UChicago wins first place in Model U.N. competition

The University of Chicago Model U.N. team won first place on the college circuit for 2013-2014, earning the title “No. 1 in North America” from Best Delegate, the New York-based organization that promotes Model U.N. participation and ranks its winners.

Earning top honors means that UChicago team members attended some of this past year’s most competitive conferences, including those at Harvard, Columbia University, Georgetown and the University of Pennsylvania, and won all of them.

“I love competing, and I love winning,” said outgoing president Eric Wessan, who graduated from the College in June. “This year our Model U.N. team made me very happy.”

Entirely student-run, the conferences are a mix of traditional simulations of United Nations proceedings, such as a security council session, and “crisis committees,” which focus on emergency situations requiring immediate, real-time problem solving. Students participate individually or in pairs, often representing an individual country and its policies.

Both formats draw upon strong skills in research, writing and public speaking, and UChicago students took home top accolades in all categories. “We’re quite good at research,” said Apratim Gautam, a rising fourth-year student who last year served as a team vice president. “It’s one of our biggest strengths.” Gautam said he and his teammates made so many trips to Regenstein Library to research Model U.N. topics that there now exists a dedicated research link on the library’s web site.

Involvement in the program appears to be contagious. Wessan said membership grew by 50 percent this past year, and twice as many first-year students participated in conferences. “It really is a pedagogical experience, especially as a third- or fourth-year student. You have an opportunity to teach younger people about problem solving, public speaking and how to work creatively on a given set of problems.”