WRITTEN BY: Alison Zhou | University of Toronto Model United Nations (UTMUN)
Photograph: Club Executives | Photograph By: Sydney Bradshaw
Another year has come and gone, and as students head back to campus for a new semester, so too are the University of Toronto Model United Nations (UTMUN) executives reconvening to put their final touches on UTMUN’s 2017 conference. UTMUN is an organization that lives and breathes U of T. It is organized by undergraduate students who span faculties and fields of study as diverse as Environmental Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Middle Eastern Studies, History, Geography, Critical Theory, International Relations, Peace, Conflict & Justice, and Ethics, Society & Law. This seemingly chaotic hodgepodge of knowledge and interests are invaluable to a student group whose mandate is to deliver an interdisciplinary experience to its delegates.
As this year’s executive prepares for the tenth anniversary of UTMUN, the pressure to deliver feels especially high⎯not just to the delegates who fund our conference through their registration, or our predecessors who built UTMUN from the ground-up, but also to ourselves, many of whom have volunteered with UTMUN for years, or attended UTMUN as a delegate when they were a wee high-schooler. As a Model UN, diplomacy, resolution-drafting, debate and international crises are themes that feature prominently at our conference; ones we work hard to refine every year. Yet in ten years of UTMUN, there’s also been a remarkable shift in building community. The Academic Fair is a recent installment to our conference that connects faculty, student unions and programs of study with potential UofT students who attend our conference. The UTMUN bursary, also conceived in the last year, facilitates a more accessible conference for students with financial need. Staff and secretariat socials, where UofT undergraduates can relax and socialize outside of club meetings, have become thoroughly embedded in the MUN community.
More than anything, I see these initiatives as an outgrowth of where community is built first: with our fellow students. As much as we strive to put on a meaningful conference for the delegates, UTMUN is also a student club that is the product of a year-long effort. Students like myself often join clubs hoping to pad our resumes, explore a casual interest or cure some loneliness (that’s inevitable when you’re at an institution as big as UofT). For some of us, UTMUN may have been the remedy to all three; others might’ve realized they’d be happier somewhere else. Either way, joining a club can be the first step in finding a niche that feels enjoyable and challenging at the same time. It’s remarkable to glimpse someone coming into their own, whether that self-assuredness comes from a club position of elsewhere. It’s remarkable to see how UTMUN has come into its own, as well, after ten dedicated years of nurturing. We can’t wait to see what comes next in 2017 and invite you to find out with us, at http://utmun.org.