Article by Stephen Hoffman
My name is Stephen Hoffman, and I am a junior at Seton Hall University from just outside Philadelphia, PA. I am the current President of Seton Hall’s Competitive Team, and have done MUN since my freshman year of college. When my life is not consumed by Model UN (very rarely), I am likely playing golf with friends and family, feverishly rooting on Seton Hall Basketball or Philadelphia Sports, or spending time with dogs.
We have all been at a conference with that one delegate who is constantly a thorn in the side of the committee. They’re unfriendly, uninterested in working with other people, and just ultimately slowing down the flow of the committee as a whole. I used to be that delegate. I was the guy that was taking things (and myself) a little too seriously and making the committee a little harder for everyone else. However, I can guarantee that this does not describe me now. According to teammates, I underwent “the most radical transformation a Model UN delegate could make”, as I shifted my entire mentality towards MUN, changing it from something strictly competitive to something fun. This process wasn’t easy, as it took a long series of mistakes to show that something needed to change.
What sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of awards and rankings is that Model UN is supposed to be enjoyable. We are supposed to get excited about traveling to conferences and competing in exciting committees, regardless of the outcome at closing ceremonies. Disappointments are natural and bound to happen in one’s MUN career, but ultimately, we should feel better about our experience at the end of the conference. I learned this lesson the hard way, as multiple failures made me re-evaluate my stance on Model UN as a whole.
My freshman year was average at best, as after attending two conferences I left with one honorable mention. This was typical for a freshman on our team, and after my second conference I told myself that I would continue to improve and exceed expectations. My role within the club increased as I became our treasurer, and things were looking to be consistently improving. This optimism was quickly knocked down, as things remained bleak the following semester.
I attended two conferences in the fall semester of my sophomore year. The first was the most difficult conference I had ever attended, and I quickly realized this when my elementary crisis notes weren’t working anymore. While expectations were at their highest in my first conference as a head delegate, I failed to award and subsequently felt like I had let my team down. The second conference of the semester was a staple for our team, as we attend every year in hopes of winning a delegation award. I was in my dream position, as an OPEC committee was something I always searched for on the circuit. I had a strong position and spent hours on research in preparation for this conference. After leaving the committee, thinking my debate was strong and my crisis impressive, I sat throughout closing without hearing my name called. In the midst of this, my team won the award for Outstanding Large Delegation, and if I did what I was supposed to, I would have pushed us to Best.
This felt like most immense failure of my life. A Middle Eastern Studies minor coming up short in an OPEC committee seemed virtually unforgivable, and I was left feeling like I didn’t have a place in the club anymore. I internalized this loss for a long time, forever convinced that I deserved a high award in that committee. It wasn’t until just before our next conference months later that I truly contemplated my performance at the previous conference. I asked myself hard questions. Did I work with the other people in the room? Did I write a directive or resolve an issue with any other delegates? The answer to these questions made clear why I left empty handed.
I was attending conferences for one reason and one reason alone: to win. I did not care if I made a single friend; if I walked away with a gavel, nothing else mattered. Instead of helping to find solutions for the problems, I would simply point out problems with a solution. It was then when I realized that all this strategy accomplished was taking the fun out of Model UN, something I enjoy doing with friends to have fun with one another and compete in a positive manner. If I could translate this environment to a conference, I realized that even if I don’t walk away with an award, I will at least have a good time.
And thus, the transformation was born. At the next conference, I tried my absolute hardest to be as friendly as possible, instead of attempting to instill intimidation in other delegates when I entered the room. I relaxed, I exhaled, I balanced listening to others instead of dominating the room, and I worked with almost everybody in the room on a directive that weekend. At the previous conference, I rarely even wrote directives, placing my ideas above those of others. I loosened up and I let Model UN be fun again, laughing at things that happened in committee and making genuine friendships with the other delegates and chairs. I remember one occasion when a freshman delegate and I clashed in debate, with the two of us having consecutive speeches and going back and forth in a contentious fashion. Typically, I would have held that grudge against the delegate for the rest of the conference. We swiftly went into an unmoderated caucus after this debate, and I went up to her and told her that it was fun, and that she was doing a great job. She laughed and said that I was too, later leading to us co-writing a directive that passed unanimously. Experiences like that make this conference a turning point in my Model UN career, as I eventually walked away with my first gavel and two additional awards that semester.
Nobody likes walking into committee and seeing that one delegate that truly ruined their weekend a few months ago at a conference. We sometimes forget that the circuit is not entirely about winning the most awards and achieving the highest ranking, but rather about making real connections with other passionate students who share in our interests and ambition to make the world a better place. Model UN is always competitive, and there will always be letdowns, but sometimes these disappointments will lead to personal growth and the improvement of skills. Failure taught me these vital lessons, and I left the committee changed as a delegate and a leader.
MUN01 would like to thank Stephen for his contribution. If you would like to guest write for us, please visit our Guest Writing tab on our site.