Students in the NYU Model UN club.

At NYU, there are more than 300 student-led clubs and organizations. That means there are countless ways for you to find your niche, support a cause, and focus on your interests. And if there isn’t a club for what you’re looking for, you can find the resources and support to start one. In this edition of Club Spotlight, we take a look at Model UN.

It’s only fitting that the biggest club at the city’s biggest university grapples with some seriously big issues. For the NYU Model UN, no issue is too global, too divisive, or too complicated to tackle—whether it’s Security Council reform, the Arab Spring, or the role of women in combat.


A Psychology Major Finds Community

Candice Medina, a Class of 2021 Psychology major at the College of Arts and Science on the premedical track, never considered herself a debater. She jokes that she joined the club almost by accident. “I was an eager first year who signed up for anything and everything. Never would I have imagined that a club would mean so much to me.”

Now Model UN’s vice president, Candice credits it with transforming her university experience. “Of course, I’m proud of what we do as an organization, but it’s the community that means so much to me,” she says. “I have learned so much about important topics I would have otherwise never delved into.”

In the city where the United Nations is headquartered, Model UN members learn its ins and outs. They have the chance to role-play as UN delegates and debate global issues. The focus is not on “winning” debates but reaching agreements through diplomacy.

Various flags from around the world.
Students Bond Over Global Issues

“At our core we are a debate club, but we offer so much more,” Candice says. “We educate, discuss topics both old, new, and hypothetical, get you thinking, and challenge what you may have previously believed.” Topics might range from the Pentagon Papers to Black Panther. “Everyone you meet will know something you don’t; they’ll have a different perspective. We provide a safe space to bring these people together.”

That requires drawing on varied talents. “You don’t have to be a politics or international relations student to get involved, and you don’t have to enjoy debate,” says Candice. Model UN welcomes students with diverse backgrounds—including law, history, language arts, and film production.

Beyond debating, members can conduct research, fill leadership positions, and staff conferences. The group hosts two conferences yearly—one in the fall for high schoolers and one in the spring for college students. They also send a team to compete on the national conference circuit against other colleges.

If that all seems like a lot, Candice recommends that newbies find their footing through Model UN’s mentorship program, where they’re paired with an upperclass student. She also believes staffing a conference is the best way to jump in. “Conferences are a lot of fun and are at the core of what we do,” she explains. “You really bond with your peers the most during conferences.” Apart from those events, members attend weekly general meetings to explore global topics. And through the United Nations Initiative, ambassadors and other UN guests visit to discuss world issues.

Focus on a Cause You Believe In

For Candice and others, their involvement in Model UN has led to change in the wider world. “Each and every person in this club feels passionate about something,” says Candice, who is also the chief operating officer of a nonprofit that educates youth about organ donation. Others are involved with voting reform, climate activism, and women’s rights. “We support each other and learn from each other.”

At the same time, they’re facing the consequences of the current pandemic. This spring’s conference was canceled while other events have shifted to the digital space. But the planning for November’s conference continues.

To Candice, the pandemic is just another challenge to tackle together. “The people I’ve met through Model UN have never failed to astound me—they push and challenge me in ways that have only made me grow. I can’t even express how much I appreciate them and this club for introducing me to mentors, friends, and inspirations alike.”