Seton Hill Model UN Team Honored with Outstanding Delegation Group Award, Team Member served as Chair of Large Committee

Seton Hill University’s Model United Nations team was honored with the highest award, the Outstanding Delegation Award, for their work at the first ever virtual New York Model United Nations Conference conducted by the National Model United Nations Organization. 

The team of nine Seton Hill students received an Outstanding Delegation Award for their work representing the country of Singapore at conference. This is the first time that a Seton Hill team won the highest award given at the conference, and they did so under the challenging circumstances of negotiating in a virtual format rather than the traditional in-person format in New York at the United Nations. 

In another first, Paris Szalla, Seton Hill Model UN’s club president, served as a chair overseeing one of the largest committees of the conference with several hundred students - the General Assembly 2nd committee – which addressed the issues of financing for development, information communication technologies, and disaster risk reduction. Szalla, a senior Global Studies major from Cheswick, Pa., was responsible for ensuring all delegates were given speaking time and led the committee parliamentary procedure. 

Members of the Seton Hill team in addition to Szalla, included Gabrielle Bubin, a sophomore Political Science and Global Studies major from Prince Frederick, Md.; Meghan Cutshall, a freshman Political Science major from Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Brianna Franzino, a junior Global Studies major from Greensburg, Pa.; Shannon Hubble, a senior Political Science major from Mount Pleasant, Pa.; Emma Jorgensen, a junior Political Science major from Sewickley, Pa.; Mark Nealon, a senior Political Science major from Moscow, Pa.; Pietro Porco, a freshman Political Science major from Tarentum, Pa.; and Ariana Scott, a junior Political Science and Sociology major from Leechburg, Pa. 

Advised by Dr. Roni Kay O’Dell, associate professor of political science at Seton Hill University, the team immersed themselves in the culture and politics of Singapore throughout the 2020-2021 academic year as they prepared to represent the nation at the Model UN conference. Further, the team prepared to participate in the first virtual New York conference that was offered by the National Model United Nations Organization because of travel restrictions and safety regulations related to the pandemic. 

The students won the Outstanding Delegation Award for their excellent negotiation and diplomacy skills during their Committee work. Students work in Committees at the conference to negotiate agreements on human rights and common security issues with delegates representing other countries. Topics included the rights of Indigenous people; establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the region of the Middle East; financing for development; peaceful uses of nuclear energy; climate change and health; and universal healthcare.

"I am so proud of Seton Hill’s Model UN team. They not only continued to raise awareness about the UN and Sustainable Development Goals this year and trained to learn negotiation and diplomacy skills during the challenges of the pandemic, but they also won an Outstanding Delegation Award for their negotiation skills, their collegiality, and their dedication to addressing shared threats and achieving shared goals in this simulation,” said Dr. O’Dell. “The Model United Nations Conference allows students the ability to practice their negotiation, speaking, and writing skills with a group of hundreds of peers from universities across the world. At the conference, each of the students represents a particular country and works with a team of dozens of country delegates in debating, negotiation, and writing a resolution that specifies how national governments can cooperatively work to solve common security and human rights problems."

The National Model United Nations Organization hosts conferences in New York City, Washington D.C., and various locales round the world every year. This year they were challenged because of the pandemic and the practical challenges to travelling and put their efforts into creating a virtual conference that would not only allow students to continue the important work of learning how to negotiate and simulate the UN, but also practice how to negotiate in an online format just as UN delegates have had to do this year.

“Despite not being able to travel to New York for this year's conference, I am so happy that we were able to have it virtually. Since this will be my last NMUN conference as an undergrad, I still had things I wanted to experience as a delegate,” Szalla said.

“This conference went incredibly well and I am so proud of our team for winning the Outstanding Delegation award. I genuinely love Model United Nations for the way it has helped me grow professionally with diplomacy and research skills as well as the opportunity it provides to meet people from all across the globe,” added Scott. 

“I was most nervous about the virtual aspect and how that would affect collaboration. However, it proved to be a little easier to ensure your point got across to a large group. When speaking with people individually, it created a closer conversation with less distraction,” said Franzino. 

"Being a first-time delegate in the Model United Nations conference was an unreal experience, despite the challenges of a virtual platform. I was fortunate to be able to interact with students from all over the globe while gaining confidence in my public speaking and diplomacy strategies. I am grateful to have been a part of Seton Hill's Model United Nations team and look forward to the next conference," Cutshall said. 

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