Model United Nations

Model United Nations embraces the Cal Poly "learn by doing" approach to education as students not only learn about the UN and international affairs, but also take on the roles of international diplomats and simulate UN committee sessions. The program provides opportunities to learn about world affairs, sharpen negotiation and consensus-building techniques, meet with students from universities throughout the world, and participate in collegiate conferences.

To succeed in the program, students must first familiarize themselves with the background, institutions, and responsibilities of the United Nations, as well as its decision making rules of procedure. They must also gain an appreciation of the history, culture, and politics of a selected country so that they can effectively replicate their foreign policy positions. Placed in a committee session with delegates simulating the policy positions of other countries, students then debate a selected topic. As delegates grapple with the issue, they bargain, persuade, build coalitions and compromise, and over time a resolution is drafted, then voted upon.

The classes are open to all majors. In fact, because we deal with such an assortment of issues--human rights, sustainable development, technology, urban planning, reproductive health, climate change, etc--the class benefits from the expertise brought by a diversity of majors. Likewise, the class itself provides benefits for almost all majors, because the skills developed and opportunities offered by the program provide just the background and edge that many employers will be looking for.

Please explore this site for more information on Model United Nations, and if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact the Model United Nations Advisor, Professor Craig Arceneaux at 756-2842. 

The Class

Students participating in Model United Nations must be enrolled in POLS 285 (Model United Nations) in the Fall, or POLS 385 (Advanced Model United Nations) in the Winter and Spring. Take note that POLS 285, offered only in the Fall, is a prerequisite for POLS 385.

POLS 285 is a four-unit class, and meets twice a week. The first weekly class runs in standard lecture-discussion format and covers material on the structure of the UN and issues it faces. The second weekly class is devoted to committee simulations. Here students take on the roles of different countries as they address issues of international significance in mock UN committee sessions.

POLS 385 is a two-unit class, and it meets once a week. It is devoted entirely to conference preparation and attendance. In it, we continue our practice sessions and prepare for the conferences we attend in the Winter and Spring quarters. Our normal goal is to attend one conference in the Winter, and one in the Spring. Students can receive up to six units of credit for POLS 385.

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Tips and Prep


Model United Nations is a dynamic experience that allows you to explore the complexity of international diplomacy. Every Model United Nations conference is designed to simulate United Nations conferences, so students must come to conferences prepared to represent the interests of their country. The following advice should help you before and during your first conference.

Before the conference:

  • All students should have a three-ring binder to collect information on the UN, conferences rules and procedures, your country, and your topic issues. You will appreciate the convenience of having this information at your disposal when needed at the conference.
  • Look over the Model UN tips and preparation guide assembled at the UNA-USA web site.
  • Take full advantage of the "AccessUN" database available through the library.
  • Find and read all the information on the conference's host website. You must know about the conference you are attending before you can prepare for it.
  • Print out and thoroughly look over the conference rules so you are ready to practice using them in classroom simulations and at the conferences.
  • Find your country's UN website.
  • Use the links provided on your country's UN website to gather more information.
  • Use the links provided on this website by clinking on Links.
  • Practice your 2 minute speeches and plan to defend them.
  • Whenever appropriate, use specific wording from the UN Charter and past UN resolutions in your speeches and position papers, and refer to them appropriately in your resolutions.
  • Learn about the other countries that are going to be in your committee so that you know beforehand who you plan to caucus with.

At the conference:

  • Be Prepared! Have all of your sample speeches and resolutions (if permissible) by your side, and know information about the countries that you are in a committee with.
  • Get rid of your nervousness: speak at your first committee session to calm your nerves. The learning curve at MUN conferences is steep, but you move through it rapidly; you will be surprised by how quickly you adjust.
  • Do not be intimidated by students with previous experience. They will talk often and aggressively, but if you are adequately prepared, you will find that you know just as much if not more than them, and this is what really matters.
  • Do not get frustrated by the laborious movement through debate rules. This is an exercise in how large groups accommodate debate and reach decisions. Just as in the "real world," it takes time!
  • Know who your allies are and push your agenda. Do not hesitate to pass notes, approach other delegates, and take a leadership position.
  • Use past UN resolutions to defend your arguments in general debate.
  • Get specific! You will hear a lot of general ideas even in substantive debate! Be the one that makes the committee resolution mean something, promote specifics in operative clauses.
  • Take notes. Committee sessions are long, so keep yourself awake and up-to-date by taking notes.
  • Committee sessions can be a long and tedious process, have a positive attitude and be patient!

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