This weekend, 1,345 students representing nearly 60 high schools from across America will descend upon William & Mary’s campus for the 27th annual William & Mary High School Model United Nations Conference (WMHSMUN).
Organized by an 11-person secretariat of current William & Mary students and supported by members of the International Relations Club, the conference aims to have the visiting students form a model United Nations General Assembly, during which student representing different countries debate issues of international import with their fellow delegates.
Michael K. Powell ’85, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association as well as former Rector of William & Mary’s Board of Visitors, will deliver the weekend’s opening remarks.
The delegates are assigned committees and positions prior to arriving at William & Mary, allowing them to research their arguments before the weekend’s debates. While in committee, the students will draft resolutions addressing known issues as well as in response to innovative crises that will emerge throughout the weekend.
A variety of social activities are planned for evenings during the conference, giving delegates a chance to connect with students from other schools and form connections that will serve them into college and beyond.
“This is, at its core, an educational conference that helps work towards the vision of an institution of higher learning. We play a part in the education of future leaders, whether they choose to attend the College or not,” said Clayton Southerly ’15, director general of this year’s WMHSMUN secretariat.
Playing that part in the lives of over 1,000 high school students requires a lot of planning.
Southerly, who is in charge of this year’s logistical preparations, notes that the secretariat is selected nine months before the conference. As early as February, the head organizers pick a date and begin to coordinate lodging with Colonial Williamsburg’s hotels division. By the fall semester, over 170 students are involved in staffing and coordinating the event. Overseeing all planning activities is Serena Saffarini '14, the secretariat's secretary general.
“I am consistently impressed, year after year, by the quality and drive exhibited by the staff,” Southerly said. “They are very good at what they do because they love sharing their expertise and experience with these students. The best thing we can give to these delegates is exceptional Model U.N. created by William & Mary people.”
WMHSMUN delegates have the chance to interact with William & Mary students during the weekend here, and for many, the impression is a lasting one. Southerly notes that there are current members of the International Relations Club organizing the conference who first came to William & Mary as middle schoolers for Model U.N. He added that, every year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions receives applications citing the conference as why they fell in love with the College.
The experiences delegates have at WMHSMUN help develop skills that will serve them into college and beyond.
“Participating as a delegate taught me valuable public speaking skills, broadened my horizons to global and regional issues, and made me learn how to understand the logic and motivations behind arguments that I disagree with,” Southerly said reflecting on his involvement during high school.
WMHSMUN began in 1986 and has since continued to be the premier high school Model U.N. conference in the state. For more information about the conference, visit the WMHSMUN website.