By Kelsie Smith
Emory Model United Nations (EMUN) closed the fall 2014 semester with big changes and an impressive national conference win this November. Previously an organization centered on its traveling team, this semester, EMUN decided to expand its focus transitioning to become the Emory International Relations Association (EIRA). The transition allowed the club to increase retention, participate in community outreach and host a series of speakers and events, all while maintaining rank as one of the best traveling teams in the nation.
Change was motivated by the organization’s desire to engage as much interest as possible. The organization was renamed EIRA and divided into three specific pillars: programming, EMUN and Model United Nations at Emory (MUNE). EMUN serves as the club’s traveling competitive team, while MUNE is the sect devoted to the Model UN conference held by the club each April.
College senior Orli Berman, former EMUN president and residing head delegate for the traveling team, believes that the club’s expansion has raised retention rates because there is high interest in international relations, but less interest in the traveling component of EMUN alone. The new changes allow the club to extend membership to those solely interested in the topic of international relations,
With a new pillar focused on programming, EIRA has had the opportunity to give back to the Atlanta community through community service and to generate platforms for discussion pertaining to international politics and global health. This semester, EIRA sponsored two community service projects: volunteering at Clarkston Community Center’s field day where they ran activities with kids and immigrants, and helping Maynard H. Jackson High School kickstart their own Model UN program.
Berman considers the projects to have allowed EIRA to carry out their mission statement of using international relations to create dialogue and change.
Additionally, each month, EIRA held events where acclaimed professionals of the international relations realm – Chris Young, executive director of CIFAL Atlanta, Doug Shipman, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Tye Tavaras, study abroad advisor for Emory’s Center for International Programs Abroad and Carlos Del Rio, Hubert Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health – were invited to speak to the Emory community.
Berman said she found Del Rio’s talk to be the most compelling.
“Global health is a burgeoning concept relevant to Emory students across a variety of disciplines” she said. “Dr. Del Rio’s lecture served to enhance students’ understanding of how crucial the field will be in decades to come.”
However, the EIRA event Berman found to be the most “lively” this semester was the roundtable conversation between Emory College Republicans and Young Democrats of Emory co-hosted with Pi Sigma Alpha and moderated by Assistant Professor of Political Science Danielle Jung. The debate between the representatives of each political group and audience spanned topics ranging from governments paying ransoms to terrorists to the environmental deal between the U.S. and China. In an email, Berman wrote that the most interesting take-away from the event was “that the two groups found themselves with similar opinions more often than not.”
Despite big changes in the organization, the Emory Model UN travelling team, remains intact and strong. The team competed in four tournaments this semester and ended the season with a first place overall win at the Duke International Security Conference (DISCon), receiving the Best Delegation Award for the first time.
Six members of the EMUN team received first place awards for Best Delegate and two received third place awards for Honorable Mention. The winners included: Berman, Aaron Tucek (College ’15), Harlan Cutshall (College ’15), Akshay Goswami (College ’15), Tyler Zelinger (College ’17), Mindi Leit (College ’18), Carl Ã…kerman (College ’16) and Lindsay Hexter (College ’18).
Berman was proud of the team’s win because EMUN normally considers the Duke conference a training for a less experienced team.
“Duke really was a great way for us to end the competitive semester,” she said. “Above all, it was a wonderful opportunity to get so many new people involved and engaged … this was really the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication from so many different ends.”
– By Kelsie Smith, Contributing Writer