting the group. He described the conference as "kind of like a Rose Bowl."

He said "the fact that it's at Harvard commands great respect."

Payne said that the Emerson club is now in the process of getting recognition by the Student Government Association (SGA).

He also said he was very grateful for Johnson's efforts to get the organization going and for Emerson's visiting lecturers Heather Erickson and Thomas Dunn, who advised the club during the conference and who are both specialists in rhetoric and public speaking.

In the meantime, Johnson said she feels this meeting was important because it helped her to learn how to prepare herself and her group for future MUN conventions.

Emerson senior Mark Du, a double major in journalism and political communications, said the Disarmament committee focused on issues such as the military, gang violence in Haiti and Iran, and maintaining sovereignty in different areas around the world.

Du said the committee did not pass any resolutions but that it was a worthwhile learning experience for everyone involved.

Emerson junior Lydia Lin, a marketing communications major who is originally fom Taiwan, participated in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, which focused on national response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

Lin said she had hoped to cover the issue of racism, but the representatives had to settle on what the majority of the students in the committee voted on.

Lin, whose father is a diplomat for the Taiwanese embassy, said she is interested in international relations and sees herself pursuing a career in that field as a marketing professional.

Lin's family currently resides in Papua New Guinea, and her family has lived in five different countries since she was a child.

Johnson and Du both said that, in the future, the Emerson organization would like to put more focus on resolution writing.

She and other members said there are already plans on the table to attend more conferences and become a strong organization that will continue to learn and improve.