Model citizens: HU is host for UN simulation

Apr 18, 2013

Ali SayreHeidelberg has been sending a delegation to participate in the Model United Nations of the Far West Conference each spring for about 15 years. But never has HU had such an important role.

This year, Heidelberg is serving as the host institution. It’s a role that’s been two years in the planning. Senior Ali Sayre is serving as Secretary-General for the conference; the Secretariat will be staffed entirely by ‘Berg students, with assistance from Whittier College, Humboldt State University, West Oregon State University and the College of St. Benilde (the Philippines).

As Secretary-General, Sayre had to come up with this year’s theme. She chose “The Struggle to Exist: Sustainability and Human Rights.”

A 50-member delegation from Heidelberg departs Friday for San Francisco – where the United Nations was founded in 1945 – and will return to campus on Tuesday. About 40 colleges and universities and 400-500 students will join them for the simulation that will broaden their understanding of the principles and means by which international relations are achieved and maintained.

‘Berg students spent the semester learning about the United Nations and then delve more deeply into the history and positions of one or more countries. This year, they’ll represent Canada, Denmark and Maldives.

A political science major, Sayre is participating her fourth Model UN conference. She calls the experience “a really interesting way to discuss issues and make them feel personal to you.”

“You have to be creative. You just have to experience it,” she said. She’ll be doing just that from a different vantage point this year. Sayre approached her professor, Dr. Marc O’Reilly, two years ago about Heidelberg serving as the host institution. They decided it was do-able.

“Heidelberg will be in the spotlight throughout the conference,” O’Reilly said. “Whatever happens, for better or worse, will be on us!”

Sayre is no rookie when it comes to international relations. Last year, she spent a semester abroad, studying at Oxford and working in the Parliament. During the fall semester, she studied at American University in Washington, D.C., and completed an internship in the office of Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware.
During her time away from campus, she was tasked with pulling together all of the details of the conference. Technology simplified things as she edited the conference book, filled committees and trained committee chairs and updated conference website materials, all from a distance.

Model UN logoDuring the conference, she’ll address any emerging issues within delegations or committees and monitor the behavior of the delegates to ensure everyone is working within the rules. “My job will be to put out the flames,” she said.

At times, Sayre said it’s been a bit challenging to balance her academic responsibilities with playing softball and taking on conference leadership. But she’s had great cooperation along the way.

“A lot of it is being able to manage my time effectively. … Dr. O’Reilly has really helped me prepare and my coaches have worked with my schedule. I have reached out when I needed help.”

The best part: “I’ve never been told I can’t do something. That’s something I’m really glad I found at Heidelberg.”

“If I can plan this kind of an event – with help – I think it will be really helpful for jobs in the future,” Sayre said, adding that she appreciates the rare opportunity as a college student to plan a large-scale conference.

For Sayre, the experience goes beyond academics. It’s personal. She aspires to work with the United Nations after she completes a graduate school program in international relations. It was her experience with the Model UN led her there.

Read more about the Model UN of the Far West at