Interview with TIMUN Secretary-General and President of the General Assembly

How did you first learn about MUN? Was there something in particular about the club that made you sign up?

Ceren Dolay: To be honest, I didn't even know what MUN stood for before joining the club. A friend of mine, who was also a UAA alum, suggested that I would enjoy MUN simply because I “talked too much.” Once I joined the club and learned what it was all about, I realized that it was where I belonged.

Kamil Özkan: I was a member of the JMUN club in my old school, so I was informed about MUN and how it worked. But I was not a great delegate: I was shy and an introvert, so I did not talk with people. I made pre-written speeches and did not know how to improvise. I was honestly scared to do it. But, when I came to UAA when I learned that there was a MUN conference, I decided to give it another try; now, here I am as the SG. The journey went well I think.

Do you have a favorite TIMUN memory?

CD: In 9th grade, I played table football with my friends during a break. I must have gotten too excited because I broke my high heels while playing. My friends and I then proceeded to go to the art room and glued my heel back on. It worked for the day. When I returned home I worried because I thought my mother, who the heels belonged to, would be upset, but she laughed in my face.

: It’s a classic answer. It’s not my favorite, but people love it: I sat on a cupcake by mistake...and it was Timur Gordon’s cupcake (he was an executive team member). It was very embarrassing; I was an admin then.

What made you want to be an Executive Team member?

CD: TIMUN means more than a conference to me; it is a family that was built 27 years ago. Being an executive team member means you are now part of the history of the oldest MUN conference in Turkey. I wanted to have that honor when I first became a member. Additionally, there is the “setting an example” aspect that comes with your executive role; being able to positively influence younger MUN generations just like the older generations did to you is an incomparable experience.

: When you come to the UAA MUN club, you look up to certain people. You admire them; you aspire to become one of them. I personally had that aspiration. It was my goal to become the FAT controller from the very beginning. The application process went really well: I was selected as the assistant. Now I’m here.

It’s not the job that you really focus on; it is the people that you work with, because you are a group of distinct people with different backgrounds, talents, etc. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with those people and to get to know them in a different way. You go beyond friendship. You also have a working relationship which many people do not have in high school. Some people may argue that it is very “capitalist,” but I do not think so. I look at it as a way of learning about professionalism. It does not have a certain “pattern.”

Hierarchy in MUN clubs is a fact that cannot be overlooked; it is often regarded as a limiting system. But there’s always the other side of the coin. Can you share your thoughts on the camaraderie and friendship aspect of MUN that comes with this hierarchy?

CD: The other MUNers you work with throughout your high school life become your coworkers, as well as closest friends. I feel like the hierarchy is by no means limiting because you share the same passions and goals with the people around you: to make sure TIMUN upholds its high standards. Although the decision-making process is shaped by the hierarchy, you all work together and contribute to the conference preparation with the same dedication. Once you clarify that your professional duties and friendships are separate, everything becomes better: both work- and friendship-wise.

: Hierarchy is needed because it is a chain of command (we cannot have everyone having full authority). Some people need to supervise, some people need to say what other people should do. It is leadership. People who have proved their leadership do ascend to certain positions in the TIMUN organization. The hierarchy is necessary because it improves the effectiveness of the organization. It is a hierarchy of experience.

My relationship with Kaya (TIMUN’19 Secretary-General and TIMUN’18 FAT) was very different from that of other Exec members. We’d met before and were close friends. We remained close friends even though we had a working relationship as well in TIMUN. We knew how to separate our time between friendship and work. So our relationship was very special. I do not know if any other Exec members had that assistant- manager bond.

Certainly, there is a friendship that actually is created through TIMUN. It is a melting pot in a way: you meet talented and passionate people.

Before becoming the SG and PGA of TIMUN’20, you also held different positions in the Executive team. Can you remind us what your titles were, and how your past roles and responsibilities affected your leadership and decision-making skills that paved the way for this year’s conference?

CD: I served as the Senior Head of Admin last year. With the Junior Head of Admin Melike Sen, I trained Newcomers in the club for six weeks and taught them how to become both a delegate and an admin; we then selected and assisted the admin staff for TIMUN after an examination process. After TIMUN, we ensured that Newcomers became successful delegates in the club and in other conferences.

I feel like my positions as the PGA and the SHA are quite parallel. Your work is with people: with Student Officers as the PGA, and Newcomers/Admins as the SHA. I think that working with people, realizing they can make mistakes, and ensuring strong communication within the group you assisted last year was really helpful for me as the PGA.

: I was the FAT Controller (Finance Accommodation Transportation). So, I basically managed all three divisions that I just mentioned. My assistant, who was Yasemin Yüksel, helped me in doing that. We tracked payments, arranged transportation, checked with hotels, and arranged certain TIMUN discounts at hotels. I focused on the organizational aspect of the conference.

Since I have focused on these three divisions, I have a broad perspective on the organization and what it does. That definitely prepared me, because I have a much wider view of what everyone does in this organization. It prepared me to become a Secretary-General.

This year was a challenge. Everything we knew about previous TIMUNs suddenly became irrelevant: we had to change everything. The conference became online; we had to write a new procedure: new tasks, new roles... As a FAT Controller, I worked and communicated with a lot of people and focused on a lot of crises. That definitely helped me manage this huge crisis.

What have you learned from the previous SGs and PGAs?

CD: I learned that there is a lot of professionalism and thinking that major decisions require that often goes unrecognized. In my head, I used to question whenever the previous Secretariats made decisions that I perceived as “unanticipated.” But now, I know that they thoroughly thought through all different scenarios and made the most optimal decision, like we do with Kamil.

: Leadership. Crisis management, definitely. As I said, how to create the distinction between friendship and work. Also, time management. If you look at the list of the former SGs and PGAs, they are all individuals that people admired; they are very interesting individuals.

What was the best advice you received from the previous Executive team members?

CD: That your decisions will never please everybody at the same time. Based on the advice I received from previous Executive members, I realized that I should consider a major decision as successful when it works, not when it pleases everybody.

: To transform the organization. The MUN community is becoming more and more fake in terms of the fact that during the discussions we have in MUN, the issues are becoming more and more standard. There are more crucial issues that need to be discussed that we need to bring awareness to. The previous Executive Team members said that we should direct TIMUN in that direction. I took their advice to heart, and that is what we tried to do this year. I hope that the next year’s Executive Team will continue to build upon what we did.

What advice would you give to the future SGs and PGAs of TIMUN?

Ceren: When you feel overwhelmed, remember why you joined the executive team in the first place. You are people that the younger MUN generations are looking up to, so always set a good example by honoring your duties, and build strong relationships within the MUN community.

: However bad it gets, though I doubt that it will get worse than this, never lose hope. Your work ethic, your perseverance, and the passion you have been culminating in your years in MUN have prepared you for anything that you may encounter.

As you announced, this year’s keynote speaker is a UAA alumnus who graduated from here 20 years ago. Do you see yourself coming to this conference in 2041 as the keynote speaker of the 47th TIMUN conference?

CD: Yes, and no. Yes, because I would love to revisit the mesmerizing TIMUN atmosphere, and it would be an honor to address the wonderful people within TIMUN. No, because I don’t think my future career goals would be very relevant to TIMUN unless the theme is about medicinal chemistry and pharmaceuticals.

: Yes! It would be a very strange feeling to actually come back to the conference that you were PGA at twenty years ago. I would like to experience that as well. I do not know if I will be as successful as Doctor Akkoyunlu, but I aspire to be.

I think every SG, every Secretariat member wants to come back to this organization that they left decades ago.

What are some benefits of holding the conference online, and what were the biggest disadvantages?

CD: Last year, according to the pedometer on my phone, I walked 36 thousand steps on the first day of the conference. I guess a benefit is that I won’t have to run around in heels across the campus. Disadvantages… where do I even start from? Just kidding. I guess everything was unpredictable, so we had to prepare for multiple scenarios and it took us longer than it normally would have. Additionally, the social aspect of it is obviously not as fun as before.

: We did not have to hang the flags in the auditorium. That’s what everyone says. Because normally you had to iron every flag, hang them, prepare the auditorium and the committees. We do not have to do that this year.

There are definitely disadvantages to holding the conference online. You do not have the fun experience that you normally get. But, it is much more effective. The logistics part of the conference is much easier this year.

What are your hopes and expectations for this year’s conference?

CD: I hope that despite all the dreadful things that are happening around the world, TIMUN can continue inspiring people like it always does. I know everyone is attending the conference from their homes, looking at their screens for hours and not experiencing the UAA atmosphere, but TIMUN never fails to make one feel inspired.

: My hope was that this conference actually happened. The fact that it is happening really makes me happy. Normally, this year’s aim was to solve TIMUN’s organizational issues. Since this COVID crisis came everything turned upside down. So, our main hope was to make this year’s conference happen. I hope we have a smooth conference and hand the conference down to the new team.

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