In addition to the prospective students, renowned guests, and alumni that Cornell usually entertains at this time of year, the university played host to another segment of visitors this past weekend – Model UN participants. The Cornell Model United Nations Conference, planned by the Cornell International Affairs Society (CIAS), had nearly 600 high school students attend the three day conference, according to a proud Richard Kang ’13, Secretary-General of the event.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest events hosted and run by students on campus. We reserve about 25 rooms that have to work around classes and we collaborate with vendors from all over Ithaca, [and] multiple organizations on campus like the CIVR ,” he said.
If you lack an idea of the scope of this Model UN Conference, by now you will have; high school students in suits were seen everywhere on campus. Packs of participants populated the engineering quad during conference hours and Collegetown was teeming with participants going out to dinner.
But while the scope of the conference’s logistics was certainly impressive, a feat seamlessly pulled off by the team of Kang and Director-General Meril Pothen ’13, the talent of the delegates remained the focus. Specifically, developing and refining that talent was a clear goal of the conference, materialized in a training session, small committee size and a feedback system for the delegates.
“This is where these kids shine, gain self-confidence [and] confront criticism [in discussing international affairs] that not all high school kids get exposed to…it’s a great opportunity,” said Kang.
The aptitude of the delegates did not go unnoticed. Television personality Oprah Winfrey, accompanied by close friend Gayle King, came to Ithaca to see the delegates from her Leadership Academy for Girls speak, as a surprise visit to both the delegates and the CIAS. It was such a surprise that after she left, Ankur Bajaj ’13, president of CIAS, told Slope Media, that he was still “figuring out the details [himself]”.
And of course, Oprah did not fail to deliver on insight. According to Pothen, she was very inspiring, encouraging the young delegates to get involved in important decision-making as much as possible.
Kang admired that she didn’t just make rounds but “sat down, listened to the debate and really observed what was going on intently.” He also applauded the delegates, who maintained their composure, despite the obvious distraction that is Oprah Winfrey.
Clearly, these students are incredibly bright young men and women at the top of their class. From a university standpoint, Kang noted that CMUNC is a great tool for Cornell outreach to prospective students. He pointed out that these are the kind of students that the university wishes to recruit, and that the event certainly has an impact on high school students as their first real college experience. Kang and Pothen hope that CMUNC continues to grow and with the kind of attention that these CMUNC delegates have been receiving, it undoubtedly will.