Decades-Long, Unique History

During the 1970s, faculty colleagues from the upper Midwest of the United States and central Canada were searching for an outlet through which university students could learn more about both the United Nations and the global issues that it addresses. They met in Superior, Wisconsin in 1975 and organized the Arrowhead Model United Nations. The name was adopted in recognition of the region within which the Conference was born, the northeast corner of Minnesota, an area that runs roughly both northwest and northeast from Superior, Wisconsin forming an arrowhead (see map). Since 1982 the Arrowhead Conference has been held annually, typically in March, April, or May, bringing together approximately 250-350 student participants. It now has more than 6,000 “alumni.”Although there are some larger conferences in North America, the Arrowhead Conference offers all of the amenities of the largest conferences at a fraction of the cost and has remained a favorite of participants.

The Arrowhead Conference begins with an opening ceremony at which the head delegates of each country address the General Assembly, identifying their policy positions, goals and aspirations for the Conference. This is followed by two full days of simulations of the Security Council and four of the main committees of the General Assembly. Participants help establish the agenda for each committee and are able to submit resolutions on topics of their own choosing. The rules encourage extensive and full debates that provide opportunities for all delegates to participate fully. Following the conclusion of the committees’ work, the Conference hosts its traditional banquet, a time to celebrate and appreciate the work of the committees. The Conference then reconvenes as the General Assembly to hear, debate, and approve the committees’ final reports. The long-standing success of the conference is attributable to the quality of the participants, the devotion of the advisors, and the characteristics of the program that were both defined in 1976 and continue to this day.

First, unlike many other conferences that have a fixed home, each year the Arrowhead Conference rotates among the member-institutions campuses, providing opportunities for faculty and students to travel to different locations annually (some students have participated every year that they have been undergraduates!). Second, the conference rules are designed to facilitate and encourage debate and participation by representatives of all participating “countries,” a feature that is particularly attractive to many participants. Third, the Arrowhead Conference’s long-standing tradition of holding a banquet to celebrate the conference’s achievements, as well as those of the participants, has been particularly well embraced. Finally, each host institution arranges guest speakers to address United Nations issues and to interact with student participants. Lech Walesa (former Solidarity Leader, President of Poland, and Nobel Peace Laureate), Senator and Presidential Nominee George McGovern, Ambassador Robert Fowler (UN Permanent Representative of Canada), H.E. Ambassador Datuk Hamidon Ali (UN Permanent Representative of Malaysia), H.E. Ambassador Nejmeddine Lakhal of Tunisia, Ambassador Allieu I. Kanu (UN Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone), and Mary Robinson (former President of Ireleand & former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights) are among the recent distinguished guests who have addressed the Arrowhead Model United Nations Conference. Conference participants particularly enjoy opportunities for dialogue with policymakers such as these.

Over the years a great many universities and colleges have participated in the Arrowhead Conference, and new schools join regularly. 

What Makes Arrowhead Special

Dr. Curt Reithel, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

I was part of the first Arrowhead in 1975. I am not a historian, but can share some of the history as I recall it. To my way of thinking, Arrowhead is unique and special in a number of ways.

First, Arrowhead conferences rotate among participating universities and colleges. The first two Arrowhead conferences were held at UW-Superior. The primary initiator and the true father of Arrowhead was Chuck Kenney, who taught political science at UW-Superior. It turns out Chuck was once a former professor of mine when he was teaching Soviet studies at Michigan State University.

Since those first two conferences, the Arrowhead Model UN has been hosted by a considerable number of different institutions including: UM-Duluth, Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Winona State, Moorhead, UW-La Crosse, South Dakota State, SW Minnesota State, and UW River Falls in the U.S. and the University of Manitoba and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada. Many of these schools have hosted Arrowhead more than once. For most of us, there was always a long van or bus drive to Model UN to look forward to every spring semester.

It is important and significant to note that Arrowhead sought to bridge the U.S. and Canada and for many years featured strong participation from Canada, especially from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. I remember fondly those very long chartered bus trips to Winnipeg.

Second, Arrowhead has always featured a banquet with a prominent guest speaker. Over the years, a considerable number of UN ambassadors spent time with Arrowhead, many attending some of the sessions in addition to addressing the banquet. I remember having the opportunity to meet ambassadors from Finland, Jordan, Tanzania, Canada, Costa Rica, and Israel to name a few. In other case, persons prominent in the United Nations and NGOs involved with the UN were speakers.

All Model UN are different, but not many have been hosted by a large number of different schools like Arrowhead and not many feature a banquet and prominent guest speaker.

Third, Arrowhead is known for the opportunity for students and faculty to form close and long-term relationships. Arrowhead features a set of institutions that have been very loyal and return year after year. Arrowhead has always featured a very vibrant social side with lots of “social caucusing” when committees are not in session.

There are some other aspects unique to the procedures and practices of Arrowhead, including the use of faculty advisers as committee chairs, and a fixed agenda featuring resolutions submitted in advance. But these matters of procedure are secondary to the Arrowhead experience that comes the work of the host institutions and the shared experience of the many faculty advisers and student delegates over the last 35 years.

Note: Dr. Reithel was a founding member of the Arrowhead Conference, and has served the Conference in a great many capacities. He has been Secretary-General, served as both a committee chair and/or secretary on numerous occasions, and has organized several Arrowhead Conferences.