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Model UN club rallies behind underclassmen efforts

| Monday, March 6, 2023

When first-year Adam Akan, a nationally recognized high school Model United Nations delegate, went to Activities Night this fall in Notre Dame Stadium, he was shocked to find zero representatives from Model UN.

“There was no table, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not real,’” Akan said. “You think at a school such as Notre Dame — a prestigious university — they have to have these things we do in high school.”

{Editor’s note: Akan is a sports writer for The Observer.}

Peter Breen | The Observer
Notre Dame Model United Nations Club (NDMUN) members traveled to compete in Harvard University’s collegiate-level conference mid-February.

Akan eventually tracked down the Notre Dame Model United Nations Club (NDMUN) president, but he was again upset when only four people showed up to the group’s first meeting.

“It was really disappointing at that time because … I was really excited about doing this in college,” Akan said. “How can you have a four-person Model UN team?”

Under the management of current president Mari Pritulsky — a Saint Mary’s sophomore, one of the few stragglers from last year’s team — and Akan, who now serves as club training specialist, NDMUN has grown.

In October, NDMUN made a trip to Washington, D.C. for Georgetown University’s annual conference. Just a few weeks ago the team returned from Harvard University and will be traveling to the University of Chicago’s conference later this spring.

“We did just go to Harvard, and it was a really successful conference,” Pritulsky said. “The other schools in what they call the ‘circuit’ are going to start realizing that Notre Dame has a presence.”

To expand the club, Pritulsky added, competing against some of the biggest schools in the nation — the T20s, the military academies — is key.

“It’s good for us to have a presence there, just as in any other sport or any other activity,” she said.

Akan said the club’s reboot is all about progressive growth and attracting quality contributors. He added that now, about a dozen people regularly attend the club’s weekly meetings.

“Those 10 or 12 people want to be there,” Akan said. “They want to compete. They want to do Model UN. They are not just there to check a box, or they are not just there to have a social circle. I’m really happy that we have a platform for those types of people.”

Undergraduates in STEM or business, Akan continued, “matriculate easily” due to clear-cut opportunities in research or clubs such as SIBC. The club is aiming to recruit political science and global affairs majors — students Akan said lack an obvious club to turn to.

Because club involvement cultivates skills in research, communication and focus, Akan said NDMUN is also perfect for those interested in becoming lawyers, working in advocacy or being public servants. He added that the networking possibilities of Model UN are very underrated.

“When you go to these conferences, you’re putting together 600 kids who really care about their internships, really care about their grades and really care about being successful in life,” Akan said. “It’s great to meet people not only from your own school, but from other schools.”

During conferences — when some 30 delegates are thrown together in one room — Akan said competitors learn a bit about negotiation and political backstabbing.

“You have a group of people … All of them are really good speakers,” Akan said. “All of them know the topic, all of them are really politically active and aware and all of them want to win. If you’re not a little bit politically savvy or got a little bit more cunning in how you behave, you are not going to do well.”

Beyond semesterly forays to world-renowned universities, Pritulsky said club commitment involves hour-long meetings on Tuesday evenings, which consist of a slideshow presentation on global affairs and a collaborative United Nations activity, such as a conflict resolution workshop on nuclear non-proliferation.

“It’s not necessarily a free trip to the city of your choice,” Pritulsky said. “But I’ll be honest, it’s not that much work on top of your normal time schedule.”

At the moment, the club is accepting anyone, Akan said — no experience necessary. In search of new members, Akan said he has been booking appearances with global affairs and political science classes.

In the world of collegiate Model UN, there is no overarching structure, Akan said. Instead, teams fight for prestige. His number-one objective as training specialist, Akan added, is preparing the team for the highest level of competition.

“We are not going to be able to compete with the Model UN ‘big boys,’ because there are some schools where Model UN is the number one activity — more than sports even,” Akan said. “We’re not going to be able to compete with them off the rip, but what we can do is build, build, build.”

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About Peter Breen

Peter Breen is an associate news editor for The Observer. He can be reached at [email protected]. Breen grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies.

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