The COVID-19 pandemic’s cancellation of the annual National Model United Nations conference in New York City this spring – for only the second time in its history – didn’t prevent Cal State San Bernardino from continuing its long tradition of excellence.

The student team members, representing the country of Ecuador, earned three Outstanding Position Paper Awards, written in preparation for the conference that was to have taken place April 5-9.

Any other year, the CSUSB Model UN team would have traveled to New York City to participate in the conference, the oldest collegiate Model UN conference in the world, which has its roots in the intercollegiate Model League of Nations simulation that was held at Syracuse University in 1927. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the only cancellation was in 1945 when a travel ban was imposed during World War II.

CSUSB is traditionally one of the top programs at the conference that attracts more than 6,000 students from throughout the world. As of 2019, it had won the top award of Outstanding Delegation 25 times, and numerous Distinguished Delegation and honorable mention honors in the 43 years of the program’s history.

Though student delegates couldn’t meet this year, the National Model UN did have a body of work from which to judge. Prior to the conferences, delegates undertake rigorous research to learn about the countries they will represent. Out of that comes the Position Papers, written on issues related to UN committees on which the delegates will serve during the conference.

Kevin Grisham, the program adviser and chair of the CSUSB geography and environmental studies department, said judges’ criteria includes writing quality and proper style, reference to relevant resolutions and documents, general consistency with bloc/geopolitical constraints, consistence with the constraints of the UN and analysis of issues.

“These awards are reflective of the immense amount of work each student individually and collectively with their partner have done in lead up to the 2020 National Model UN New York City Conference,” Grisham said. A veteran himself of the Model UN, which includes being a CSUSB student delegate as well as a member of the corporate board that sponsors the conference globally, Grisham said “these papers and others from our team this year are some of the best I have ever read. Each paper for each committee on our team went through five drafts and included an intense peer feedback and feedback from both advisers for the program that exceeds the rigor of even most peer-reviewed academic journals. 

“I could not be more proud of our team members who won these awards and once again it shows the amazing education our university provides to our students and the communities they belong to,” he said.

Along with listing their committees and their majors, the Outstanding Position Papers and their authors are:

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
Veronica Morales, English-literature track, and Alexis Figueroa, global studies.

Economic and Social Council Plenary (ECOSOC)
Graciela Moran, global studies, and Naim Aburaddi, communication studies graduate student.  

UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)
Sahara Sianez, environmental studies, and Sage Keyner, also environmental studies.

Past participants in the Model United Nations program have said the simulations gave them real-life experiences in diplomacy and relationship building. Some program graduates have embarked on careers in diplomacy, while others have gone on to prestigious graduate programs, such as the Harvard School of Law.
To learn more about the Model United Nations program, which is housed in the university’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, visit the NMUN website.
To learn more about the CSUSB Model UN program, or to contribute, contact Kevin Grisham at and visit the CSUSB Model United Nations website.