Interview of Mrs. Nora Trout, teacher and MUN director at ISL, 11.11.2017
Interview by Helwan Felappi (ISL) and Estelle Tromeur (CSI)
Mrs. Trout and Mr. Miller during ILYMUN’s second edition, in 2014
Press: What is your role in ILYMUN?
N.T: Ultimately, my role in ILYMUN is to guide the executive board, and to help them guide the committees and teams beneath them… basically to supervise the organizing and running of ILYMUN, from planning the program, the issues, the committees, and the countries and schools we’re going to invite, choosing who’s going to be Heads for the different teams, who the chairs are going to be… Mr. Miller and I both do the same thing, but each one for our own school, and that’s to be the supervisor.
Press: How do you manage to grant student leadership opportunities whilst at the same time playing this role of supervisor?
N.T: Well, it’s a tough balance, because sometimes Mr. Miller and I know that we could do something faster or more efficiently, but our goal isn’t to have the best conference, that’s the student’s goal. Our goal is actually to give them the experience of having to set deadlines, having to organize, to solve problems, to meet with the public to get sponsorship, all of that. That’s our goal, to help students learn from this experience and grow from it.
Press: How did you become involved with ILYMUN in the first place?
N.T: So, I was the MUN director for ISL, as I still am, and knew Mr. Miller from CSI, my children having attended the school when young. When he was first approached by two students who really wanted to host their own conference, the first thing he did was contact me and say: “Do you want to join us in this? Because, I don’t think we could do this on our own, and also it would be important to have this kind of collaboration between the two schools.” And I immediately said yes. And so, that very first ILYMUN the two schools were completely working together. He chose a secretary general and a deputy secretary general from CSI, and I chose from ISL. They got together and said: “Ok, we want to do it. What should our issues be? What should our committees be?” and from that it grew and they each said “well, we need a press team, we need this, we need that…” And from then on, ILYMUN has been a joint effort between the two schools.
Press: When was the first ILYMUN conference?
N.T: 2018 will be our sixth ILYMUN, so the first conference was in April 2012.
Press: How do you think it evolved over time?
N.T: Oh, it has really, really evolved. It has evolved in so many ways: it has evolved in the type of committees that we have… My MUN club is very fortunate, because we participate in conferences in other countries, and that’s given them the experience of seeing other conferences, and from that we’ve learned about things like the Action Assembly, the International Court of Justice… things that we’ve now added to ILYMUN, so it has grown in that sense.
It has grown in the sense of the number of students involved, too. The first ILYMUN only had two SGs and two Deputy SGs, and now it’s six, three from each school. The press team has grown, we now have a logistics team and external communications team. I would say, the standards have developed… You know, the more times we do it, the more the teams are learning. So yes, every year it’s more polished, more developed, more organized.
Press: What is your main goal this year?
N.T: Well, my main goal always is to kind of push the students even further, to do even more, to find what they’re capable of doing and to actually do it. Things like, the three students leading the ICJ this year, which I am very happy about: the committee is brand new, they’re still learning how to do it. So for me, I’ll be watching that to see how successful it is, and what we can do next time to make it better. And I can say I have a personal goal or wish: that is that Mr. Miller, who is on sick leave right now, is actually there in January… I’d love it if he could attend ILYMUN, and stand with me at the closing ceremony, and see how our conference turns out this year… that’s very important to me.
Press: What are some challenges you’ve encountered in your role?
N.T: I think the biggest challenge, for both Mr. Miller and myself, is getting the two schools to work together. Not that there isn’t any will to do so, it’s just logistically difficult to get the teams together. So there have been years where team members have been distrustful of one another, thought that one side was ‘sabotaging’ the work of the other side, or perhaps someone from CSI didn’t trust in me or was always going to Mr. Miller, and likewise on my side, for example, Mr. Miller would say: “I haven’t heard from your press member and I’m kind of worried, what are they doing?” And so it’s helping the two sides understand that it’s a joint effort, and that both Mr. Miller and I are responsible for the whole thing, and that’s why this day (Training day) is so important. I am so pleased with today, and so are the teachers who are here, because we’ve seen the teams working much better together, and now that you know each other I think it’s made a big difference, and I think you feel more like a team.
Press: What was the main reason for having this training day?
N.T: There are two main reasons for the training day. One is to get that kind of collaboration going, especially for the admins, who never used to meet. The second one was kind of to raise the standards: admins had never been to a real training experience, so this was really important for them, seeing how they set up the rooms for today… It’s also important for the chairs to work together, because in the past they used to have workshops, and then they got there in the day of the conference and hadn’t actually chaired together. So, you know, to work together but also to make it better, to find how can we improve.
Press: Regarding this year’s conference, why the theme ‘Cities’, and why were the new committees added?
N.T: The theme ‘Cities’... I have to say Mr. Miller is always instrumental in helping the executive board choose their themes, I don’t know, he just always has such vision and is always aware of all kinds of conferences going on around the world. He knew about these two conferences taking place in 2018 and focusing on Cities: one sponsored by the UN, the 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference, and the World Cities Summit 2018 in Singapore. So he said: “since we’re going to have our conference in 2018, why don’t we make it on the same issue.” That’s how we chose ‘Cities’. And usually once we have our main issue, or our theme, then it’s easy, we just think of all the things we need to talk about around cities and it’s no problem.
You asked about the new committees: it comes from you students. This year there was someone from the executive board who had done Historical Council before in ILYMUN, it’s not new actually. It had been left to the side for a couple years, and the executive board members this year said “we’ve done this before, we loved it, we should do it”, so Mr. Miller and I said: “sure, do it”! It was the same for ICJ, a student from the executive board, last year, had been to a conference in another country, saw the ICJ, and said “this is very cool, can we do it”, and it was validated by the executive board. Likewise for the Youth Committee; this is great, and I hope in the future we’ll have more new ideas like this.
Press: What is a piece of advice you would give to new or prospective members of ILYMUN?
N.T: I would say, for new delegates, don’t be shy: a lot of delegates are afraid to talk in front of a group of people, but once you’re there at ILYMUN, it’s so much fun, and you feel relaxed, and the lobbying helps you feel so much more confident, and before you know it you’re working with people you’ve never met before and speaking in front of the group.
For new members of the organizing team, I would say, take this advantage, because there are very few opportunities in high school to get the experience that you get organizing ILYMUN, in so many ways. So take advantage of that, grow from it, do something that you love, whether you like press, or organizing things… There have been so many students who have gone on to doing law because of MUN, doing event organization, “hotellerie”, because they’ve seen how to organize events and they’re very interested in that.
Press: Why is ILYMUN important to you?
N.T: Well, I admire the UN, and really believe in the idea of the UN as a way to solve the world’s problems. Secondly, I love to debate and discuss ideas, I think that it’s very, very important for people to get together, to understand each other, and to advance while solving problems. And ILYMUN is important to me as a teacher because I think it gives students a learning experience that they just don’t get in school.
Press: Thank you for your time, and your overall dedication in the project!