After drafting mock policies and providing real-time responses to countless hypothetical crises thrown in their direction, the Georgetown International Relations Club conferences program, which travels to collegiate Model U.N. conferences across the country, finished the year undefeated, an unprecedented achievement that reflects the growth of the program over the last three years.
The team claimed their sixth “Best Delegation” award this year at the University of Chicago Model U.N. conference last week. Other recent conferences from which they have come home with first place awards include the University of Virginia Model U.N. conference last month, the McGill University conference in January and the University of Pennsylvania conference in November, which is the most competitive, according to Drew Peterson (SFS ’10), this year’s conferences coordinator. At each conference, student delegates receive individual awards, and the “Best Delegation” team award is given to the university with the most individual awards.
Competing against other collegiate Model U.N. teams from schools including Harvard University, University of Chicago, Yale University and United States Military Academy at West Point, Georgetown’s team has now won first place in 17 of its last 20 conferences and placed in the last 19. The group has not lost to a U.S. university at a conference held in the United States in the last three years.
Peterson attributes the team’s success to the level of international relations education at the university as well as students’ experiences working with policy issues in classes or in professional settings.
“The Georgetown delegate is usually known as the one in the room who knows his stuff and also can articulate it,” Peterson said. “Georgetown’s emphasis on a mixture of contemplation and action, and a focus on taking theory and implementing it in the world is something that has strengthened Georgetown’s ability to compete in these sorts of conferences.”
According to IRC Chair Eitan Paul (SFS ’12), Georgetown’s success over the past three years is unprecedented, not only in Georgetown’s history, but also among collegiate Model U.N. teams overall.
“It is extremely unusual for any school to dominate so completely because there are so many very strong Model U.N. programs. It really says something about the people who have led and participated in the conferences programs in the last few years, in terms of the level of passion and dedication that they’ve brought to it,” Paul said.
The accolades that the IRC’s conferences program has received are relatively sudden, as the team won no team awards in the 2006-2007 academic year. CEO of the Georgetown International Relations Association – the nonprofit responsible for funding the IRC’s annual NAIMUN and NCSC conferences – and former chair of the IRC Jasdeep Singh (SFS ’10) reflected on his freshman year, when it was rare to win even individual awards at the conferences.
“The way that I saw it was, Georgetown has the premier undergraduate program in international relations … [so] there is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing better,” Singh said.
In the 2007-2008 academic year, Singh became conferences coordinator and took charge of rebuilding Georgetown’s Model U.N. program. He recruited dedicated and promising people to help him make strategic decisions. Additionally, he set a vision of success to motivate the team.
“My sophomore year was a huge surprise. We won Columbia, then we won Yale, then we won Penn, which we hadn’t won in a decade. It was a huge accomplishment,” he said.
That year, the IRC conferences program came home with five team wins, marking the beginning of its winning streak.
“This year encapsulates what we’ve built over the past three years,” Singh said.
Both Peterson and Paul attribute this turnaround to the building of a community around Model U.N. at Georgetown through increasing and strengthening of membership and prioritizing recruitment and training.
“At Georgetown, the human capital has always been there . it has just been a matter of having the right amount and right type of training coupled with inspiring interest in Georgetown students to participate and take it seriously,” Paul said.
Peterson is confident that the IRC’s conferences program will continue to succeed even after this class of seniors, including himself and Singh, graduate this spring.
“The sophomore class is the strongest class we have ever seen. I have a lot of confidence in them to take it in the right direction,” Peterson said. “I am optimistic because I think we have good people involved and I think the foundation has been built over the past few years for continued success.”
Arun Avva (SFS ’12), next year’s conferences coordinator, has expressed that there will continue to be a focus on training and recruitment.
“There is certainly pressure on our team to live up to this legacy, but it is a good kind of pressure, one that spurs us to work harder and draws the best out of the team,” Avva said.
Whether or not they will have another undefeated season next year, Singh views the students’ passion as most important.
“We are doing something very real to us, that we see every day and engage in every day. We bring passion to the conferences,” he said.
Rachel Braun (SFS ’12), a member of the conferences staff, said that the most rewarding part of participating in the conferences program was building relationships with the teams from other universities.
“You’re basically competing with people with the same interests and studying in the same majors as you at other colleges, and so you can anticipate that you’ll encounter these people again down the road in internships and in jobs. It shouldn’t be overlooked as a networking community,” Braun said.
Braun also points to the rewarding nature of competing on a team.
“There is such an amazing sense of accomplishment on Sunday morning when yet again, every conference this year, it was Georgetown. We always close with singing the Hoya fight song,” Braun said.
The IRC also provides the staff for annual two Model U.N. conferences at Georgetown: the North American Invitational Model U.N. high school conference and National Collegiate Security Conference, both of which are hosted by GIRA. Additionally, the IRC hosts an All Georgetown Model U.N. conference each semester. The majority of the people who participate in the conferences program also staff the NAIMUN and NCSC events.
“We have some of the most creative and well-run crises in the country because that is what our specialty is. We’re able to have Georgetown professors come in, we’ve had ambassadors come in, we’ve had generals come in, who can provide these people with such an amazing starting point,” Braun said.”