Vancouver’s Model UN team wins third award

NMUN student delegates

The delegates for Samoa, all students at FDU's Vancouver Campus, win the Distinguished Delegation award at National Model United Nations, at the U.N. in March 2017. (Photos courtesy of Jobin Mojtabavi)

By Kenna Caprio

April 5, 2017 — Two brothers, eight international voices and one trip to New York City resulted in a third win in four years for Vancouver students at National Model United Nations (NMUN).

“Our entire NMUN team demonstrated collaboration and cooperation through multilateral diplomacy,” says Jobin Mojtabavi, MAS’13, director of student services at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Vancouver Campus in British Columbia, Canada. The team, representing the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, took home the award for Distinguished Delegation.

“The pursuit of knowledge is very important to us, and to go out and see that other people are really hungry for that environment, too — you want to be more like them, to be able to work with them and be more understanding,” says team member Van Truong, a junior business administration major from Vietnam.

At NMUN, an annual competition in New York City, thousands of college and university students act as delegates in simulated United Nations committees, working together to write and pass resolutions.

“Little things can affect how countries view resolutions. Some Middle Eastern countries wanted the [resolution] wording to be gender parity over gender equality,” says team member Viet Truong, Van’s brother, and a sophomore business administration major. At NMUN, “You learn how language is important in decision-making.”

“You have to show your leadership in big groups,” adds head delegate Ana Flores, a junior studying business administration from El Salvador. “You have to organize other delegates, suggest brainstorm sessions, strategize, and finally, write and polish the resolution and send it to the chair.”

NMUN delegates at work

Delegates confer at National Model United Nations in New York City, N.Y.

This year’s team, the largest yet, included Flores, Carlos Martell, Barbara Castro, Munkhsolongo “Solo” Sangibat, Eduardo Vega, Ruramai Diana Mavhunga, and the Truongs. The brothers are studying abroad at FDU’s Florham Campus this semester and joined the group in New York City.

“Whereas most teams brought their domestic students to the conference, we had a truly international team, [which] consisted of students from El Salvador, Brazil, Mongolia, Zimbabwe and Vietnam,” Mojtabavi says. “I am very proud of this team as they were well-coordinated and worked very hard.”

“In order to win an award, you have to stand out and get noticed. Be assertive about your positions and cooperative with other people,” says Viet Truong.

At the beginning of the conference, the team met with the real permanent representative of Samoa to the United Nations. Afterward they felt more confident and energized about their research on the country.

The group asked the representative about the prevalence of domestic abuse in Samoa, and the lack of incident records and reports.

“He said he would not defend those [abusive] actions in his country and that the government is aware,” says Van Truong. The students felt emboldened by such a positive and open response — especially because sometimes, when representatives are asked about controversial issues, they will be “secretive or evasive,” adds Van Truong. Not in this case.

“NMUN definitely opened my eyes regarding small nations,” says team member Carlos Martell, a senior majoring in information technology. “How they’re facing so many different issues and treat different problems with different priorities. If we all had more talks instead of more wars, a lot of issues could be tackled in a better way.”

NMUN award 2017

Samoa puts high priority on gender and environmental issues. “These islands, everything they have is the ocean around them, so it’s important to them to take care of those regions,” says Martell.

The country also suffers from a severe lack of modern infrastructure. Developers are “working on an app that would let citizens know about tsunamis” to help them prepare in advance, says Martell. Without more internet access and connectivity, though, the app can’t benefit much of the population. To advocate their NMUN positions more fully, the Samoan representatives worked closely with Fiji and other islands. “We joined with other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and we were a big, solid group,” Flores says.

After four days of work, negotiations, and a demanding schedule — starting at 8:30 a.m. and finishing after 10:30 p.m., says Martell — the students reaped the reward. “I was actually the one who found out that we won,” Martell says. “Everyone was shouting and so excited” when he refreshed the web browser and read the news out loud.

In an email later, Vancouver Campus Provost Cecil Abrahams commended the students, “All of us at FDU are immensely proud of you. We recognize the hard work and dedication that went into your achievement and you have exhibited to the larger world that you come from a place of quality. I know that in years to come this experience will stay with you and assist you as you make your way through the world.”