Model UN Students Take Part in Columbia University Conference

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Daniel Mazo ’20 explains a directive in "The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 1978"

Fourteen Mercersburg students spent four days in New York City for the Columbia University Model United Nations Conference and Exposition (or “CMUNCE”—pronounced “sea monkey”). This year’s conference, which is arguably the premiere high-school Model UN event in the U.S. and the world, ran January 16-19 and was held for the 19th year.

Watch a short recap of the Mercersburg delegation’s experience.

Approximately 750 high-school students from around the globe (from as close as Manhattan itself and as far away as New Zealand) took part in 25 different committees, ranging in topic and scope from the Senatus Populusque Romanus in ancient Rome to the 1814 Congress of Vienna, the 1980 U.S. presidential election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, and even hypothetical future events (for example, a speculative 2024 Democratic Election Committee).

Model UN is a simulation of governmental and international politics, with students assuming the roles of specific political figures, nations, or organizations. All committees at Columbia are organized as “crisis” committees, where participants prepare background and historical research in the personage of their character, and then often have to alter their positions and arguments based on fictional “breaking news” events announced at seemingly random moments during the conference sessions. (This differs from most other high-school level Model UN events.)

“Our students who take part in Model UN are really able to delve into issues from history and current events in unique ways,” says history faculty member and Model UN adviser Allison Stephens, who was joined on the trip by fellow faculty member and adviser Lee Owen. “It’s exciting to see the kids working with their peers and engaging in debate, negotiation, and diplomacy to tackle issues that in some cases are ripped from today’s headlines.”

Shannon Fan ’20 and Owen Ying ’21 in "The Congress of Vienna, 1814"

Mercersburg’s student delegation included seniors Kevin Lee ’20 (who attended the conference for the fourth time) and Jack Kothari ’20 (who represented the school for the third-consecutive year). Lee, of Seoul, South Korea, received a CMUNCE Best Delegate award from his committee as a 10th-grade student, and was recognized with the Distinguished Speaking Award in his committee last year. Lee’s assignment in 2020 involved a simulation of a Korean independence movement in the 1940s. Kothari, of Hagerstown, MD, was chosen for a position on the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Secretary General (a selective role open only to experienced delegates). 

The 14 students represent five different American states and are citizens of four different nations: China, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S. In addition to Kothari and Lee, student delegates from Mercersburg included Ryan Bland ’21, Eliza DuBose ’20, Shannon Fan ’20, Rebecca Feng ’20, Dylan Gantt ’21, Kenny Hong ’21, Daniel Mazo ’20, Rose Potter ’21, Maggie Quick ’20, Zain Qureshi ’22, Brandon Ryu ’21, and Owen Ying ’21.

More information about the conference can be found at

Mercersburg Model UN alumni are currently studying at a number of prestigious colleges and universities, including Columbia; some of the other institutions where those students are enrolled include Cornell University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Kenyon College, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.