A team of North­eastern stu­dents placed first at the 29th Annual Inter­na­tional Model NATO con­fer­ence in Wash­ington D.C. ear­lier this month, besting more than 30 del­e­ga­tions from higher edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions in the United States, Canada, Bel­gium, and the United Kingdom. But the No. 1 finish is more impres­sive when you con­sider the cir­cum­stances under which the group was named the conference’s most out­standing delegation.

On the train ride from Boston to the nation’s cap­ital, mem­bers of Northeastern’s Model NATO team were noti­fied of a change in plans: Instead of debating, seven of the university’s 25 del­e­gates would run the con­fer­ence, becoming mem­bers of the sec­re­tariat. They had no choice—the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the conference’s orga­nizer, Con­verse Col­lege of South Car­olina, were unable to attend due to inclement weather.

The three-​​day con­fer­ence went well, and North­eastern was offered per­ma­nent lead­er­ship for years to come. “Our stu­dents imme­di­ately demon­strated great lead­er­ship, intel­li­gence, and acumen,” said Philip D’Agati, the Model NATO team’s adviser and an assis­tant aca­d­emic spe­cialist in the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence. “The whole team came together and made this work. By the end of the con­fer­ence, our per­for­mance was so impres­sive that we received the praise and grat­i­tude of all the fac­ulty advisers.”

At the con­fer­ence, each stu­dent team rep­re­sented a pre-​​assigned member state of NATO or the Euro-​​Atlantic Part­ner­ship Council. The pro­ceed­ings mir­rored those of the 65-​​year-​​old inter­gov­ern­mental mil­i­tary alliance, with stu­dents sit­ting on com­mit­tees and dis­cussing, debating, and writing res­o­lu­tions on today’s most pressing global issues.

Northeastern's Netherlands delegation finished in first place.

Northeastern’s Nether­lands del­e­ga­tion fin­ished in first place.

Northeastern’s teams, which rep­re­sented the Nether­lands and Romania, have a long his­tory of con­fer­ence suc­cess. This year, the university’s Nether­lands del­e­ga­tion placed first, marking the third con­sec­u­tive com­pe­ti­tion in which a North­eastern team has been named out­standing delegation.

Mem­bers attribute the suc­cess to months of intense prepa­ra­tion. It’s not uncommon for stu­dents to spend 10 hours per week reading policy state­ments, writing mock res­o­lu­tions, and debating the issues in the university’s Model NATO class or club.

We are excep­tion­ally well pre­pared,” said Steve McK­anas, E’14, who rep­re­sented the Nether­lands on the North Atlantic Council. “We know the poli­cies inside and out and are quick to adapt to changing situations.”

Stu­dents from other schools fre­quently look to their North­eastern peers for guid­ance, according to Kelsey Sul­livan, SSH’14, who rep­re­sented the Nether­lands on the Polit­ical Affairs Com­mittee. “A lot of stu­dents ask us how to write res­o­lu­tions because they’re not sure of the format,” she said. “We’re writing res­o­lu­tions every week in class and aren’t afraid of the con­fer­ence environment.”

Her interest in joining Northeastern’s Model NATO team grew out of her expe­ri­ence in the university’s N.U.in Pro­gram in Greece, where she studied at the Amer­ican Col­lege of Thes­sa­loniki. “A Euro­pean polit­ical sci­ence class sparked my interest in inter­na­tional learning,” she said. “It’s why I started taking classes in domestic polit­ical science.”

Added D’Agati: “Many of our stu­dents are able to tap into a level of matu­rity and con­fi­dence that grows through their expe­ri­en­tial learning opportunities.”

The Model NATO team is one com­po­nent of the university’s Inter­na­tional Rela­tions Council, a stu­dent group for those inter­ested in for­eign policy, inter­na­tional affairs, and effec­tive debate. Through par­tic­i­pa­tion in inter­ac­tive sim­u­la­tions of NATO as well as the United Nations and the League of Arab States, IRC mem­bers dis­cover the chal­lenges of inter­na­tional diplo­macy while devel­oping strong public speaking and nego­ti­a­tion skills.