Mastering diplomacy is something of a sport at FIU, one that pairs rigorous academic training with a strong and limber mind. Just ask Alex Anacki. The international relations/political science double major ended freshman year with several big wins under his belt as a member of the university’s Model United Nations team. That group’s combined intellectual athleticism earned it a national championship in 2019: the title of No. 1 in North America.
Popular around the world, Model UN (also know as MUN) is an educational activity in which students play the roles of delegates to the United Nations and simulate serving on UN committees. Participating in competitions organized by universities—high school and even middle school students have their own versions—they debate real-world issues and are judged on a battery of skills in areas such as strategy and tactics, analytical thinking and teamwork.
FIU has fielded a team for more than 30 years and currently counts about 75 members—culled through a process of formal application, interviews and tryouts—who take turns competing throughout the year.
In Anacki’s case, he went from battling at the high school level straight to FIU, where his multiple top-place performances helped push the Panthers past other powerhouses—all of them elite private universities, many in the Northeast—to earn FIU the historic ranking.
“It was a very big deal for us,” Anacki says. “It’s a real testament to the work we’ve put in throughout the year.”
A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
For more than 10 years, FIU has been the top public university team in the United States. And for the past half dozen years, it held steady as a top-five program among all universities, jockeying for position with rivals Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and the University of Chicago, before rising to the summit in 2019.
“Awards are great, but Model UN is not defined by the awards. It’s the experiences you have and the sense of community and support everyone brings to it.”
—Daniel Sixto, international relations and history major
“No other college MUN team came close,’’ in terms of the number of individual and group awards it earned over the academic year, wrote the editors at Best Delegate, the organization that rates teams based on the totality of performances at competition. (In another first, the team won Best Large Delegation at Harvard University National Model UN, considered the toughest competition on the circuit.) They cited the whopping number of conferences—14—in which FIU competed and recognized the “training and hard work” that students brought to the task.
That heavy lifting includes extensive research on the policies and history of the particular country one is to represent and in-depth examination of the topics slated for possible discussion. The latter run the gamut from issues such as promoting sustainable rural entrepreneurship and protecting women in migration from human trafficking to nuclear disarmament and the curbing of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Equally critical to the team’s triumph: the many resources that FIU invests, which include an academic course, a full-time director, travel support from the Student Government Association and direct involvement from the dean of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, John F. Stack Jr.
“Our students gain invaluable experience as leaders, negotiators, consensus builders and critical thinkers,” Stack says. “The success they have in Model UN translates into success in life and in their careers, as evidenced by the many successful MUN alumni we have in top positions throughout the public and private sectors.”
Attorney Ray Hernandez ’10 says Model UN was by far the most valuable educational experience he had at FIU.
“As a student, it allowed me to learn more about myself, gain confidence by competing against some of the smartest minds in the world, and discover previously undiscovered abilities,’’ he said. Later, “As program director, it provided me with the opportunity to teach our delegates to face and overcome challenges, to respect and understand the viewpoints of rivals, to experience the collective joy of achievement, and to bravely face disappointment with the courage and determination to do better next time.”
“None of this would be possible without firm commitment from every individual on the team. We empower each other, critique each other and constantly strive to create the best versions of ourselves.”
—Michelle Rosario ’18, program director and former team member
The commitment to the team goes far beyond time in the classroom or even in competition. Members routinely gather at the library or over meals to strategize and review arguments. The time spent in preparation and then in actual simulation with other teams—more than 50 hours devoted by each participant of a competition—are worth the effort, say students, among them international relations and political science double major Pierina Anton.
“Thinking back to my first conference and how much I’ve grown as a delegate and person, I realize how much I owe that growth to the experiences I’ve shared with this team,” she says of a group that considers itself akin to family. “That’s the culture of empowerment and unity that sets FIU apart.”