Crystal Napoli, the president of the UNH Model United Nations (Model U.N.) student group, remarked on Friday afternoon that at the beginning of this academic year, she wasn’t all too familiar with the Republic of Congo. However, that’s changed drastically over the last seven months. From April 9-14, after months of research, she and 21 other members from her student organization represented the African motion at the annual National Model United Nations conference in New York City.
Napoli, a junior with a double major in history and justice studies, noted that while the student organization customarily attends the conference annually, UNH’s attendance this year’s was unprecedented. According to her, fundraising efforts were a driving force behind this accomplishment. Dave Zamansky, assistant director of the Memorial Union Building, highlighted such monetary accomplishments this past Tuesday night as he awarded UNH’s Model UN as the Student Organization of the year at the 2017 Student Leadership Award Banquet. Alex Buckman, treasurer of the group, was one of three students to receive the award of Unsung Hero that night.
In preparation for the spring conference, the group meets weekly on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., but according to Napoli, much of the work is done outside of these gatherings. In the beginning of the fall, the group must debate and choose their top 10 choices of the country they wish to represent at the conference—their first choice this year was Belgium, but Napoli highlighted that she and the other members of the UNH group had a keen interest in being a part of the African block, as this area contains the largest amount of countries represented in the U.N..
Upon being assigned a country each year, the group begins to research the nation’s background and positions on notable issues that’ll be discussed throughout the course of the conference. Once the spring semester starts, the group’s attention turns towards debate practice and speech writing, among other skills applicable for use in the conference.
Napoli said that at the beginning of each year, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for the group to have upwards of 50 members with an arrangement of differing majors, but over time, that amount dwindles down and by the time they are deciding on who will be going to the conference, normally everyone who is still involved with the organization goes on the trip. However, prior to this point, all members must submit a paper regarding the research they’ve done independently.
With the overall cost of this year’s conference trip being approximately $14,000, Napoli described the fundraising aspect of the process as “always kind of a mess,” as current Student Activity Fee Committee policies only allows for a certain amount of funds to go towards travel accommodations—but that has pushed the group to be more creative in the ways they raise funds, she said.
While the group typically asks for support from various UNH offices, Napoli said that in past years, much of these donations were one-time solutions and doesn’t necessarily mean that a similar contribution will be given to them for the next year.
“We’re really grateful for each year, but we never know about the next year if that’s going to happen,” she said, while also noting that one of the biggest donations this year came from the office of Christopher Clement, the university’s vice president for finance and administration. Other donors included the College of Liberal Arts, UNH President’s Office, Center for International Education and Global Engagement, Hamel Center to Undergraduate Research, Carsey School and the offices of Finance and Administration and University Advancement.
Napoli noted that through her involvement with Model U.N., she’s gained a heightened sense of communication and has learned to adapt her mind to different perspectives; Jessica Costello, the secretary of the group, echoed such a thought regarding communication.
“It’s not about winning, it’s not about getting recognition…but it’s really just about feeling like you have contributed to something,” Costello said. “… For me, it’s all about what you’ve gained personally; if you feel like you’re getting better at interpersonal skills, if you feel like you’re getting better at communicating [or] about public speaking—just about bettering your individual skills.”
According to Napoli, the group is not only planning on attending the New York conference next year, but they also have their eyes set on attending their first international conference and are currently engaged in a fundraising campaign to allow for some members to attend an event on the Galapagos Islands during this upcoming January term.