Model U.N. Team Shines at Prestigious University of Chicago Event

April 26, 2023
Soka’s Model U.N. team attends the ChoMUN conference at the University of Chicago
Soka’s Model U.N. team attends the ChoMUN conference at the University of Chicago

At the closing ceremony of ChoMUN, a Model United Nations conference hosted by the University of Chicago, Maria Akenkou ’25 was awarded an honorable mention for her success as a delegate. The award was a highlight of the prestigious event for SUA’s Model U.N. team.

Akenkou, the club’s president, was one of seven SUA students who traveled to Chicago in late March for the three-day event. The ChoMUN conference gives students an opportunity to join committees that discuss and debate a wide range of social and political issues from the points of view of various countries. In the 26 years since its founding, ChoMUN has become one of the premier collegiate conferences, specializing in innovative committees focused on crises.

“I congratulate the seven students who participated in the Chicago conference, and especially Maria, who earned respect and trust from fellow delegates in her committee and received a high distinction in her performance,” said Tetsushi Ogata ’05, visiting assistant professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and managing director of the Soka Institute for Global Solutions. Prof. Ogata has been faculty coordinator for the Model U.N. club since November 2022.

Akenkou, who attended her first Model U.N. while in high school in Morocco, said winning an award “felt great” and praised the entire SUA team. “It was my first award at a university-level MUN, but I hope it won’t be the last. I am actually very proud of our team and how we put ourselves out there and connected with people from different institutions.”

To prepare for ChoMUN, Akenkou and Philips Ametsikor ’25, the club’s secretary, led team members through weekly meetings where they practiced MUN procedures and terminology. As the event drew closer, students chose the committees and countries they would represent at the conference, and conducted research on particular issues they expected to debate.

Akenkou worked on a bilingual committee, where she spoke Spanish and English, which tackled the topic of Chile’s independence in 1810, and Ametsikor served as a journalist on a committee that explored the role of Café Riche in the Egyptian Revolution of 1919.

“I think what I personally find challenging in these competitions is opening up when I first meet everyone,” Akenkou said. “After I get comfortable, I don’t like getting too competitive but sometimes everyone wants those prizes, and internally so do I.”

The desire to earn recognition, she said, prompted committee members to quickly form alliances. “In the beginning, I wasn’t even thinking about it until I realized everyone was fearful of each other, and they all trusted me, so I took my opportunity then and led most discussions,” Akenkou said. “An important lesson that I learned is how to be the person mediating in a stressful situation, bringing in alternative, original ideas that would benefit all.”

Ametsikor also initially got involved in MUN while in high school and said he was immediately drawn to the opportunity to engage in global issues and diplomatic negotiations. The first collegiate conference he attended last year solidified his interest in international affairs. ChoMUN’s focus on crises made this event different from his previous MUN experiences.

“This was my first crisis committee and the most challenging aspect of participating in a crisis committee is the unpredictability and fast-paced nature of the simulation, which can be overwhelming and requires quick thinking and adaptability,” Ametsikor said. “The most satisfying part was receiving a backstage note from a crisis committee and having the feeling of being in the ‘know’ and having access to information that could potentially change the simulation’s course.”

Rounding out SUA’s team at ChoMUN were Abdul Alim Fatawu ’26 and Danielle Sobande ’26, who participated in a dual General Assembly on information ethics, Carol Krein Robinson ’25, who represented Morocco in an Ad Hoc General Assembly, Zama Kunene ’24, who participated on committees dealing with the formation of the East Africa Federation in 2023, and Renata Duarte Ferreira ’26, who worked on a committee focused on the rebuilding of West Germany during the Cold War in 1948.

The MUN club, which welcomes all students, is now planning for future conferences at the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and UCLA. Ametsikor said practicing and participating in conferences allows SUA students to explore new areas of interest and learn about global issues. Akenkou said SUA’s growing team is “well trained and ready to bring home some prizes.”

Prof. Ogata agreed that being part of the MUN team offers students many benefits. “I hope that more MUN delegates from Soka will get to experience these extraordinary opportunities next year,” he said.