AU’s Model UN team reflects on rise to fame and what the future holds
"What made us get here is what’s going to keep us here."
From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's April 2023 print edition. You can find the digital version here.
This year, the University of Georgia had their football team, Kansas had their basketball team and American University had their Model United Nations team after reclaiming their spot at #1 on April 2. Ranked No. 1 in North America, AU Model UN has won the most awards of any team in the 2021-2022 competitive collegiate circuit.
Previously, the AU MUN team rose from the 75th spot in North America in 2013 to sitting in its current spot at the top, according to the AU International Relations Society’s website. Being ranked the best in the continent in the 2021-2022 year is the highest that the team has ever been, and it is the first competitive season that it has reached this high mark.
Recently, the AU MUN team traveled to Montreal, Canada to McGill University for their first conference of the spring semester. At the McGill conference, AU came out “with the most amount of raw points and gavels,” according to the team’s Instagram. The team also recently competed at the Harvard University conference, finishing with five “Outstanding Delegate” awards, an “Outstanding Delegation” award and five “Honorable Mentions.”
Last year, Zamaan Qureshi, a junior in the School of International Service and the School of Public Affairs, helped the Model UN team reach its highest-ever ranking while working as assistant head delegate. Now the head delegate, Qureshi said the team owes a lot to the leadership from last year.
“A lot of credit goes to the head delegate, Lizzie Williamson, who is now our CEO of the International Relations Society at AU,” Qureshi said. “I learned a lot from her on how to do this and what it takes and all the work that it entails.”
Qureshi said that the conversation about “what it takes” is a common discussion in the team.
“It’s definitely a lot of imposter syndrome around competing on this team,” Qureshi said. “There’s a huge amount of prestige on Model UN simply because of the amount of investment universities put into their teams.”
Being in the University’s “call to fame” team comes with pressure that the members of Model UN deal with daily. Similar to any sports team, Qureshi said keeping a steady life is sometimes difficult.
“In that vein, as a college student who is trying to balance school and everything as well, it kind of feels like a lot,” Qureshi said. “But I think that the approach that we’ve taken is to remain true to our values and that’s something that always hit home over and over and over again with our team that ‘What made us get here is what’s going to keep us here.’”
Additionally, in order to keep the team in high standings, AMIRS hosts an annual high school Model UN conference called AmeriMUNC to raise money and share the lessons of Model UN, a weekend when high schoolers can be seen roaming AU’s campus in heels and dress shoes.
Nick Valbuena, a senior in SIS and the College of Arts and Sciences and the secretary-general of AmeriMUNC, joined Model UN his freshman year. Valbuena explained how AmeriMUNC is the business branch of AU Model UN and a key to the competitive team’s success.
This conference invites a thousand high schoolers from across the world to AU’s campus, said Valbuena. By hosting this conference, the fees from the visiting students go towards funding AU’s competitive Model UN team to cover the price of traveling to and participating in competitions, which can have heavy costs. He said that the team’s success comes with many advantages.
“It has brought greater credibility to what Model UN is on campus,” Valbuena said. “Understanding that we are above Georgetown, we’re above all these Ivy League schools, has an allure to it.”
In the future, the team will go on to other conferences while working hard and training weekly. The team is still waiting to find out how they stand midway through the season. Qureshi said they are keeping their fingers crossed that they keep their number one ranking and come out on top again.
“It’s really incredible that this competition has created so much competition and so much community at the same time, it’s pretty amazing,” Qureshi said.