From practice to purpose with 20-year MUN veteran Erik Paulson
Erik Paulson has been teaching for almost 20 years, all of it internationally. The constant at every school whether in Mexico, Egypt, Ghana, Panama or the last seven years at Concordia International School Shanghai, has been a course on International Relations, and an involvement in Model UN as a natural extension of that class. Whether you are looking to establish a Model United Nations program at your school or you would simply like some tips to make your existing program even better, this podcast with 20-year MUN veteran Erik Paulson will provide you with some unlikely tips to make that happen.
This podcast is one of ten in the HowTo@ConcordiaShanghai series. For information on how to contract the Limitless platform to benefit your organization email Ally here.
Success means students are not talking about what happened in the committee but about the world issues that the committee addressed.
Intro to MUN
The Model United Nations is an activity pursued by high school and middle schools around the world in which students simulate the work of the real United Nations. The program is almost as old as the UN itself–the UN’s founding meeting was in 1946, and the first Model UN conference was held at Harvard University only a year later. The basic concept is that students serve as ambassadors of assigned countries in the various committees of the UN (the General Assembly, the Security Council, etc.) and work together in a formal setting to posit solutions to some of the social, political and economic problems confronting the international community. Conferences are held all over the world–including one at Concordia International School Shanghai–and provide opportunities for authentic learning while meeting interesting people from new places.
- Functioning as a powerful vehicle for teaching both an academic skillset
- While raising consciousness about global affairs
- Ideally matching new knowledge with an increased devotion to service on behalf of others
A measurable student impact
“I’ve come to believe that the greatest benefit of hosting a conference accrues to those students who organize and put on the event, as these kids have to take on a variety of responsibilities where failure to produce has real consequences.”
Whether hosting a program or attending an MUN conference, students are:
- Overcoming stage fright
- Inspired through empathy to act
- Meeting other really cool people
Impact on the greater community
The main goal of MUN is to cause students to act and when they do, the community benefits.
Class set up
- As many ways to run a Model UN program as there are schools that do so
- Flexibility makes the program attractive
- For some schools-like Concordia-Model UN is a year-round activity
- For schools just starting their MUN voyage, recommend they start small
- For schools wanting to run a conference here is a formula for gradual growth that proved very effective:
- Year 1: Internal event (my students only) lasting one day
- Year 2: Local Event (schools from the same city) lasting a day and a half
- Year 3: Open to all interested schools and lasting two days
Must-haves to ensure success
“Any school can do this!”
- When starting an MUN program:
- Gather a committed core of interested students, and
- Find a local conference that you can attend
- When launching an MUN conference:
- Ask the right questions:
- Is it accessible? Is it affordable? Is it interesting?
- Students don’t travel from Africa and Europe to spend three days at a school in Shanghai; they want to see the city and country as well.
- Consider whether your market needs another conference as not every venue has the same draw
- Ask the right questions:
Wish list items
- Administrative support
- Supportive parent community
- Faculty willing to tolerate some disruptions to the normal routine with their students
Pitfalls to avoid
“I’ve been to well over 50 MUN conferences over the course of the last 20 years, and I’ve developed some strong feelings about what compromises the quality and integrity of an MUN conference”
- Avoid Making MUN a contest
- Avoid grading your students during conferences
- Avoid “best delegate” awards
- Avoid extra expenses and keep it affordable
Preparing students for MUN
- Choose the right students
- Leave plenty of lead time to plan and prepare
- Supervise a core group of students–authentic learning in event planning
Your next step
If you are just staring, find a conference and register.
If you are considering starting a conference:
- Put conference on school calendar
- Assemble invitation list
- Publish prospectus
Connecting with Erik
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Erik Paulson and we’ll make sure Erik receives your message.