Upper School students are taking advantage of opportunities to sharpen their public speaking and debate skills through virtual Model U.N. conferences.
Members of St. Andrew’s Model U.N. Club have participated in two virtual conferences this school year. Eleven students participated in a regional conference at the beginning of December, and two took time out of their winter break to attend a Model U.N. Emergency Meeting, which also served as a test run for an upcoming spring conference.
Aaron Lobsenz ’22 represented Greece at the emergency meeting and said he had more opportunities to speak extemporaneously due to the small size of the event.
“As a Greek cabinet member (Minister of the Interior), I had to balance the Greek need for security with the desire for a constructive relationship with Turkey. In other issues, I needed to convince multiple Greek colleagues, who all had different concerns. Those discussions required sincerity, tact, and a logical argument,” Lobsenz said. “I gained greater confidence and honed my arguments due to these opportunities.”
The virtual format of these conferences permitted students to invent new ways of communicating with other delegates. Students utilized the breakout room feature to have small group discussions, and selected icons to alert the room that they want to speak, rather than trying to speak over someone, as they might have in person.
Shannon O’Grady ’22, who represented Ukraine, said she prefers the Zoom alternative to passing sticky notes in order to speak privately with other delegates.
“On Zoom you can private chat, which I found to be a lot easier when talking to other countries,” she said.
Some Model U.N. Club members said they see virtual conferences as a sustainable option long term.
“It’s a good model for Model U.N.,” said Catherine Colbert ’22, who served on a specialized university committee. “It’s less expensive to put on the conference. It’s easier to participate if you have social anxiety, and it’s more relaxed.”
Others, like Matías Heitner ’22, who also served on a specialized university committee, said it doesn’t compare with going to New York or Chicago and attending Model U.N. with students from around the country.
“The experience of bonding with people, that I don’t think this could replicate," he said.
In addition to Model U.N., Upper School students hone their elocution through signature projects like the Great Works Project and Seniors Last Stand or by enrolling in the Debate elective course.