IUPUI Model United Nations Ranked Amongst Best in Nation

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IUPUI students are nothing if not busy, and the students of the Model United Nations club are no exception. Members are dedicated to their club, their peers, and understanding international politics. As they face Ivy League schools in debate, they hope for more recognition back home too.

Model UN, often abbreviated to MUN, is an international collegiate-level student club. It’s also exactly what it sounds like. Students research real-world issues and then represent various countries in a litany of meetings and caucuses that actually exist in the United Nations in competitions.  

Daniel Di Martino, a junior from Venezuela, helped restart MUN at IUPUI in 2017 and is its former president. The club maintains about 50 members, 20 of whom are active in training for competitions; the club is ranked in the top 75 of all participating American colleges.

“It’s not just that I think it’s fun to talk about diplomacy and that kind of thing,” Zach McDougal, a senior and the outgoing vice president, said. “I think people underestimate how important it is to understand other cultures in general, and then also, from a political perspective, what role other countries have to play.”

MUN Club Members at a Meeting

Partly because they lack faculty advisors, members train each other for competitions. Students who are competing next (members rotate to give everyone a shot) meet twice a week. No subject is considered taboo--students are encouraged to dissect all perspectives of an argument, especially the sides they may disagree with.  

“When you’re in that training role, it's really fulfilling to share what you know, figure out what you don’t know, and share that with others,” Riley Smith,  sophomore and newly-elected MUN president, said.

MUN club members are a diverse crowd. About half of the active members are international students, and their majors vary from political science to engineering. Their love of history, politics, global issues and of course debate bring them closer together

“That’s how I made most of my friend group at IUPUI, was through Model United Nations,” Di Martino said. “It’s an activity that’s not just about the leadership it gives you and how good it looks on your resume, but about the social connections.”

Those connections are forged not just in training, but also formal competitions across the country.

There’s two kinds of MUN competitions: general assembly and crisis committee. General assembly mimics the UN system. Upwards of 200 delegates write, argue and pass policy in caucuses before a panel of judges. Students who do all three are in the running for best delegate of the competition.

Crisis councils are much more like roleplaying.  Students assume the identities of real people in history and debate based on what their character would want. These are small, sometimes only a dozen students in each competition, and fast-paced. It’s more of an acquired taste to intensely research and mimic J.P. Morgan’s wife Jane in the early 20th century, for instance.

“We often joke that Model UN is like LARPing with suits on,” Smith said.

The final conference of the spring 2019 semester is an all-crisis council in Chicago over Easter weekend. Seven members, plus Smith as a coach, will attend.

The club selects which conferences they will attend months in advance. Various members attend several over the course of a semester.

These competitions aren’t cheap. It can cost several thousand dollars to send 10 students to News York City or Toronto for a weekend, even when they rent vans and take buses. At IUPUI, members pay no dues. The club is funded by the School of Liberal Arts, but $16,000 only goes so far. To compare, both of IUPUI’s golf teams get six figures.  

To keep MUN as accessible as possible, the IUPUI MUN club organizes Indianapolis MUN, a high school-level competition,which Di Martino stepped down from club presidency to direct. Club members also fundraise like their recent spring fling date auction.

IUPUI’s MUN club is taking steps to become recognized as a team alongside the IUPUI debate team and mock trial to access better funds and more autonomy. Members who dedicate their time to an academic pursuit on a national stage want to expand without fear of denying students access to competition.

“Name a prestigious university around the country and we have competed against them and won against them in many instances,” Sam West, a senior and the former conference director, said. “People on the MUN circuit know who IUPUI is now, and that’s never happened before.”

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