MISSOULA – Eleven University of Montana students and members of the Montana Model United Nations team attended the National Model UN conference in New York City in March, representing Eritrea and chairing the UN Environment Assembly.
The students represented the African country of Eritrea with the following committee appointments.
- Michael Toppen, junior in political science from Great Falls: General Assembly First Committee, Security and Disarmament
- Colin Milton, sophomore in political science from Sandy, Utah: General Assembly Second Committee, Economic and Financial
- Taylor Rost, junior in political science and Spanish from Polson: General Assembly Third Committee, Social and Humanitarian
- Connor Fitzpatrick, graduate student in political science from Helena: General Assembly Third Committee, Social and Humanitarian
- Anisa Ricci, senior in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies from La Crescenta, California: General Assembly Fifth Committee, Administrative and Budgeting
- Carly Chapdelaine, senior in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies from Great Falls: International Organization on Migration
- Cara Grewell, sophomore in political science from Silesia: UN Environment Assembly
- George “Kelley” Krumm, senior in history from Anaconda: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
- Vincent “Sonny” Capece, junior in political science from Tallahassee, Florida: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
- Bailey Durnell, junior in political science and women, gender and sexuality studies from Great Falls: Commission on the Status of Women
- Taylor Gregory, freshman in political science from Lolo: Commission on the Status of Women. Gregory also served as team president.
One student, Ricci, was chosen as chair for the UN Environment Assembly, a coveted position. Because team members serve as chairs and other staff members at UM’s MMUN High School Conference, they often are selected to serve as NMUN committee and conference staff. After the first day, Ricci chaired all UNEA sessions for the rest of the conference.
The UM team as a whole won an Honorable Mention Award for the realism of their representation, participation in committee sessions and knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
“We’re delighted with this result,” said Karen Adams, political science chair. “The team ranked with major international schools such as Sciences Po Paris.”
To prepare for the conference, the team met with Solomon Gofie, a visiting professor of political science from the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Gofie is at UM this year on a Fulbright African Research Scholar fellowship. He answered questions about Eritrea and the Horn of Africa and offered advice on their papers and negotiating strategies.
In New York, the students visited the Eritrean mission to the UN and were briefed by Stephannie Afewerki, Eritrea’s United Nations Strategist for Peace, Security and the Security Council.
“No book or lecture can give you a true feel for how the United Nations functions, but the conference showed me how it all comes together,” Chapdelaine said. “The conference taught me how to be professional, diplomatic and an effective communicator.”
“This experience should be mandatory for students seeking the international relations field,” said Krumm, veteran NMUN team member. “You could read 100 books about the art of negotiation and dealing with people, but until you are actually with someone in person trying to negotiate a deal, you won’t understand.”
“It was a very special experience to represent Ethiopia and Eritrea in consecutive years and witness how each of the nation’s relationships with one another impacts their foreign affairs,” said Durnell, veteran vice president of the team.
Students pay about half of their expenses for the five-day conference. The rest is funded by contributions from MMUN alumni, the UM Provost and President Offices, Davidson Honors College, ASUM and the Department of Political Science.