Upright citizens of the world

Notre Dame's Model United Nations delegation learn all about being global citizens as they prepare for first event of the season.

Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is a conference format for students that originated during the 1920s in the United States that has been designed to simulate the procedures of the "real" United Nations based in New York. Students, typically in high school or college, participate as "delegates" to various UN committees and other bodies that simulate the UN system. Today, there are more than 4,000 Model UN conferences held worldwide, from Bangladesh and Australia to Lebanon and Peru.

This Saturday, sixteen Notre Dame students will participate in one of those conferences, the 23rd annual conference of the Southeast Michigan Model United Nations Association. They will join more than 1,000 very motivated and curious young people from all parts of Michigan who get a chance to discuss, debate and learn about issues of international importance. 

Among the topics for this year's conference, which will be held at Brighton High School, are preventing and preparing for global pandemics, terrorism in North Africa, and preventing spillover violence in civil conflict. Besides Notre Dame Prep, many of the top public and private schools will be represented at the conference, including Bloomfield Hills High School, Plymouth High School, Detroit Country Day, Greenhills, Gull Lake High School, the various International Academies and the Michigan Islamic Academy. 

Notre Dame co-chairs

According to SEMMUNA organizers, there will be a rich array of "brilliant young people" from all backgrounds and points of view. They also note that the committee discussions throughout the day-long conference are consistently intelligent, substantive and insightful, and represent many weeks of preparation and research.  

NDP social studies teacher Dave Osiecki, who is the school's  MUN moderator, noted that four of the 16 Notre Dame students actually will be co-chairing committees at this event. 

"Seniors John Kenny, Elizabeth Brouns, Addison Young and Rowland Scheessele will be managing committee rooms of about 30 students who will be discussing global pandemics," Osiecki said. "They will welcome delegates, explain the procedures for the day, observe parliamentary procedure, and assist student delegates in writing resolutions to address this important issue."

For senior Kenny, he can't wait until Saturday's event. 

"Chairing a committee at the largest Model United Nations conference in the state should feel daunting, but to be honest, I just feel totally prepared," he said. "Model United Nations has been one of my favorite extracurricular activities here at NDP because it continually challenges me to push myself intellectually and also provides opportunities to interact with some amazing people."  

Another Notre Dame student, Joseph Joppich, a senior at Notre Dame, has taken on even greater responsibilities in advance of the conference. As a committee director — one of only six at the entire event — he will be responsible for the operation of six different committee rooms and more than 150 delegates. 

This summer, with the help of a Notre Dame alum, Joppich wrote a background guide on the issue of global pandemics for all the delegates to use. It outlines the nature of the problem, explains various existing efforts to address the issue, and provides websites and sources for further research. 

He said he was able to reach out to Lara Salahi, a Notre Dame Prep alum from the Class of 2003 and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, for information and guidance. Salahi, who will soon be releasing a book on the subject of pandemics, was an invaluable source of information and insight for him as he put together his background guide.  

Joppich said he was extremely excited to be directing the committees on preventing and preparing for pandemics, and welcomed the help from Salahi. 

"I think this is such an important topic to be discussing as a world body, and Model UN is a great way to spread awareness about the issue," said Joppich, who recently earned a perfect 36 on the ACT. "Getting others interested in and talking about such a pressing issue really helps pave the way for the next generation of world leaders who are going to have to deal with important topics like pandemics in the future. Also, it was so great that I was able to contact Lara Salahi, who actually works in the field of preventing and preparing for pandemics. It was awesome to have her as a resource to ask questions and get advice on anything that came up."

Awards unimportant

One of the important aspects about this conference, according to Osiecki, is that it is such a great learning conference for the students. 

"Many of the delegates are inexperienced and quite nervous at this point in the school year," he said. "But to help alleviate that uncertainty, SEMMUNA takes pride in the student chairs working patiently and effectively with students who have varying amounts of Model UN experience. Also, many students get their first 'taste' of Model UN at this conference, end up having a great experience, which means they will be more likely to participate in future Model UN events." 

Another special aspect about the SEMMUNA conference in particular, according to Osiecki, is its lack of awards and prizes. 

"Other conferences later in the year offer special awards for outstanding work in committees," Osiecki said. "In fact, our Notre Dame team will attend two of those conferences at Oakland University and Michigan State University next semester. However, it's nice to start out the year with a low-pressure conference where the only goals are to learn, make friends and have fun. I think sometimes the award part of Model UN can somewhat spoil what I think Model UN should be about: learning to speak with confidence, formulate pointed questions, and negotiate with others of different points of view. I think these are the skills that will carry over into many areas of a student's future career, whether that's in business, education, politics or diplomacy."  

Meanwhile, for Notre Dame senior Schesseele, even though he's going into his fourth year of MUN activities, it's still a thrill to participate in something as big as SEMMUNA, especially given his special responsibilities.

"After being involved in SEMMUNA and Model United Nations for a long time, I'm really excited to be chairing a committee so that I can challenge myself and expand my skills," he said. "I also think that NDP has a great group of kids attending this year. They've really put a lot of hard work into preparing for it."

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org