Model UN Society to hold first in-person conference since pandemic


Gauri Raje, News Editor

UTSA’s Model United Nations (UN) Society will be conducting its first in-person Alamo Model UN conference in over two years. The conference will span two days — Nov. 11 and 12 — and is open to students of all majors.

Maria Sierra, who serves as the society’s co-secretary general, expressed that conducting the conference in person would help facilitate better communication among participants, while also acknowledging that a two-day in-person conference was a much larger commitment compared to the online conferences that were held since the start of the pandemic.

“Now that we’re doing it in person, I feel like it’s a lot easier to get into the subject and get into the mindset of [participating] because you’re gonna be face-to-face with people. I feel like that makes it easier for people, rather than being online,” Sierra said. “[In person], you can have one on one connections and feel more comfortable speaking in front of people.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by Associate Professor of Political Science, Matthias Hofferberth, who is the faculty advisor for the society. For Hofferberth, an in-person conference serves as a way to better connect with participants and have more meaningful conversations outside of the classroom. 

“For me, as the faculty advisor, [the conference] is also a great opportunity to meet students in a different environment,” Hofferberth said.

As a faculty advisor, Hofferberth’s main goal is to guide the students’ leadership of the society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hofferberth conveyed full support as the society’s student leadership decided to conduct virtual conferences. In the context of the Alamo Model UN conference, Hofferberth has also been assisting with more technical aspects that come with arranging a conference of this scale including booking appropriate rooms for the conference, etc. 

“This is the first large event that I’ve helped build. And so, it’s been extremely helpful to have Professor Hofferberth by our side and you know, there’s so many faculty advisors that are just absent, and he is the opposite. He is actively picking up work [and helping us with things]. He’s done this before. So, he’s just been guiding us and leading us through it,” Hondo Bozzo, co-secretary general for Model UN, said.

Like Bozzo, this is the first in-person conference Sierra has been tasked to organize, making it a challenging yet interesting ordeal. 

“It’s been really a learning experience because I’ve never really planned an event like this and been part of it,” Sierra said. “So, figuring out the budget costs, the rooms, how many people are going to apply, [giving them assignments] … that’s been really interesting to be a part of, and it [has been] really fun, because … we’re all learning how to go back in-person, how to market this to students, to come join and be interested in participating in-person.”

The Alamo Model UN Conference this year is structured into three different councils. This includes the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The last council, ECLAC, will be conducted entirely in Spanish. Sierra, who is fluent in the language, will be one of the chairs for ECLAC. 

Sierra explained that the council is a great way to encourage Spanish-speaking students at UTSA, who may not be very comfortable participating in an English Council, to be a part of the conference. 

“A lot of students are so intelligent and they want to be part of policy things like this, but I know a couple of people … they get nervous speaking in English because it’s not their first language,” Sierra said. “So they feel like they’re gonna be judged, but they want to participate in this and it just holds them back. So, if we have something in Spanish, they can be in their comfort zone, not feel judged at all, and be able to participate in this [event].”

While both Sierra and Bozzo further emphasized the importance of this Council given UTSA’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Sierra expressed that the group is actively trying to have more people sign up for the Council.

Like other Model UN conferences, each Council for this conference will have two topics for discussion, which are decided upon by the society’s leadership. A vote will determine the first topic to be discussed. Participants will then engage in two kinds of debates — moderated, where each participant will get to speak for a limited amount of time and present their country’s position, and unmoderated, where participants can engage in casual discussion and start formulating resolutions. Eventually, resolutions that have been written will be revised by the Council chairs and will be brought up for a vote.

“Moderated [debate] is extremely necessary so countries have a chance to speak and everybody listens because oftentimes you can get drowned out in the crowd,” Bozzo said.

Both Sierra and Bozzo highlighted the low-stakes nature of the conference. Sierra explained that it is a great way to learn what Model UN is all about. 

“One thing I always tell people about Model UN is to at least just try it once,” Sierra said. “If you don’t like it, that’s fine. We’re not going to take [it] personal[lly]. But at least you can say you tried it.” 

Overall, Bozzo highlighted that Model UN helps facilitate discussions about global affairs and politics, all while staying diplomatic. According to Bozzo, Model UN further helps develop several skills including public speaking and the ability to understand differing perspectives on global issues.

As a part of Model UN, participants are assigned a country, which they are expected to research in the context of the Council and the topic they are participating in.

“This can be difficult, because we’re not asking for your opinion. We’re asking for your country’s stance on an issue,” Hofferberth said. “I think that’s a very valuable lesson if you think about it because it’s about sort of doing research outside of your own opinion and then taking into consideration policy documents from the country of your choice.”

Registration for the Alamo Model UN conference is currently open, and Hofferberth encouraged interested students to sign-up by Nov. 5 to ensure adequate time for research and preparation. The Model UN Society will also be conducting a delegate workshop and mock conference to further prepare participants and help in their research.

For more information, students can reach out to UTSA’s Model UN Society via Instagram @utsa_mun