Simon's Rock in Great Barrington welcomes local students for model U.N. conference


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Linda Kim is a senior at Berkshire School in Sheffield. But this weekend, she's a delegate of the World Health Organization representing the United Kingdom, in the 2013 Model United Nations Conference at Bard College at Simon's Rock.

On Friday morning, she began her first session, discussing a pandemic response plan modeled from the U.K.'s strategy for the H1N1 influenza virus.

In terms of Model U.N., Kim said, "You not only research what's happening in other countries, you put yourself in that position."

The Model U.N. conference continues today and concludes this afternoon, after a series of four committee sessions, which, like the actual United Nations, includes committees such as the U.N. Security Council, WHO and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This year's Simon's Rock Model U.N. conference included an opening address by one of the college's economics professors, Mohammad Moeini Feizabadi. Provost Peter Laipson is scheduled to speak today.

Participating student delegates include a total of 38 high school students from Mount Everett Regional High School and Berkshire School, with Simon's Rock students moderating the events.

Each of the schools have Model U.N. clubs which meet on a weekly basis.

There, students can talk about current events and international relations, and practice the art of debate as role-playing diplomats representing either a member nation, a caucus, like the Group of 77, or a non-governmental organization (NGO), like the Red Cross or Save the Children International.

Joe Makuc, a sophomore from Mount Everett representing the African Union at the conference, said he chose to join the Model U.N. club as a way of thinking about the future.

"We could be talking about these issues that will face us when we're adults, but why not right now?" Makuc said.

Thomas Schalke got his first taste of Model U.N. procedure while attending the American International School of Mozambique, and continues today as a freshman at Simon's Rock.

"It gives you experience, particularly in communications, which is a very learned skill. It teaches you a diplomatic approach to resolve conflict, which is useful because you always will be working with people," Schalke said.

Conference organizer Erik Elbieh, a Simon's Rock junior and engineering major, said Model U.N. offers opportunities for students to learn, whatever their interests.

"Just working with people and solving problems, it really means something to me that I can't put into words," Elbieh said.

For Simon's Rock Model U.N. chapter president Hillary Saviello, a senior, participating in conferences has shaped her career aspirations.

"When I came into it, I knew nothing about politics. Now, I study politics, I want to work in the U.N.," said Saviello.

"Our hope is that participants take what's simulated here and take it into the real world. The first step is awareness," she said.

To learn more and to see photos from this year's Simon's Rock Model UN Conference, visit


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