PLATTSBURGH — SUNY Plattsburgh’s Model United Nations Club has proven that having fun and achieving greatness are not mutually exclusive.
Last month, the group was awarded the Best Large Delegation title at the fourth-annual Cornell International Affairs Conference at Cornell University in Ithaca.
“I was pretty excited, obviously, because it’s a huge accomplishment,” club President Shirin Mehri said.
Of SUNY Plattsburgh’s 14 regular Model U.N. Club members, 12 attended the conference, making the group the smallest of the large delegations at the event.
In total, more than 65 delegates from eight schools, including McGill and Pennsylvania State universities, took part in the four-day affair.
Although SUNY Plattsburgh’s club had participated in the conference in previous years, this was the first time any of its current members, some of whom are freshman, had attended.
It is also the first time the college has won a Best Delegation award.
“We were very pleasantly surprised, especially because the schools that we go up against ... are big-name schools, and then we’re called up as the best large delegation,” said Adam Saccardi, vice president of the club. “I mean, it’s just not something we were expecting.
“We’re honored, and we’re privileged.”
The award, he noted, is given to the delegation with the highest proportion of individual awards to delegates.
Contributing to SUNY Plattsburgh’s success were Ben Rosner and Kevin Clayton, each of whom received Best Delegate awards, the highest individual recognition given at the event.
In addition, Shaun Reardon received an Honorable Mention for his portrayal of a senator in the conference’s Supreme Council of the Roman Empire committee.
While some of the conference’s committees challenged delegates to cope with situations taking place in the past, others presented futuristic scenarios.
Saccardi was assigned to represent the United Kingdom on the United Nations Security Council during a post-nuclear apocalypse.
He and his fellow committee members were faced with responding to hypothetical nuclear terrorist attacks on Los Angeles, Shanghai and Mecca.
“There’s a group set up outside of the room, which is organized by Cornell, called the Crisis Committee, and their whole job is to deal with what happens in the committee,” Saccardi said.
“They create the context in a real-time scenario, so as you take actions, they will devise a reaction.”
For example, he noted, “we tried to send aid to Korea, but terrorists blew up the tunnel and the aid, so it didn’t work out.”
While SUNY Plattsburgh club members prepare for the conference with mock debates, there is little research that can be done beforehand.
This is different from a high-school Model U.N. experience, Saccardi noted, when delegates are given a static topic to debate and need to understand its ins and outs.
“For a collegiate conference, you just need to understand the context of the situation, and then react to what (the) crisis throws at you,” he said. “It’s a lot more on-your-feet thinking.
“It’s not as research heavy.”
Still, Saccardi noted, many schools that participated in the event are highly competitive and require students to try out for their Model U.N. clubs
“We always stress to our delegates we are different than a lot of Model U.N. programs, especially at the big-name schools,” he said.
‘ICING ON THE CAKE’
The goal of SUNY Plattsburgh’s club, the vice president continued, is simply to create a friendly atmosphere where people can share their ideas, polish their public-speaking and debate skills and have some fun.
“It’s not a competition,” he said.
“I think our top priority was to have a good time ..., and winning the awards was definitely an icing on the cake,” Mehri added.
Though the club president was unable to attend the Cornell event due to prior obligations, she was nonetheless excited to learn of her group’s achievements.
“I was so so proud when they came back home,” she said.
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