Model UN delegates weasel through Berkeley conference
Seniors Devon Hillard and Anna Dornisch successfully put Moldova on the map and proved to be dark horses in the Model United Nations conference held at UC Berkeley March 3rd- 5th after winning the “Outstanding Research” Award and taking 2nd place in the “Outstanding Delegation” category within the World Health Organization committee (W.H.O.).
The two first met during sophomore year in their AP European History class, and according to Hillard, have been “history buddies” ever since because they were in the same AP U.S. History class junior year and have done Model United Nations together this past year.
AP U.S. History teacher and Model United Nations Club moderator Mr. Don DeAngelo described Dornisch and Hillard as “two highly motivated young ladies” who went above and beyond expectations this past conference by starting their position papers early and asking for advice in revising their papers. He also said that the two did “very well” in conference because they were very upbeat and maintained positive attitudes throughout the trip.
“They really complement each other. Devon is very outgoing and [cheerleader-like], whereas Anna is [a bit quieter], but very studious. Both girls have high energy and are extremely fun to work with,” said Mr. DeAngelo.
Prior to the conference, all delegates are required to submit a position paper to the chair of their committee; also, they are charged with the additional task of researching the topic to be discussed during committee from their given country’s perspective and understanding how the country would handle the issue at hand.
Countries are assigned to individual schools in advance; the more established Model UN programs typically represent larger, more prominent countries. The “Big Five” of the United Nations are the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China. Schools who represent these countries are typically favored to win awards during conference. Devon’s and Anna’s assigned country, Moldova, a former entity of the Soviet bloc nestled between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has yet to gain membership to the European Union.
For Moldova, Dornisch and Hillard wrote their positions papers on illicit organ trafficking and sanitation, respectively. The two decided that it would be best if they wrote their papers together, collecting the research and writing the paper in one sitting. They worked on their papers one early February afternoon until one in the morning. After submitting their papers to the chairs of the WHO committee, they learned that their papers received an average grade of a 90. According to Hillard, a grade of a 90 or higher on a position paper is considered “extraordinary” and award-worthy in the MUN community.
“We decided that if we were going to put 500 dollars and 4 days into this trip, we were going to do it seriously and [make the most of it],” said Hillard.
Including Dornisch and Hillard, sixteen delegates from the CCHS MUN Club attended the conference. The delegates were divided into pairs for eight separate committees, and they all represented Moldova. The additional fourteen students who attended the conference and the other seven committees are as follows:
- Seniors Mike Mezzino and Garrett Peterson, Development International Security Committee (DISC)
- Junior Celeste Villa-Rangal and Sophomore Reeny Thomas, Strategic Partnership Development (SPD)
- Seniors Ben Gotfredson and Lauren Lynch, International Law (LEGAL)
- Senior Kit Fach and Freshman Ben Lampe, International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA)
- Seniors Mallory Wahl and Warren Climes, World Food Production (WPF)
- Seniors Ellie Shahla and Ashley Mullen, United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)
- Seniors Erin Wolkenstein and Vini Noetzel, United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
“This conference was a really good experience for the new people because they were pretty much thrown into it. The best way to learn about the rules and procedures of MUN is through experience, and this conference is definitely a big one,” said Wolkenstein.
The delegates came to block 5 and half of block 6 with suitcases in tow on Thursday. They left a day early in order to check into the Rose Garden Inn and explore the nearby city of San Francisco. They took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train into the city, only to realize that they had gotten off at the wrong stop and were lost. From there, they took a bus, got off at another wrong stop, and ended up by Pier 23. Despite their plans backfiring, the group ended up at dinner for a nice sit-down meal near the city.
Check-in for the conference was held on Friday, March 4th, and Opening ceremonies for the conference at 3:30 that afternoon. Upon arriving on the Berkeley campus, the delegates were welcomed to a campus with student-led protests, gender-neutral bathrooms, and helicopters flying overhead. Despite the political on-goings of the campus and the eccentric locals, Hillard considered Berkeley to be a “nugget of normalcy” in the Oakland area.
After Opening Ceremonies, the delegates had free time until the conference began at 7:30. It ran until 10:30 on Friday. The conference resumed on Saturday from 9-5:30, with a lunch break from 12-1:30.
The Berkeley conference is considered to be an advanced conference meant for more experience delegates. Over 1500 students from about 110 high schools around the country and the world participated in 19 committees. Despite the large numbers attending the conference, five California high schools (Huntington Beach, Mira Costa, Cerritos, Peninsula, and Palos Verdes) typically sweep the awards in this annual meeting. In committee, Dornisch and Hillard had to face not only extremely stiff competition but also the additional challenge of dealing with deferential treatment from delegates from others schools and the committee chairs because the Model United Nations program at CCHS is a club, not a class.
“There is a lot more at stake for the kids who take [MUN] for course credit and a grade. Anna and Devon had to win over the chairman and fight to get recognition from other countries. They were very strategic in the way they built alliances and gained the respect of the chairs. I am very proud of them – it was a nice surprise to see [the girls] work that hard and get rewarded,” said Mr. DeAngelo.
During committee, Dornisch and Hillard formed alliances early on with Kuwait and Cameroon before aligning themselves with China, one of the “Big Five” countries of the United Nations. From there, the two developed a strategy that relied on a combination of ingenuity and “weaseling,” all the while maximizing their individual strengths.
Dornisch said, “I did a lot of the main research for the conference and formed the backbone of our presentation, but being spontaneous, Devon was the one who was able to come up with ideas quickly and make impromptu, one-minute speeches.”
Following suit, Hillard said, “[Anna] is really good at the more academic [aspects], and she is always on policy, whereas I am more comfortable with giving speeches and interacting with other delegates. When it comes to presenting, she gives me ammo, and I just run it back.”
In choosing candidates for the “Outstanding Delegation Award,” committee chairs and judges look for participation, creativity, and refined speaking skills.
“Getting noticed included coming to the table with new ideas, and part sneakiness. For example, we were able to pass a piece of legislation on sanitation in the Cold War states, something that was not even on the main agenda for our committee,” said Hillard.
“We managed to [distinguish] ourselves in committee through smooth-talking and presenting the resolution groups. We stole Russia’s spot in one of the resolution-presenting groups after impressing our chair with homemade stickers that condemned organ trafficking in affluent countries by impoverished ones like Moldova. There were about 50-60 countries in our committee that contributed to the drafting of the WHO Constitution; and even though we only wrote one clause, we became leaders of one of the resolution groups because we made the argument that our stickers showed our dedication to health issues,” said Dornisch.
After two long days of delegation, the girls were delighted to know that their hard word had paid off. “On [Saturday] night we found out that we won the research award, and that really gave us the momentum to win the delegation award. It was really exciting that we were such a competitive team,” said Hillard.
The CCHS MUN Club did not attend the closing ceremonies held on Sunday because they had an afternoon flight, so Dornisch and Hillard later discovered they had won the additional award in the “Outstanding Delegation” category while corresponding over Facebook with members of the Kuwait delegation who were at the closing ceremonies. In winning 2nd place in the “Outstanding Delegation” category, Dornisch and Hillard beat four of the five “Big Five countries” and the five most competitive schools at the conference, losing only to France, which was represented by delegates from a Chicago high school.
Even though they were the one team who won awards, the other delegates did not neglect their duty to put Moldova on the map. Less serious, but very humorous efforts include those by senior Mike Mezzino and Garrett Peterson of the DISC committee and senior Kit Fach of the IAEA committee. Mezzino and Peterson gave, according to Wolkenstein, “dictator-style speech, complete with sunglasses” condemning terrorist activity in China, followed by a war declaration on China from Moldova on the behalf of NATO. The two also declared war on Libya on the behalf of NATO, much to the dismay of the other NATO nations.
On the other hand, Fach managed to successfully resurrect the Soviet Union and redefine the Axis of Evil in the unmoderated caucuses held during the conference.
“As the 3rd poorest country in Europe, Moldova is less than an international power player in world affairs, yet it was my goal to change all this at the 59th annual Model UN Conference at Berkeley. I acted quickly, forming close ties with Russia, and then I began threatening to use nuclear arms to further my goals. Realizing that even the weak UN peacekeeping forces were stronger then my country, I began a petition to restart the Soviet Union, obtaining not only signatures from the original countries of the USSR, but also the entirety of west Africa and also several key Middle Eastern players, such as Syria and Iran. We pledged death to the infidels and to the destruction of America,” said Fach, jokingly.
The trip was mostly centered around the conference, but in their free moments, the delegates enjoyed spending time with one another, whether it was eating together, hanging out in the hotel lounges, or just talking. Cuisine highlights of the trip included a crepe store that sold pastries with various fillings and Yogurtland. The Rose Garden Inn, which has become known as the “The Rosy” among the delegates, featured actual rose gardens and purple and maroon “Marie-Antoinette” styled lounges where the delegates often stayed until three in the morning, enjoying what would the last high school conference for most who went.
Also knowing that delegates want to have fun, the Berkeley Model United Nations program sponsors a “delegate dance” for all of those who attend the conference for Saturday from 8:00-10:30. Due to the small size of the venue and popularity of the dance, the fire marshal and police had to stop the dance for about 30 minutes because overcrowding demonstrated a hazard. Nevertheless, Wolkenstein said the dance was quite “eye-opening” because she was able to see people who were so serious during conference don what Fach later coined “MUN Goggles” and just have fun on the dance floor.
“This trip was a really good bonding experience, and we really got to know each other and form inside jokes. Everyone pretty much wanted to hang out in one big group, and it was really nice coming to school the next day and seeing them,” said Wolkenstein.
Since this is the last conference the MUN club will be attending this school year, the club will be shifting its focus to preparing for next year’s conference and recruiting new members to replace the graduating seniors. The MUN Club also hopes to represent larger countries and attend bigger Model UN conferences in Chicago or New York.
“What is unique about Model UN at our school is the fact that a wide variety of kids from drama, ASB, and Campus Ministry do it,” said Dornisch.
The two winners will be going their separate ways after graduation, both college and career-wise. Hillard plans to study public relations or journalism, while Dornisch plans to major in biology to pursue a career either in the medical research field, or after her experience with Model UN, in politics with an emphasis on public health.
“It is kind of a bummer that we’re going to end up at different colleges because we were such good friends through high school. I think it would have been interesting to see how far we could have gone with MUN in college, but I am glad that I was able to share this experience with her,” said Hillard.
Echoing Devon, Anna said, “We make such a great team because we’re always on the same page. [Devon] always manages to put things in a witty and fun way, and she is so well spoken. She was an awesome and fun partner for this last conference.”