by Dalton Karwacki
Relief and excitement marked the second consecutive year in which Rider’s Model UN team won the national conference’s top two awards.
Approximately 200 national and international schools attended the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City, which lasted from March 28 to April 1. Rider’s 18-student team once again brought home the awards for Outstanding Delegation and Outstanding Position Paper. Rider was one of only 10 of the schools in attendance to win these awards.
Dr. Barbara Franz, the team’s faculty adviser, said that the back-to-back wins were impressive.
“I think this has never happened in Rider’s history before.Twice in a row, this is really amazing,” she said. “We’ve been part of the national Model UN for more than 40 years. This really hasn’t happened, so people should be very proud.”
Senior Ally Watson, the team’s head delegate, said that, while more teams won the top awards than last year, the accomplishment was still impressive.
“Last year, only five other schools won those awards,” she said. “This year, only nine other schools won those awards, and there were more schools competing this year, so we still managed to stay within the top 5 percent or so.”
In preparing to represent Venezuela at this year’s conference, the team had the opportunity to meet that country’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“Meeting the ambassador really helped this year because we were able, more so than last year, to really understand what the party platform of Venezuela was,” Watson said. “[His office] provided any statistics we wanted, specific answers on questions we may have had problems researching. They were so warm and welcoming to us and they were infinitely helpful.”
Senior Joe Gallant, one of the team leaders, said that meeting the ambassador gave the team an advantage that likely helped it win at the conference.
“He even got into the personal relationships between nations and he was very frank and blunt about how they feel about Colombia, for example,” he said. “I remember he compared them to the Israel of Latin America. You can’t really get that from a news article or something you find on the UN Web site; it’s just straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”
Also critical to the team’s success was the dedication of the delegates, according to Franz.
“The important thing that you need to know about this is, if one of the team members, during nationals, is too hung-over to come or feels that they need to take a nap in the afternoon, if even just one guy is not doing his job, we’re done, we won’t get any awards,” she said. “So it’s important to get them to understand that they all have a responsibility for the good of the team.”
On winning the top prizes for two years in a row, Gallant said it was great to be able to live up to people’s expectations for the team.
“In my personal view, it was more of a relief than anything else,” he said. “Last year was exciting because it was the best we’d ever done and it was like nothing anybody expected. This year it was just like, ‘All right, we did that last year. Now the pressure’s on to repeat that performance.’ We don’t want to be that team that screwed it up the next year.”
“We got in there on Thursday, and I don’t want to say that we felt entitled to it, but we worked so hard,” she said. “I know we worked the team so much harder than last year because now we knew what it took to get those awards and we had to maintain the status quo. But at the end of the day, it was all worth it.”
Also credited with the team’s repeat victory was the higher-than-usual number of team members, four team leaders and three other delegates, coming back for another conference.
“We went in with this kind of a swagger, like, ‘We’ve done this before,’” Gallant said. “A lot of the team was returning from last year, so we were just kind of like, ‘Let’s just do it again.’”
Franz, on the other hand, said she had a much more joyous reaction to the news.
“I got an e-mail at 4:30 or 5 in the morning from the National Model UN organizers, and I think I jumped and shouted and then I started texting my poor students, who were probably asleep because they had to be in committee until 10 or 11 at night,” she said. “I e-mailed everybody, I e-mailed my whole faculty here and I was just ecstatic. It’s awesome. It made my day, made my week. It might have made my month.”