Students brought home top honors from New York after representing North Korea in a mock United Nations competition.
Franklin College’s Model UN team, represented by eight students and two faculty members, was one of more than 100 teams to compete in the international simulation of the United Nations the week before spring break.
Led by junior Kevin Dooley, the team won the award for “Outstanding Delegation,” an honor Dooley called “most notable.”
“The most accurate phrasing would be the top 10 percent of all delegations,” Dooley said. “It is the highest honor awarded at the national Model UN, which itself is the largest international conference of its kind.”
But this wasn’t the first time the college’s team won the award.
Dooley first joined the team in 2015 as a freshman. He and other students represented the small African state of Cape Verde, a democratic state in the African union. The team won “Outstanding Delegation” for the first time in Franklin College history.
While Dooley said it was much easier representing Cape Verde because of its size and influence in international relations, he said North Korea was more challenging this year.
“As you can imagine, North Korea is under a lot more scrutiny than Cape Verde,” Dooley said. “That was the big difference is we had to get our foot in the door in a much more aggressive way as North Korea than we would have two years ago.”
He said being aggressively reasonable with other countries is what made North Korea succeed in the way it did.
Sophomore Sami Roberts credits the team dynamic for their performance in the competition. Roberts, a political science and religion double major, said she was originally not a person the team was looking for.
“The dynamic of a team for Model UN is so crucial that it’s very particular of who they’re going to ask,” Roberts said. “Anyone can join. It’s understanding how the dynamic of a team would work.”
At the first meeting, the team suggested a variety of countries to represent. Roberts suggested Honduras, which she said would tie into issues of sustainability and development.
Another student suggested North Korea, and everyone immediately said no. But when they began looking at the approaches they could take with the “villainous” country, they found common ground.
“I didn’t know how to tell my grandfather I’m representing North Korea,” Roberts said.
Dooley, Roberts and six other students met daily throughout January to prepare to represent North Korea. Members paired up into groups of two to write position papers about the country’s stance on certain issues.
Dooley and junior Taylor Williams received an “Outstanding Position Paper” award for their submission to the UN Environmental Assembly.
“We weren’t allowed to stop our research until Model UN started,” Roberts said. “The clock didn’t stop until we actually got to New York.”
From 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., the team worked nonstop in New York City to build relations with countries from around the world. But despite the time commitment and workload, Roberts said it was all about taking on the challenge and reacting to the outcome.
“It really worried me about representing something I was totally foreign to. Now, after the whole experience has been over, it has made me appreciate the challenges Franklin pushes its students to do,” Roberts said. “And not only appreciate that, but understand the value of those challenges. If our professor didn’t think we could do it, we wouldn’t have done it.”