An Interview with Hamline's Model UN President and VP

Both graduating seniors this upcoming year, Payton Gresczyk, a Global Studies major and Political Science and Non-Profit Management double-minor and Šejla Cerić, a Global Studies and Political Science double-major, are excited to embark on yet another journey with Hamline’s student organization, Model United Nations (MUN). Payton is MUN’s current President with Šejla right by her side as Vice President. They both took a few moments to answer some questions about MUN to provide some insight on what this politically relevant team is all about, and why now, more than ever, is a significant community to be a part of. Since Šejla is currently studying abroad in York, England, an email interview was conducted.

Vice President, Šejla Cerić (left) and President Payton Grescyzk (right). Image Submitted by Payton Grescyzk

How long have you been involved with MUN?

Payton: I have been involved in Model UN for about a year now.

Šejla: This is my second year being involved in MUN.

Where does your interest for Global Politics stem from?

Payton: I took a class in high school with my favorite social studies teacher called Global Issues. We learned about all kinds of information and topics and I was able to discover things that really fascinated me. I was especially interested in terrorism and genocide, now I am constantly learning about international relations between nations, and with organizations (NGOs, IGOs, nonprofits).

Šejla: My interest in global politics comes from my crossing identities. I’m ethnically Bosnian but was born in Switzerland after my parents fled the war and genocide in Bosnia. We then migrated to the US where I grew up always having to be aware of what was going on politically across the globe and on the domestic level, as it affected me personally.  

What exactly is MUN?

Payton: Model UN is a hybrid on-campus organization and class. We take a team of 13 delegates to the National Model United Nations conference every spring in Manhattan, NY. Each year we have the opportunity to represent a different member state of the UN, in which we spend the greater part of the spring semester studying. We learn as much as possible about our country to ensure that we can represent that country to the best of our ability.

Šejla: MUN stands for Model United Nations. At Hamline, it is both a student organization and a semester-long course where students act as UN delegates. This entails them having to research the country the team is representing in the yearly conference in New York. Each student accepted onto the team is placed on a UN committee where they present the stance of their country on various issues in hopes of passing a resolution with other countries. The whole point of MUN is to offer a space in which students can learn about diplomacy and international relations. You get to work on public speaking, negotiation, writing skills, which you can take beyond university. It also helps students become more aware of current issues.

What is the MUN selection process like?

Payton: The selection process for our MUN team begins with an application. Within the application, students are asked to write two essays: one personal essay describing why they are interested in MUN and why they would be a valuable member of the team, and another essay about two global issues they find most pressing. Applicants are required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher as well as a faculty recommendation. After all applications are turned in, our director, Dr. Leila DeVriese and our elected officers (President, VP, and two Head Delegates), facilitate brief interviews with each applicant. After interviews are finished, Leila and the officers decide on the final team.

Šejla: The MUN selection process is a competitive application process where students submit an academic transcript, recommendation letters from professors, and two essays - one personal essay and one essay on global issues they find most pressing. We have high standards not only for the academic factor of a student’s application (e.g. GPA), but also whether they have leadership skills, and knowledge / passion for international topics or issues.

Describe the dynamic of the United Nations course and the MUN student organization.

Payton: The course and organization go hand in hand. Many of the student organization activities take place prior to the spring semester in which the class is taken. The officers spend many days in the summer and fall preparing for the upcoming advertising season and application process. Our organization thrives off strong student leadership and initiative. Once the team is chosen (around November) we begin having org meetings for team bonding, preparation, and information distribution. Once spring semester rolls around and we begin our class, the dynamic is energetic, and we are all excited to learn as much as we can about our assigned country. By the time the semester ends, we have essentially become a MUN family and make great friends.

Šejla: Having this unique hybrid course that not many other groups on campus get to have, Hamline’s MUN team gets the opportunity to create closer connections with each other in class settings and in professional settings. It’s like having the best of both worlds. The class is also cross-registered between political science and global studies; however, international business, social justice, and other related majors are welcomed to apply. As are any students who just are interested in UN/international issues.

What does a typical meeting look like?

Payton: In the fall, meetings are more brief and informative whereas in the spring they are all dedicated to learning about our assigned country. In the spring, we meet every Thursday from 5pm-8pm. Our head delegates prepare PowerPoints to facilitate our meeting/class, as well as individual students leading discussions on different chapters from our textbooks. As our trip gets closer, we cover logistic information such as travel and our itinerary while in New York.

Šejla: A typical meeting involves the team practicing their public speaking skills through presentations, researching their country, and negotiating with fellow team members through conference simulations and resolution writing.

Why do you enjoy being a part of MUN?

Payton: Model UN has given me so many great experiences and memories. I got to travel to New York with friends, represent Uruguay on General Assembly 5, visit the UN Headquarters and vote in the General Assembly Hall (nerd alert). I was chosen as President of the organization for the 2018-2019 year and get to have 3 of my great friends by my side as Vice President and Head Delegates. We also made so many memories in New York last year and I can't wait to go back!

Šejla: I enjoy being a part of MUN because it forces me to go out of my comfort zone and grow in an academic and professional aspect. I became a better public speaker and a more confident student because of it. I also get to do what I love by helping come up with solutions to international issues and meet MUN delegates from around the world at the conference

What else should students know about MUN?

Payton: ANYONE can join Model UN! While many people from the Global Studies/Political Science departments are involved in MUN, you can join as any major or minor. There are no major requirements and we encourage students from all backgrounds to apply.

If you want more information, you can contact the Model UN Staff at [email protected]. If you would like to speak directly to Payton or Šejla, you can get in touch with them at [email protected] and [email protected]. Otherwise please follow the team’s Instagram page Šejla currently manages (@hamlinemun).