Johns Hopkins hosts Model UN Conference in Washington, D.C.

Student delegates tackled a range of topics of global interest, including cybersecurity, conservation, and space exploration

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) has hosted heads of states, ambassadors, and secretaries of state since its founding in 1943. But earlier this month it welcomed a new group of diplomats—Model UN club members from universities across the country.

Held at the Hopkins Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C., the Johns Hopkins Model UN Collegiate Conference drew more than 100 participants from more than a dozen schools nationwide. This was the first JHU Model UN Conference held in the nation's capital.

The conference organizers, all Johns Hopkins undergraduates, spent two years organizing and coordinating the event. The event was co-hosted by SAIS, the Aronson Center for International Studies in JHU's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and the Johns Hopkins Model UN student group. Keynote remarks were delivered by Melissa Dalton, a SAIS alumna who serves as assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense.

"We compete at a high level and rank highly, but making your own conference so others on the Model UN circuit can enjoy is a whole different game," said Achyuth Parola, a third-year student studying biophysics at JHU's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the conference's director general. "This was a chance for us to all come together under the same goal, working together, pulling the later hours, and sharing the dream."

Diplomacy in action

At a conference, participants play the role of a diplomat representing a country or organization. Before arriving, they conduct thorough research into the entity they will be representing to understand its policy positions and motivations. At the conference, they work together to solve the world's thorniest issues.

The Hopkins Conference featured General Assembly sessions about establishing a mental health framework and developing global conservation and restoration guidelines. Other sessions focused on cybersecurity and space exploration.

Succeeding requires quick thinking as conference organizers shape the challenges depending on how the delegates respond.

"Maybe they shore up one piece of infrastructure only to realize that it's completely forgotten about transportation infrastructure," Parola said. "The next thing you know, the New York subway is done, right, because some foreign entity has decided to take it down,"

Developing life skills

For participants and organizers, Model UN is about more than developing policy positions or taking on the role of a diplomat. It gives them skills they'll need after they graduate.

"It is through Model UN that we truly learn what it means to push, to be resilient, to advocate, to fight, to even pivot when necessary, to engage, to communicate, and, more importantly, we learn how to solve conflict," said Lisa Boyd, a fourth-year pre-med student and the conference's secretary general. "It is those skills that we have the chance to take into the world even once we leave this building.

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