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MUNPlanet: Tobias, how would you introduce yourself to the MUN community?
Tobias: First of all: Thanks for having me - it’s great to be part of this new MUN network and to get in touch with so many interesting and passionate people! Looking at just the surface of who I am, I studied physics and music performance in Germany and Canada, I am currently doing a PhD in theoretical physics and I work as an author, coach and consultant in various areas. Taking a closer look at what you should know about me, I got into the world of MUN rather late, towards the end of my studies of physics and music that is. So I experienced exceptionally close ties between MUN and my professional life, which, in addition to my scientific research at the university, involves a great deal of negotiating and networking. That made me cherish the skills I learned at MUN, and making this experience even more valuable to future generations of MUNers is what keeps me in the business - in particular with our newly founded project eMUN-fellows.net.
MUNPlanet: Being a physicist and someone who is doing a PhD outside of social sciences, how did you find MUNs interesting?
Tobias: To me, MUN is what you make of it: there is always something to learn for you at an MUN, no matter whether you are a social scientist. Although learning about international relations and current affairs is undoubtedly a crucial pillar of a good MUN experience, what really thrills me is the outstanding opportunity to learn what it takes to be a global leader. MUN is a level playing field where your vote counts as much as anyone else’s, sprinkled with the challenges of intercultural cooperation, and spiked with a strong demand for public speaking and international negotiating skills. The skills you learn at MUN are valuable for you beyond being a delegate. Working in academia, being involved in orchestral management and in consulting, I have learned first-hand that wherever your personal or professional path will take you, your MUN experience will always be a valuable asset for you.
Tobias: I stumbled over a MUN initiative bringing students from my university to Harvard WorldMUN. My first thought was that MUN would be a cool combination of getting to see the world and its people - after all, the conference took place in Vancouver, Canada, then - and a good way to commit myself to a project developing my personal skills as a diplomat. Winning a Diplomacy Award at this conference seems to indicate that this worked out quite well.
Down the road, I discovered that being a MUNer can be much more than “just” attending a conference as a delegate. I began to live out my knack for project organization, and for strategic project development. A few MUN seasons later, I am now working as one of the project directors of the eMUN-fellows.net initiative I co-funded, focusing in particular on unlocking the full potential of a MUN experience: growing into a future global leader.
Tobias: MUNing for several years now has been a tremendous learning experience, and for sure I have learned many of the things that are at the top of the minds in the MUNPlanet community. One lesson that is very dear to me is the insight how much people really matter. There are lots theories and cook-book recipes for dealing with people, but in the end, what really matters in understanding the person you are interacting with. If you don’t understand their needs, their interests and their attitudes, you will have a tough time collaborating with them. What’s more, people are quite volatile: just because you figured out what the other party wanted at one point in time doesn’t mean you won’t have to continuously check for changes in their motives and goals. Such insights are hard to understand if you only hear them in a classroom, but experiencing their effect first-hand in a MUN conference really makes you get it.
MUNPlanet: What is eMUN-fellows.net, and what is the main idea behind that project?
Tobias: eMUN-fellows.net is a project I founded together with two other MUN-enthusiasts to make our visions for making MUNing a learning opportunity for people how want to become the global leaders of the future become reality. All in all, I like to think of eMUN-fellows.net as a project unearthing new and exciting learning opportunities hidden in MUNing. For instance, we work with a Germany-wide delegation for about half a year in an intense, interdisciplinary training process that does not only include meeting in person, but contains a large share of online collaboration. Learning to work in a virtual team with strong leadership personalities is certainly one of the unique features of the project. Our delegates really get a chance to dip their toes into various challenging tasks, and we support them with training, guidance and coaching along the way. The personal and professional development of each individual working with us is what counts the most.
Tobias: Dislocated work across Germany certainly makes it tricky to hang out with the people involved in our project in person. On the plus side, every time I do meet one of the team members in person, the opportunity becomes even more special.
Nevertheless, I like to crunch down on the challenges I meet and morph them into good opportunities. Taking on the challenge of managing dislocated work with the eMUN-fellows, I think we transformed it into a unique opportunity for acquiring digital leadership, which everybody is invited to come and participate in. So, even if I’m one of the project directors, there is much in store to learn from the project for me with regard to my own leadership qualities.
The biggest reward of being an eMUN-fellow is seeing the vision of helping people to grow into the shoes of global leaders become reality. You can pretty much watch the people involved in the project stand an inch taller every time they rise to a challenge and grow beyond themselves.
Tobias: I am happy to see that MUN has made it through the stages of being a mere idea to becoming a trend to turning into an well-established form of informal education. MUNing harbors so many opportunities to learn that it would be a pity if these opportunities were available only at very few conferences and thus accessible only to a very limited number of people. Nevertheless, not all MUN conferences really make the most out of these opportunities. To enable MUNs to really become a forum for change, I think we might need to see more exchange in the community. Learning from the good practices of other initiatives to make your own project grow into an even more promising endeavor is something none of us should forgo.
MUNPlanet: Which challenges do you think MUN conferences face in particular?
Tobias: Two things: tailoring MUN conferences to specific audiences, and branding their strengths. MUN conferences need to figure out who they really are and what makes them special to be able to deliver a great conferencing experience to their audience. To my mind, a conference that is thoroughly thought through and well developed with a key target group will offer ever more exceptional learning opportunities to the delegates.
MUNPlanet: Albert Einstein was known for his pacifism and cosmopolitanism - something akin to the spirit of UN Charter. Being a physicist yourself, do you find his legacy of interest to MUNers, and what are your intellectual role models?
Hence, I am sure it becomes clear why I believe Einstein’s legacy can be an inspiration to not only in the context of MUN - but it can actually be seen as a guiding principle for a considerable portion of my personal and professional life, way beyond physics. Bringing together people, disciplines, thoughts, topics and methods is what makes me get up in the morning - may it be studying both physics and music and still going into a completely different area professionally, striving for sustainable business development in areas traditionally financed otherwise, or of course when working on new ways to uncover the full potential of MUN at eMUN-fellows.net.
I admire people who go beyond the beaten track, who take a nonstandard and who connect things, creating something new and awesome. But then, naming someone would set standards again and may encourage me or others to try and copy someone else’s path - and I would at all cost want to avoid that. Be inspired, but make yourself unique!
Tobias: Embracing modern technology and social networks is just the right thing for MUN. A crucial part of being a MUNer is getting in touch with your peers worldwide. As our budgets for time and travel money tend to be limited, it would be impossible to keep in touch with the extensive global network a MUNer can build without the help of the right online tools. I believe that this international network is invaluable - always knowing just the right person to ask for help with a tricky issue, or to get on board with a new project idea, and actually being able to get in touch with them in a heartbeat - how did we ever even work without virtual collaboration tools? Although you might need to kick off and foster your relationships with kindred spirits in person, keeping your connections going is one of the big perks of modern technology. Nevertheless, understanding the capacity and value of virtual and real collaboration, we need to use both approaches for the right things.
Tobias: I think MUNplanet is spot on. As I mentioned before, there is a great need for MUNers to start talking to each other outside of the scope of their conferences. MUNplanet is a great opportunity to get the community talking, and it easily bridges the gap between MUNers in different locations, working on different levels of experience and committed to different MUN styles. Continuing on this path, MUNPlanet could really become a key meeting place for the MUN community. I’m excited to see the project grow.
MUNPlanet: Tobias, where are you headed now?
Tobias: There are certainly many exciting things for me and eMUN-fellows.net in the future. For instance, eMUN-fellows is celebrating its first birthday, and we have many things to decide for the future of the project. It is thrilling to see the project grow, allowing us to broaden our reach for the delegates, to get new partners on board from both academia and the corporate world, making sure to keep open to the most talented rather than the most well-endowed students, and to provide cool new learning opportunities. We are also trying to share our training opportunities beyond the scope of our delegation, and are working on giving a couple of offline workshops at MUN conferences throughout Europe. Currently, we are preparing some web-based workshops for the MUN community, for which MUN:planet will obviously be a major factor, so stay tuned for your chance to get involved!
Personally, I am about halfway through my PhD - so there is still quite some work left until completion! I am determined to use the opportunities the academic world gives you to pursue your own ideas and to still have the capacity and the time to make other projects grow and prosper. Networking is also a crucial aspect - both for today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities. Because, no matter where I’ll end up, bringing MUN to it’s full potential is something I’ll always hold dear.
For more information about this project, you may visit this page: Shaping Future Global Leaders @ eMUN-fellows.net.