UM National Model United Nations Students Win Award at Conference

May 14, 2014

MISSOULA – Twelve University of Montana students on the Montana Model United Nations Team returned from a national conference in New York City with an award for representing the Pacific Island nation of Fiji.    

In preparation for the National Model U.N. Conference, the team met with Missoula resident Jerry Weber, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Fiji. During the weeklong conference, held March 30 through April 3, team members visited Fiji’s diplomatic mission to the U.N., attended talks by national and international policy makers, including Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and held closing ceremonies at U.N. headquarters.

Students represented the Republic of Fiji on the following committees:      

  • Andrew Surratt of Missoula, senior, political science, General Assembly Fourth Committee (Decolonization and Political Affairs).
  • Byron Boots of Sequim, Wash., sophomore, management information systems and international business, General Assembly First Committee (Peace and Security).
  • Christina Bloemen of Fort Collins, Colo., senior, political science and Russian, United Nations Environmental Program.
  • Dakota Whisler of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, senior, German and Russian, United Nations Population Fund.
  • Dani Howlett of Polson, senior, political science, United Nations Second Committee (Economic).
  • Betsy Story of Emigrant, sophomore, political science and Arabic, United Nations Population Fund.
  • Emily Gary of Dillon, senior, political science and Russian, General Assembly Third Committee (Human Rights).
  • Jake Brown of Billings, senior, political science and Arabic, General Assembly First Committee (Peace and Security).
  • Jon-Luke Thomasson of Houston, senior, political science and philosophy, General Assembly Third Committee (Human Rights).
  • Karla Mae Nettleton of Helena, senior, political science and accounting, General Second Assembly (Economic).
  • Nicolas McCutcheon of Houston, senior, political science and history, Operations for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.
  • Talon Sandstrom of Choteau, senior, political science, minor in Russian, United Nations Environmental Program.

For the overall excellence of their work, the Montana Model U.N. Team was named a Distinguished Delegation, an award given to only 25 percent of the 193 countries represented at the conference.

“This is a high honor, especially for a small delegation representing a small country,” said MMUN Faculty Adviser Karen Ruth Adams.

After the conference, the team visited Fiji’s diplomatic mission to the U.N. 

“The staff were very pleased with how we represented their country,” Bloemen said. “They gave us all FIJI Water and a copy of the new Fijian constitution.”

NMUN is one of the largest Model U.N. conferences in the world, drawing more than 5,000 university students – about half of which are international. Like other Model U.N. conferences, including UM’s annual Montana Model U.N. High School Conference, NMUN’s goal is to encourage students to learn about international relations while expanding their skills in public speaking, negotiation and diplomacy. 

For Nettleton, the most memorable moment of the conference was “when I completed the third merger of my working paper at 1 a.m.,” she recalled. “I felt extremely proud of my negotiation skills, but I also had the privilege of working with some very smart individuals who helped expand my knowledge.”

For Story, the high point was “being able to use both my language skills [Russian and Arabic] to make new friends and allies at the conference.”

According to Whisler, the “most memorable moment was being congratulated by almost every delegation after giving a rousing speech on cooperation, solidarity and the need to put personal prejudices aside to better work toward the common good.”

In a post-conference survey, the students strongly agreed that attending NMUN had increased their knowledge and skills, as well as their interest in studying international relations and working to solve world problems. 

“National Model United Nations has been able to help shape what I would like to do after college,” Thomasson said. “After going to NMUN, I not only feel more confident about myself, but also in my ability to work together with the global community to solve the problems of today and the future.

“Without the NMUN, I would not have gotten the hands-on experience needed to be able to apply the skills that I have been learning the past three and a half years at UM,” he said. “NMUN was like the final test to see if I actually knew what I was getting into, and I passed.”

      For more information or to acquire photos of the team during the conference, visit the MMUN team website at, call MMUN Faculty Adviser Karen Ruth Adams at 406-214-5451, email or call outgoing MMUN Team President Bloemen at 970-219-8908 or email


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Contact: Karen Ruth Adams, associate professor, UM Department of Political Science, 406-214-5451,