Manhattan College Represents Ukraine at 2023 National Model UN Conference

The conference helps students build critical professional and personal skills.

For the 16 Manhattan College students who participated in the 2023 National Model United Nations (NMUN) in New York City, it was an experience unlike any other. From April 2 to April 6, the students had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a United Nations delegate, writing resolutions and discussing topics ranging from nuclear energy to sustainable development. Manhattan College Model UN Team

The conference, held at the New York Hilton Midtown, allowed the team to learn about international relations and diplomacy, and to meet with other students from around the world. To prepare, students took a semester-long Model UN class that taught them the skills necessary to participate in both this spring’s New York City conference and last fall’s conference in Washington, D.C.

At the April event, the Jaspers represented the nation of Ukraine, a responsibility the team took quite seriously, given the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis. Before the conference, they participated in a Google Meet discussion with Ukrainian students who would also be participating at the conference representing Lichtenstein. They went on to meet them in person at the College on April 1. During the week of the conference, the Jaspers and the Ukrainian team attended an exhibition about the war with the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN at UN Plaza. Manhattan team members were impressed with the bravery of their Ukrainian counterparts who told them stories about family and friends still trapped in war zones. 

Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., chair of the political science department and adviser to the Model UN team at the College since 1997, said that the intercultural cooperation and connection between Manhattan and the Ukrainian team is an example of the Model UN at its best. Model UN Team from Ukraine Meets with Manhattan College Team

“During our Google Meet, the Ukrainian students told the most amazing stories, making this conflict real for my students,” Chasek said. “They told us about their experiences and gave us advice on how to represent Ukraine. We had the challenge of not only representing Ukraine, but representing it right.” 

During Chasek’s  tenure, the Jaspers have won 26 delegation awards, 10 peer awards and 11 position paper awards. At the most recent conference, the team won one outstanding position paper award and a Distinguished Delegation award. The outstanding position paper award for the UN Commission on Population and Development was given to Jazi Riley '25, a political science and philosophy major and Montserrat Nicasio Tavarez '25, a political science and psychology major. Position papers are two-page documents that reflect the positions of the “member state” on the topics under consideration at the committee.

Through the years, Chasek has taken the team abroad to several international Model UN conferences: twice to the Galapagos Islands and once to the Czech Republic. Some current team members are hoping to fly to Erfurt, Germany, for a Model UN conference later this year. 

On the opening night of the conference, thousands of students and their advisors from colleges and universities throughout the world gathered to hear a keynote address from Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. Before the keynote, Chasek and Brother Daniel Gardner, FSC, president of Manhattan College, had the opportunity to meet briefly with Thomas-Greenfield. Model UN Teams with Ukraine Ambassador to the UN

Gabriela Sandoval '24, an international studies major from Washington Township, New Jersey,  was also a member of last fall’s Model UN team. Her plans are to attend law school after graduation. 

“I think Model UN is a very valuable experience in terms of learning public speaking, how to write formally and how to engage with other people, especially international students,” said Sandoval. “It makes you a more well-rounded person overall. It was truly an honor to represent Ukraine.” 

At the April event, Sandoval was one of two team members on the General Assembly third committee focusing on healthy aging and the elderly population from the standpoint of citizens who are in active war zones. She and her classmates started preparing for the conference in December, spending hours researching and reading about their assigned country and subject. 

Mohammed Matabbar '25, a political science major from Queens who is interested in geopolitics, participated in his first Model UN conference and was assigned to the General Assembly first committee to discuss disarmament and the arms trade.  

“Participating in the model UN class and conference gives you a wider perspective about the world,” he said. “You come to understand the problems of any country that you represent.” 

“The students on this year's team representing Ukraine were predominantly underclassmen, with only four out of 16 who had previous experience at the NMUN-NY conference,” said Chasek. “They defined teamwork and excellence in both their preparations for the conference and their dedication to the interests of Ukraine on the world's stage. I am very proud of their accomplishments.”