Pitching a Model UN at TRU

A Q&A with a TRU lecturer who wants to bring the club to campus

Robert Hanlon, a political science lecturer, is forming a Model UN club – if enough students join. Hanlon, whose background focuses on international relations, previously worked at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C., where he acted as the faculty advisor for their model UN club.

“I’ve been here [TRU] about a year and a half, and the fact that there was no Model UN club was always a bit of a question in the back of my head,” Hanlon said.

The Omega spoke with Hanlon about what he wanted to accomplish with the club.

Ashley Wadhwani: What activities will the Model UN club be doing?

Robert Hanlon: We will be looking at models of how teams have won Model UNs by looking at case studies on how successful Model UN’s worked, how unsuccessful ones worked—some of the barriers. We are going to be working on things like public speaking, diplomacy skills, networking skills and the rules and regulations. This is a competitive UN so the goal is to have a team that will compete as a TRU club so the training will be absolutely essential to this.

AW: Would students be competing against other universities?

RH: The plan, if it all works out, is to start with a local competition—going to places in the lower mainland. We have our eyes set on a mock UN in the fall at Kwantlen. There’s one at University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University as well.

AW: How many students are needed for a competitive team?

RH: A team will generally be between four and eight. If we have enough we could do our own model UN here. At Kwantlen, there were roughly 60 students participating in the Model UN club so we did a Model UN on campus.

AW: What exactly is Model UN competition?

RH: Essentially it’s a simulation of how the real United Nations works. A competitive team is given a country and students are to research and learn everything about the country’s policy and foreign policy. They are given [the country] ahead of time. Then they go and role-play as official representatives and diplomats of that country. It’s carried out over several days. The first day [the students] will have a resolution or theme that they’re trying to deal with.

AW: What sort of resolutions or themes would students be working with?

RH: This year, the Model UN at Kwantlen had [a gender-based violence] theme. It also had a UN Security Council reform, so they talked about how to think about the countries that have the most power, and there’s five of them, and think about how to make the UN a more equitable agency. So they’ll spend one day negotiating and talking about policies and then they’ll create a resolution. Teams will sometimes work through the night. Depending on the Model UN, sometimes there’s an emergency crisis that can happen. The next day there’s voting procedures and then, hopefully, the goal [is] to have a final product or resolution and present it.

AW: What skills can students take from competing in the Model UN club?

RH: It is an initiative that requires a lot of teamwork—a lot of preparation. It’s a lot of networking and public speaking. It’s an opportunity for students to not only learn about the world, but [also] meet people with similar interests around campus and other universities. [Students] certainly have to do quite a bit of research beforehand. Often [students] will have to write resolutions, drafts or research reports depending on the Model UN. There are also opportunities to get involved in the community. My ultimate hope is that model UN can be used as an outreach to high schools. There’s a whole range of skills that are done in a very fun and collaborative way.