The Charger Blog

Students Reflect on Impact of Involvement in University’s Model United Nations Program

Model United Nations has created countless opportunities for students to develop their confidence and grow as leaders, including at the recent conference in New York, where the group of students representing Albania earned the Outstanding Delegation Award.

April 29, 2022

By Maha Kattaya ’24, Jair Garcia ’25, and Aleksandros Spaho ’24

University of New Haven students recently attended a National Model United Nations conference in New York City.
University of New Haven students recently attended a National Model United Nations conference in New York City.

The University of New Haven’s award-winning Model United Nations team recently returned from New York City, where the students excelled yet again in a National Model United Nations conference. The group representing Albania as part of the proceedings earned the Outstanding Delegation honor.

The program, which has been generously supported by Phil Bartels ’11 Hon. and Susan Bartels, two of the University’s most generous benefactors, is directed by Chris Haynes, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science, international affairs, and national security.

Below, three students reflect on their experiences in the Model United Nations program and discuss the important skills they have developed.

Maha Kattaya ’24

I recently had an interview for an internship and I was asked what one thing has impacted me and helped me grow as a person. Model United Nations was the only thing that came to mind.

I was the person who was too afraid to go to a class with mandatory participation, nervous to be called on. I was a quiet person, reserved and scared of public speaking more than anything else. It felt like a fear I would never overcome, and I dreaded that as a political science major, because I needed to be confident and assertive.

Maha Kattaya ’24.
Maha Kattaya ’24.

Model United Nations teaches you to grow out of your shell. It is a place where I moved out of my comfort zone and developed a sort of confidence I never had before. They tell you to fake it until you make it, and it is true. Once you rewire your brain and fake your confidence, at some point it becomes more real than not. So that is what I did.

I stood in front of dozens of people and I spoke, without stumbling on my words or shaking in anxiety and fear. I met new people and put on a smile and I faked it until I no longer had to.

Model United Nations teaches you that even quiet people have a voice, and we have things to say. We just need the platform. We need room to make mistakes, to become better, and to grow as people. That is what Dr. Chris Haynes has done. He created a space for quiet people, loud people, overconfident and underconfident people to come together and grow and to develop the necessary skills for any job or area of life.

Dr. Haynes, the head delegates, and Joe Scollo, an information literacy librarian in the Peterson Library, put all their energy into believing that even a quiet person like me has the power to be assertive and confident, and that is what I did.

Jair Garcia ’25
Jair Garcia ’25 (left) in New York.
Jair Garcia ’25 (left) in New York.

I believe Model UN is important because it gives you an experience you won’t find in any other class. Not only are your eyes opened to the most critical issues we face in this world, but you also learn the skills and methods to go about working with others to solve those problems.

I learned how to cooperate and collaborate with so many different types of people and to develop and hone the skills necessary to lead a group and move us toward the end goal. Initially, I was very quiet and reserved and only spoke when I was told to speak. Over the semester, I was able to become much more comfortable voicing my own opinions and reasons, as well as working with many people who had different ideas.

MUN truly is an experience like no other and I am grateful to the class and to Dr. Haynes for running such an amazing program!

Aleksandros Spaho ’24 (left, at podium) at the NMUN conference in New York.
Aleksandros Spaho ’24 (left, at podium) at the NMUN conference in New York.
Aleksandros Spaho ’24

To some, Model UN might just seem like something for students studying international affairs, national security, or political science. Yet, this program is not only about brainstorming possible solutions to world problems. It develops skills such as leadership, public speaking, confidence, critical thinking, adaptability, networking, team building, and so many more crucial skills needed for success in life.

Even for those who are not the most outgoing, this program is a safe space to learn that becoming more outgoing is not only possible, but fun! When participating in the MUN conference, students meet thousands of students from all over the world. We work together to debate and come up with solutions to some of the world’s most pressing concerns. This takes being outgoing and not being afraid to put yourself out there to lead a group discussion. Dr. Haynes and our head delegates do a great job in developing our leadership skills. They are there to help students succeed and will never leave anyone behind.

Not only do we debate and hone important life skills, but I have found that one of the greatest parts of MUN is meeting and truly getting to know so many new people. Who knew that developing skills and learning about important world problems could be so much fun! I still talk to people I met in my first conference, and I’m doing it for the third time.

Not only do you keep growing your circle, but you also fine tune your skills and fill in gaps in your ability to lead and understand world problems. And to all of my fellow students who have yet to take the MUN plunge, I would encourage you to do it. If you fully commit and apply the feedback, you will not regret it!

Maha Kattaya ’24 and Jair Garcia ’25 are political science majors at the University of New Haven. Aleksandros Spaho ’24 is an international affairs major.