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Montana Model United Nations: History

The history of the Model UN at the University of Montana

The History of the Montana Model United Nations- by Nicholas Potratz

Scroll down to learn more about the history of the MMUN. Below you will find excerpts from the history written by Nicholas Potratz. To read the full history click on the link below.

MMUN in the 1960's

MMUN in the 1960s

            The first decade of MMUN conferences started with auspicious beginnings. During this decade, the number of high schools and students attending the conference were, on average, some of the highest in the half-century of MMUN’s existence. The number of schools attending the conference regularly approached 30 high schools, and an estimated 350 high school students participated at the conferences each year. By comparison, today, roughly 400 high school delegates regularly attend MMUN conferences each year, a perceivable increase from the decline in the 1970s (see MMUN  in the 1970s), but only about 50 students higher than the initial conferences. The speakers at the 1960s conferences were also noteworthy, as most of the guest speakers at this time were ambassadors and members of states’ permanent missions to the United Nations.

While MMUN as a club and a national collegiate team had already existed at UM for several decades, under the mentorship of Political Science Professor Barclay Kuhn, students such as Don Krumm, Louise (Snyder) Krumm,  undertook an unprecedented endeavor in the 1965-1966 school year; they began preparing to bring a Model United Nations conference to the University of Montana during UM Interscholastics – a now defunct event that brought high school students together for a number of athletic and academic competitions. Though the conference would not commence until May 1966, staff members were already planning the conference as of February of that year. At that time, UM Foreign Student Advisor Vedder Gilbert and MUN member Don Krumm began sending letters to the Tanzania permanent mission, seeking a speaker for the upcoming conference. As announced several months later, the speaker would ultimately be Paul Eliel Mwaluka, Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Tanzania to the United Nations.

 

From left, Row 1: Wendell Guthrie, Antonio Spencer, R. Thomas Fulton, Frank Spencer, Lita Sharone, Marcia Michels, Diane Dufour, Connie Revell, Mary A . Paxton, and Kathleen Bourke. Row 2: Matanda Minja, R. Keith Strong, Mary K. Hodges, Frank Sonnenberg, Joe Furshong, Jim M cGehee, Tom Robertson, Warren Neyenhuis, Bette Tomlinson, Peter MacDonald, Dennis Flagen, and John Angwin.- The Sentinel, 1969.

MMUN in the 1970's

MMUN in the 1970s

            Unlike the promising beginnings of the 1960s, one can consider the 1970s a decade of perseverance, despite a lack of confidence by important actors and organizations in the University of Montana system, as well as a noticeable decline in the number of students and schools attending MMUN conferences. The MUN club at the University of Montana suffered its first setback in 1969 when the ASUM budget committee withdrew financial support for MMUN. Although support remained from ASUM for the 1969 MMUN high school conference, and though the MMUN team still travelled to several national conferences afterward (e.g. one conference in Fresno, CA to represent Cyprus in 1969 and two conferences in 1970, of which one was in Seattle, WA and the other in Eugene, OR), the ramifications of the decision by ASUM, among other UM sponsors, were that university students would have to stop attending national conferences and experiencing MUN as delegates. Thus, organizers of the conference would potentially base the structure and content of future conferences not on involvement and practice with national conferences, but on independent decisions about how MUN conferences should operate.

During this time, general faculty support for the conferences also declined. It shrank to the point that the conferences were, for a short time, almost completely sponsored by students of the MUN club in conjunction with faculties from various high schools. An opinion piece from Wendell Guthrie, Secretary-General for the 1970 MMUN conference, published in the Kaimin on March 5, 1970 demonstrates the impact that losing support from faculty and ASUM had on those organizing the conference. Guthrie’s article cited an approximate cost of $700 (about $4,000 today) per annum divided amongst 300 students, which meant a per-student cost of $2.33 (about $13.50 today). Through this, Guthrie expressed concern for the possible termination of such a “valuable” academic endeavor, at little cost per high school student to the university.

“The 1970 session of the Montana Model United Nations marked the fifth consecutive year that the organization has been operating. Twenty-five high schools and seventy-four nations were represented at this year’s session. The purpose of the organization is to provide a more international learning experience than the student has previously had. This year’s M UN officers were John Angwin, president, Frank Spencer, acting president and Wendell Guthrie, secretary general.” - The Sentinel, 1970

 

MMUN in the 1980's and early 1990's

The early 1980s continued with the perseverance trend of the 1970s, but by 1984, as a result of the aforementioned activism from students and supporters of the MMUN conferences, several UM bodies and prominent individuals once again endorsed the MMUN conferences, especially individuals such as former UM President Neil Bucklew, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences James Flightner, and Professor Emeritus (acting professor at the time) of French and Foreign Languages Maureen Curnow. Also, William Feyerharm, who served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences prior to James Flightner (Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences 1987-2000)[1], had initiated some UM faculty support by at least 1977,[2] when he served as coordinator for the conference. Still, once faculty support had been reinstated, the resurgence of MMUN only gradually increased in student attendance. It was not until 1986 that MMUN began to have approximately 350 students returning consistently to the conference.

            Aside from the increasing number of high school students (which peaked at around 500 in 1990 and 1991), the late 1980s and early 1990s era of MMUN presented a unique style of conferences that better emulated International Relations in general than the United Nations specifically. During this era, delegates often wore costumes and took actions reserved to heads of state. It was not uncommon, for example, for delegates to declare war on another state or simulate taking a delegate or lead figure hostage.

 

[1]Gary Jahrig, "Flighner says he'll step down as UM dean," Missoulian, 27 August 1999, http://missoulian.com/flightner-says-he-ll-step-down-as-um-dean/article_73402fc6-3b55-51c1-9ae7-9f953526e722.html

[2] Due to gaps in news coverage and internal MMUN documentation, it is unclear whether Feyerharm assisted with or supported MMUN prior to 1977. 

MMUN in the late 1990s and early 2000s

The "modern era" of MMUN, which arguably began during the late 1990s, has made an effort to emulate national conferences in order to further the professional milieu of MMUN. In other words, MMUN conferences have diverged from the – albeit exciting – informal and theatrical idiosyncrasies present in conferences during the late 1980s and early 1990s, which tended to focus on mock crises instead of debating existing issues. It also adopted codified principles and procedures similar to those employed at collegiate and high school MUN conferences worldwide. Since this time, MMUN has encouraged the standardized use of parliamentary procedure and diplomacy – which requires students to follow rather than  modify real foreign policies; a code of conduct that establishes expectations for delegate behavior (a dress code was already in place prior to this); requires the submission of position papers for awards; and an emphasizes the production of resolutions at the conference that stimulate discussion and collaboration amongst delegates, instead of the sometimes "frivolous and comical" discussions and portrayals of countries that occurred in the previous decade at MMUN.[1] MMUN has also made an effort to structurally reflect the organization of the real United Nations. IN fact, in 2001, MMUN Director Benjamin Harris revoked voting rights for the US delegates to the MMUN Commission on Human Rights after the real Commission eliminated the US's voting rights in May of that year. Harris hoped that it would offer a "beneficial experience" for the delegates to examine the causes of the US's loss of voting rights and its image internationally.[2]

 

[1] This quote comes specifically from a reference by Mandy Johnson into the cases submitted by high school delegates to the ICJ prior to 1997. She used this as an example of why MMUN should adopt a more top-down approach to how it handles the topics and actions of delegates of MMUN. Mandy Johnson, Intra-Campus Memorandum to Professor David Aronofsky, The University of Montana, 3 September 1997.

[2] Benjamin Harris, Letter from Benjamin Harris to Angela McLean, 18 September 2001.

2014 team

In the last decade, changes to the composition of the MMUN committees have further bolstered MMUN's mirroring of national conferences, while simultaneously adopting an updated staff structure and a other elements distinct from national conferences. In contrast to the previous decade, which included both UN committees (e.g. the Security Council, ECOSOC, and General Assembly Plenary and sub-committees) and non-UN intergovernmental organizations, such as ASEAN and the EU, since 2009, under the guidance of Professor Karen Adams (who assumed the role of MMUN advisor in 2005), there have been five committees regularly simulated at MMUN: the General Assembly Plenary, the General Assembly First Committee (Security Issues), the General Assembly Second Committee (Economic Issues), the General Assembly Third Committee (Social and Humanitarian Issues), and the Security Council. Although national MUN conferences do offer simulations of various UN bodies outside of the GA or SC (akin to those in MMUN before 2009), the latter committees generally have the greatest number of delegates present and represent the main bodies at national conferences. Thus, the standardization of MMUN committees still constitutes a move towards greater adherence to national conference operating procedures. Previous committees from this decade included, inter alia, the ICJ, WTO, United Nations Environmental Programme, ASEAN, OAU, European Council, Commission on Human Rights, IAEA, Economic Commission for Europe, WFP, ECOSOC, and UNDP.

 

 

The 2014 University of Montana MUN Team visits the Fiji mission to the UN in New York. (Left to right) Front Row: Dakota Whisler, Christina Bloeman, Karla Nettleton, Dani Howlett, Emily Gary, Elizabeth "Betsy" Story. Back row: Jon-Luke Thomasson, Byron Boots, Andrew Surratt, Nicolas McCutcheon, Jake Brown, Talon Sandstrom.

2013 Team photo with H.E. Mr. Garen Nazarian, Armenia's Permanent Representative to the UN: Back row:  Vuthika Hang, Julian Adler, Benjamin Ehlers, Sam Forstag, Mr. Nazarian, Andrew Surratt, Dylan Klapmeier, Ana Oliveira Monteiro, Nicolas McCuthcheon.  Front row:  Christina Bloemen, Madison Brooke, Allison Connell.


UM students Stephen Carnes, Madison Brooke, Madeline Bermes, and Bob Cahill, representing Cambodia for the 2012 National Model United Nations conference in Lille, France.

2011 Team photo in the UN General Assembly:  Back row:  Kristin Smith, Luke Sims, Marissa Perry, Merrin Chivers, Tyler Campbell, Robert Cahill, Gabriel Heyl, Stephen Carnes.  Front row:  Allison Connell, Tori Ainsworth, Brianna Sefcak, Thecla Backhouse-Prentiss.

2010 Team photo at Viet Nam's Mission to the UN: left to right, Bui The Gian (Deputy Permanent Representative of Vietnam), Tyler Campbell, Stephen Carnes, Samantha Stephens, Kristin Smith, Aimee Ryan, Kelsi Steele, Travis Suzuki, Selene Christman, Marissa Perry, Qasim Abdul-Baki, Thecla Backhouse-Prentiss, Kedra Hildebrand (teaching assistant), and Nicole Allen.

2009 Team photo at the UN General Assembly -- Back row:  Katie Peers, Ashley Zuelke, Aimee Ryan, William Selph, Craig Harrington, David Knobel.  Middle:  Thecla Backhouse-Prentiss, Marissa Perry, Emily Tutvedt, Robert Cahill.  Front row:  Kelsi Steele, David Shelton.