The Columns

Rockbridge County Model United Nations Conference Held at W&L This Weekend

— by on March 3rd, 2010

The Rockbridge County Model United Nations Conference, which is hosted by Washington and Lee University and staffed completely by W&L students, will be held on Friday, March 5, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, March 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the W&L Law School.

W&L’s Provost June Aprille and VMI’s Superintendent J.H. Binford Peay III will both speak at the conference. Aprille will welcome the students to the conference and to W&L and commend them on their participation in the Model United Nations. Peay will talk on the importance of diplomacy in the world today.

Going into its fourth year, the Rockbridge County Model United Nations (ROCKMUN) Conference hosts approximately 105 high school students from around Southwest Virginia for a two-day long United Nations simulation.

Over 25 Washington and Lee Model United Nations students work year-round on this conference because “they see that it embodies the student-run government principles that W&L teaches,” according to Mike White, ROCKMUN Secretary General and W&L’s Model United Nations president.

A Model United Nations (MUN) program is held from middle schools through college. The conferences, usually two or three days in length, are meant to recreate the feel of the real United Nations using identical committees, rules and debate procedure as seen in New York and The Hague and established following World War II. Students write mock resolutions on some of the world’s greatest issues and conflicts, from nuclear proliferation to environmental refugees.

The Model United Nations simulation was proposed four years ago by a group of W&L students for high school students for the explicit purpose of providing a multicultural experience unavailable in the area. They solicited the help of Rockbridge County High School, VMI, the Williams School at W&L and local banks for help with funding and logistics. The original program had a staff of about 15 and the conference hosted four schools with an attendance of about 65.

A year ago the program expanded to 30 staff, with the participation of more than 175 high school students, with local middle school students also involved as pages. For the first time private schools from around the area also participated. With the collapse of the economy and looming education budget cuts, the numbers of students participating this year have shrunk.

“Most Washington and Lee students participating in ROCMUN had positive experiences in high school Model United Nations and want to share the experience it imbues in students,” said White. “It is an amazing sight to see a student terrified to speak in public at the beginning of the conference get up to voraciously defend their country’s position by the end of the simulation – the growth in confidence is always palpable.”

Some W&L students also participate in Washington and Lee’s traveling Model United Nations team and attend college conferences to participate as delegates themselves. In the past four years, they’ve travelled to Toronto, Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Model UN programs, having won overall best delegate at the Harvard competition and outstanding delegate at Penn.