The conference is a simulation of the United Nations that offers eight committees students can serve on, such as the World Health Organization and the Commission on the Status of Women. Each student is assigned a country, which they then represent from the country’s point of view based on prior research. They must negotiate to reach a resolution every member of the committee can agree on by the end of the conference.
Not only is this one of the few middle school conferences offered in North Carolina, it is also unique from others.
While it is not standard for Model UN conferences to have themes, this conference always selects one to keep discussions focused. This year’s overarching theme was "Emerging Technologies and Innovative Solutions" because the recent surge of advanced technology raises important questions about the appropriate and ethical incorporation of technology in people’s lives.
“I feel like a lot of these topics are missing from the curriculum in general, so you are learning things you wouldn’t really learn otherwise,” Goli said.
This conference is distinguished from others by not having veto power, giving all countries equal say, and accepting registration fees on a sliding scale based on what schools can afford to pay.
After the opening ceremony in which guest speaker Sameer Sood, a second-year medical resident at Duke Health in family medicine, expanded the definitions of health care and technology, students engaged in lively conversation, responded to each others’ points and questioned each other.
The Hawbridge School history teacher Robert Howes thinks Model UN is great for his students' development because it is more than debate.
“This is something where they have to agree with each other at the end of the day and come up with something together, which is a very valuable skill for them to learn,” Howes said.
Additionally, Model UN develops and builds participants’ self-confidence, critical thinking, problem solving, public speaking skills and ability to collaborate.
Evan Cox, a seventh-grader at Hawbridge School, joined Model UN for these benefits. Attending the conference for the first time, he said he enjoyed the experience.
“You get to be with other people who share a lot of the same interests as you, and you just get to have fun being able to role play as countries and being able to pass resolutions and have a good time all around,” Cox said, who represented the United States in the Security Council.
The conference has been held at UNC since 2015, when Ashkin-Baker became a student at the University. Having the conference at UNC allows many of the middle school students to be exposed to the atmosphere of college for the first time.
“Having them come here and experience a big school, just being in this big building itself is a huge deal for them, and then when they go out into the Pit during lunchtime and see all that activity and then they go to the dining hall – it’s all eye-opening for them, and they see what a university is about,” Howes said.