The following article was written by Kevin Felix Chan, co-founder of Best Delegate. It highlights a number of ways that NHSMUN stands out as a premier MUN conference. We are proud to have introduced a number of additional services and pieces of programming since the time this article was written, but for those new to NHSMUN, this a great place to start in getting to know us a bit better!
"Ten Ways NHSMUN Sets the Standard in Educational Quality"
The National High School Model United Nations (NHSMUN) conference celebrated its 40th anniversary this past weekend by hosting over 3,000 delegates from 27 countries and throughout the United States. NHSMUN is the flagship conference organized by the non-profit International Model United Nations Association (IMUNA), which also organizes the Regional High School Model United Nations (RHSMUN) in San Francisco and Southern United States Model United Nations (SUSMUN) in Atlanta.
The tagline of IMUNA is “Education Through Simulation.” Many MUN conferences say their focus is on the educational side of Model UN, but I observed ten things that NHSMUN did differently that made it truly stand out in the MUN community.
An advisor receives a pin for attending NHSMUN for 25 years. NHSMUN has a strong focus on faculty advisor development.
1. Faculty Advisor appreciation: Teachers received pins from IMUNA during Opening Ceremonies for every five years that they have attended NHSMUN. No other major conference in the world has that type of highly visible appreciation and long-lasting relationships with their faculty advisors.
2. Faculty Advisors workshop: Best Delegate has conducted workshops for faculty advisors at NHSMUN most years, and we got to do the same again this year. In fact, our workshop on How to Lead Your Model UN Program was one of the best attended faculty advisor workshops we have ever run. We shared tips on how to prepare students, grow their teams, and create a local circuit of MUN conferences, and we also discussed interesting developments in the broader MUN community
3. Faculty Advisors Security Council Simulation: NHSMUN put on a Security Council simulation for the faculty advisors. Many faculty advisors never had the chance to do Model UN as students, and this was one of the few opportunities to experience what their students go through.
4. Relevant keynote speaker: Michael Trainer, the founder of Global Citizen Festival, spoke about how young people can take action and share his own story about starting this festival that brought together social good with music. He entertainingly shared his biggest lessons, including dreaming big to build support, have a resonating story, innovate through technology, build trust and emotional responses, lead through giving and adding value, and being authentic and embracing potential failure. I thought this advice was so much more relevant to the high school students than the typical keynote speaker who knows nothing about MUN and speaks about a specialized, non-relevant subject — and judging by how attentive the students were throughout the 45 minute talk, I think the students enjoyed it too.
5. Students to Staff: I’m not exactly sure what the internal staff hashtag of #bluemoon refers to, but I definitely know that NHSMUN is one of the few conferences in the world where the vast majority of the staff were once students who attended the conference (I believe they mentioned somewhere from 80-90% of staff). In fact, there was a hard pitch to have high school seniors apply for next year’s staff. This students to staff pipeline ensures a consistent culture, shared experiences, and high quality chairing.
6. UN Committees: Most large conferences with this many committees have started to field a mixed lineup of traditional UN committees and crisis committees. NHSMUN maintains its educational stance and proves that even at 29 committees and with a few midnight crises, the simulations can still be based on focusing on research-based, traditional UN committees.
7. Well-written background guides: Many advisors, including an advisor of a top-ranked team, commended the quality of the background guides. The chairs clearly know their topics — and in fact the chairs spend the summer intensively researching and writing the background guides. This ensures that the debate quality is higher and that the resolutions are more realistic.
8. Solution charts: In multiple committees, I saw chairs write solution charts or mind-maps on the whiteboard or the large post-it papers that frame the different aspects that need to be addressed in the topic. These charts present an outline for what a comprehensive resolution should include and encourages delegates to think about multiple issues that they may not have thought about.
9. Embassy visits: NHSMUN takes advantage of its location in New York City to organize visits to the embassies of the country that each school is representing. Most of the visits are highly educational and allow the delegates to truly understand their country’s perspective rather than extrapolating it from research or making it up.
10. UN Headquarters: Visiting the UN Headquarters is always a unique experience, even if it was the temporary General Assembly Hall this year since the regular GA Hall is under renovation. Visits to the UN tend to be inspiring and remind students that the simulations they are experiencing are not just games but rather reflect real work of diplomats.
Bonus #11: Commitment to Education. I had a chance to meet the new Secretaries-General of RHSMUN and SUSMUN during NHSMUN. We spoke about how to sustainably expand those conferences so that more delegates can experience the high quality of MUN that is simulated at NHSMUN as opposed to the strategy other conferences are taking by trying to promote the competitiveness level of their conferences for rankings purposes.