June 9, 2016

A battle for the gavel—on Mars

Marwa Mikati ’17

Featured Image

I am what you call a Model UN veteran. Through my involvement in Mount Holyoke College Model United Nations (MHCMUN), I have been on the collegiate circuit long enough to recognize many faces from across the country—and to know who the strongest delegates are. These power delegates are there to win.

On the spot

As I made plans to attend the New York University Model UN conference in April 2016, I wanted to have some fun. So I signed up for the Ad-Hoc committee, which is usually reserved for experienced members. Why? Because participants have virtually no idea what this kind of committee will be about. It puts delegates on the spot, testing their ability to debate without much prior knowledge. In other words, this is my idea of a great time. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s thrilling, scary, and incredibly rewarding.

Our team of nine members arrived in New York City on a Thursday morning. My committee’s first session was scheduled for that very afternoon. I was expecting it to be about current events: ISIS, global terrorism, or the 2016 US presidential race. The furthest my imagination stretched was to a committee based on House of Cards.

The fear factor

I was not prepared for the email I received Thursday morning, with my committee’s topic. It read, The Golden Council of Mars. If there’s one thing my teammates know about me, it’s that fictional committees are not my cup of tea.

Mount Holyoke Model UN, Executive Board, 2015
As I started reading the attached background guide, I realized that the committee was not just fictitious. It was to be based in an alternate—Martian—universe. That I would need to maneuver. I suddenly felt a gripping fear: as someone who strays away from anything not based in real life, would I be at a huge disadvantage?

Breaking the ice

I arrived early at my first session, as I always do, to socialize before committee starts and help break the ice. I talked to those I knew, and introduced myself to those I didn’t. I carefully studied their personalities, trying to predict how they would be in committee. I was given a prominent character, which was a relief. Next, I had to prepare to master the workings of this alternate universe.

I went back to the hotel room to brainstorm. Yes, I was not in my comfort zone. But I still wanted to do well and fight for my voice in committee. I developed a “crisis arc,” which is the overarching goal for a character. This is a big piece in evaluating a delegate’s performance: the ability to creatively advance a character’s power.

And, action!

I spoke a number of times in every committee session and continuously authored action plans. In doing so, I gained the trust of the other delegates in committee, even those who were fighting just as hard as I was to stand out. The shortest committee session was three hours and the longest break was an hour. Multiply that by three, and we’d call it a day.

After three days of incredible debate, intricate plan execution, and exemplary governance of Mars, the conference ended. And there I was, enjoying it to the very last second.


At the concluding award ceremony, I knew I had exceeded my personal expectations. But I wasn’t sure what the committee moderators, NYUMUN leaders, had thought. I crossed my fingers. The Mount Holyoke team did incredibly well, winning two honorable mentions and one outstanding delegate.

The speaker finally called, “Ad-Hoc committee of the secretary general, the Golden Council of Mars.” He read off the names of award recipients until he reached mine. “The Best Delegate award goes to Marwa Mikati.” My heart was flooded with joy as I walked up to the stage to receive my gavel.

Marwa Mikati and Model UN team holding awards at NYU Model UN conference, April 2016

In stepping completely out of my comfort zone, I received the highest award of my Model UN career. That’s what MHCMUN is all about. Pushing yourself. Discovering strength you didn't know you had. And aiming higher.

This is the final blog in a four-part series featuring members of MHC’s formidable Model UN team and their spring 2016 conferences. Read the full series.

Exceed your expectations. Learn More

Marwa Mikati ’17 is from Beirut, Lebanon. She double majors in neuroscience and behavior and mathematics, and aspires to earn a dual graduate degree in medicine and law. Her dream? To pursue health policy as a career. For the 2016–2017 academic year, she will serve as president of the Student Government Association and, for a second year in a row, as president of the Mount Holyoke College Model United Nations (MHCMUN) club. One of her favorite quotes is by Queen Victoria: “We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.”
Request information from Mount Holyoke College

Follow The Gates

Recent Posts


Mount Holyoke on Facebook