Photo of Siddharth Hariharan

5 questions with… Model UN Secretary-General Siddharth Hariharan

Preparing to participate in a single Model United Nations competition can take upward of 40 hours of work. But planning a conference—in addition to being a full-time student (and a double major, no less)? That takes months.

Siddharth Hariharan, a sophomore majoring in political science and biochemistry and CWRU Model UN secretary-general, is finding out just how much effort it takes, as he’s leading the team in hosting a conference for local high schoolers next week.

Model UN gives students the chance to represent nations and high-level cabinet members in coming up with solutions to historical or current issues affecting the world, from Apartheid in South Africa to nuclear energy.

Hariharan became involved with the organization as a student at John P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey, joining at the encouragement of friends who knew he liked to talk—and tackle important issues.

“I enjoy coming up with creative solutions to the problems the most. Everyone can come up with a standard solution to a problem, but it’s the creative solutions that are not only innovative but also contested,” he said. “You have to debate them a little more, but that debate ultimately makes a solution stronger at the end of it.”

Hariharan has put countless hours into preparing for and participating in conferences to come up with such resolutions—and has numerous accolades to show for it, including honorable mention recognition at the Harvard National Model United Nations Conference in 2016 and at the National Collegiate Security Conference in 2015. In high school, he earned outstanding delegate recognition at the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference in 2014.

But at the last conference the Model UN team attended, he got a lesson in perseverance.

After the first day of Georgetown University’s 44th annual National Collegiate Security Conference, Hariharan decided to call it an early night and skip out on the extra hours of preparation he knew he needed if he wanted to compete.

But after just 30 minutes of rest, he woke up thinking: “You’re not a quitter. You don’t do that.”

He got right back to work—and went on to take home the Best Delegate Award at the end of the conference.

Years of involvement in Model UN have shaped Hariharan’s interests—and who he is as a person.

He had long planned to pursue a career in the medical field, but after being exposed to politics and public affairs, he knew understanding how policy issues affect health care could make him a better doctor.

Specifically, his research for Model UN spurred a passion for health policy issues in South Africa—a subject he hopes to study for a couple of years between college and medical school

“Now I’m hopefully going to have the ability to translate that knowledge and experience into real beneficial work,” Hariharan said.

By leading the effort to host the conference at CWRU, Hariharan has gained even more leadership experience to prepare him for the future.

Stop by the Tinkham Veale University Center March 7–8 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to get a glimpse of the debates. But before you do, get to know Hariharan better with this week’s five questions.

1. What do you like most about Cleveland?

It would have to be the food. That’s a pretty basic answer, but as much as I try to eat healthy, there are just so many great options. Euro Wafel Bar just came back and I love waffles. Barrio’s great. Luna’s one of my favorites—it’s a great place to grab brunch or just chat with somebody. You can’t go wrong with the food. And I still have to explore more further downtown and Ohio City.

2. What’s your favorite social media platform?

I’m guilty of loving Snapchat. It’s just so entertaining. Sometimes it’s easier than texting.

3. What was the most influential class you’ve ever taken?

My fifth-grade teacher was really sarcastic, and that rubbed off on me a lot. That’s a vital part of who I am today.

4. If you could meet any historical figure, who would you pick, and why?

Definitely Nelson Mandela. I’ve just been passionate about South Africa and the issues they have there for a really long time. His story is really interesting because he spent time in prison and he came out motivated for social change. I’d be really interested to ask him: “How did you come out of prison so motivated to help your country that put you in jail?”

Looking back on the struggles that happened in South Africa and with Apartheid, it was such a big mountain to climb, and he almost single-handedly led that movement with the way he carried himself and the way he talked about what he stood for.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The people. I came to school and I didn’t know what to expect, and the first thing I loved about it was the people. Every morning, I wake up and I’m happy about the people I’ve met here.

It’s a great school, and everything I’m involved in here is helping me become a better person. But it’s the people I surround myself with who are challenging me and helping me help others, proving there are true, lasting friendships that come out of college.

The Cleveland Spring 2017 Model UN Conference at Case Western Reserve University, hosted by the CWRU Model United Nations and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, will be held March 7–8 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day in Tinkham Veale University Center.