The University of Bridgeport Model United Nations (UBMUN) team had an outstanding victory at the international conference held in Kobe, Japan over the Thanksgiving holiday. The UB Delegation, representing Ukraine, won the 2016 Outstanding Delegates Award in the General Assembly and the Outstanding Delegation Award in the November 20-26 session.
Student delegates Bianca Diaz, Youssef Agiez, Saul Almazan, and Albert Thien participated in the General Assembly Plenary and Security Council sessions, submitted position papers on several topics, and walked away with honors at the closing ceremony.
“Anyone who knows me knows that Model UN has never been about winning awards, but about having our delegates’ voices heard,” said Bianca Diaz, UBMUN president. “Winning Outstanding Delegates in the General Assembly and Outstanding Delegation was just the cherry on top! It is truly an honor to serve as president to such an amazing group of intellectual individuals who are going to take the world by storm one day!”
Advised by Dr. Chunjuan Nancy Wei, professor of International Political Economy and Diplomacy (IPED) at CPIA, the UB delegates came from three schools: School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering, and the College of Public and International Affairs (CPIA).
“This conference was a turning point in my life,” said Youssef Agiez of the UBMUN team, noting that the learning and networking experiences were beyond expectation. “The outstanding Delegate Award was the highlight of the competition for me, as it is an award granted by my fellow delegates and represents that my peers in the committee saw me as deserving, as acting out my role in the most diplomatic way.”
In all, 64 member states were represented in the 2016 Model UN Conference, attracting dozens of student teams representing 39 universities from 12 countries – Canada, Chile, China, Czech, Germany, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Slovenia, and the United States. At the closing ceremony, Professor Toshiya Hoshino spoke on the topic of “The World Order and I.” According to Wei, his overall message was that regardless of our origin, we are one planet: “oneness among diversity, respect among differences, harmony among discord.”
In addition to the academic and professional opportunity, UB students took away a strong sense of place as well. On the first day of arrival, before the conference started, Dr. Wei and students took a walking tour of the city of Kobe, one of the first Japanese ports opened to foreign trade in 1868. In the following days they visited Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan; experienced Japanese culture through visits of shrines, temples, and gardens in Kyoto and Miyajima; and took the bullet train to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park where President Obama gave a speech earlier this year. For Agiez, seeing the Hiroshima Memorial Park and the effects of the nuclear bomb “was an experience of a lifetime.”
“The team had an amazing trip. In seven short days, we were part of an international community of learning through diplomacy,” Wei shared. “We witnessed the impact of the first atomic bomb via photos in the museum and walking by the remains of the Dome, and listened to the testimony of a survivor’s story on the average person’s life after the shock. We were also taken to the disaster reduction center where the impact of the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake occurred. In both cases, we learned about the remarkable resilience of the Japanese people and their recovery.”
While rediscovering history, the UB team had their own resiliency tested. During their stay, a 7.2 Richter-scale earthquake was recorded and tsunami warnings were issued in northeast Japan. Fortunately, they were staying in the Kobe Portopia Hotel which was built on land reclaimed from the ocean, so their safety was assured.
The warm and welcome reception of UB students at the conference was perhaps a reflection of their own grace and poise. Notes Diaz, whose leadership roles at UB extend to Speaker of the House for student government, team captain for Alternative Spring Break, and student ambassador in the Office of Admissions: “We lived up to UB’s reputation of being polite and kind to everyone we encountered.”
Adds Agiez, “I was fortunate enough to spearhead the largest Resolution paper on the floor in the General Assembly. It was fabulous being entrusted to lead the paper and work with international students from so many backgrounds, cultures, and schools — all coming together to write it. I felt really proud when delegates were thanking me for the time and effort that I put into the paper, as well as those who were at the conference for the first time who shared how much they learned from me.”
Summing up the international excursion, Wei acknowledged what binds us all together at UB. “At the heart of diplomacy is working together. President Salonen, Provost Healey, Dean Imh, Dean Sobb and Dean Ward – thank you for your continuous support of the UBMUN. As faculty advisor, I am so thankful that it was an outstanding educational experience for all. As representative of UB, each and every one of your students was excellent! I cannot be more proud of all of them. Of course, you know…UB!”
Wei also expressed gratitude to all for having “one of the most memorable Thanksgiving holidays of my life.”