Emma Houston ’19 leads winning Model UN team

The secret to winning a Model United Nations competition “is knowing how to command a room,” said Emma Houston ’19. “You have to persuade other people. It means becoming a presence and knowing how to make people trust you.”

Houston credits her power of persuasion to the trust and camaraderie she shared during four years on CMC’s Model UN team. While racking up victories against other colleges and universities, as well as against international teams, CMC MUNers constantly channeled their individual strengths to elevate each other, Houston said.

Academic exploration

Houston, who is this year’s MUN president, will graduate in May with a dual major in Philosophy and Economics. She has a keen interest in finance, and thanks to another of her collegiate passions, a collection of bowls, vases, and sculptures she has spun at the potter’s wheel.

Her next stop: New York, where she’s accepted a job in structured finance in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs. Houston was one of four CMC students who interned at the investment bank last summer.

A native of Lexington, Mass., Houston’s journey to CMC began when she was a child. Her grandfather lives in Southern California and she loved the area when she visited him. When it came time to apply to college, CMC checked all the right boxes: academic excellence, a tight-knit community, and an opportunity to work closely with professors.

“If there is one thing that has meant the most to me at CMC, it is the relationships I’ve had with my professors,” Houston said. “Once I was five minutes late to a class that I never missed and the professor texted to ask if I was okay. It is such a small community that professors get to know students well, and they really care.”

Initially interested in math and science, she began coursework as a pre-med—her mother is a doctor—but instead fell for philosophy. Houston added economics into the mix, and, fluent in Spanish, has developed a particular interest in South American economies. “In a lot of ways, philosophy isn’t that different from math,” she said. “Both rely on logic and you have to walk through a lot of proofs.”

To balance her intellectual pursuits, Houston has been taking pottery classes at Scripps since her first year in Claremont. “It is so rewarding to do something physical and also to have something tangible come out of it,” she said.  “And I have plenty of gifts for everyone, though after about the 10th bowl people start wishing I’d just go to the store.”

Lasting influence

For all she’s explored at CMC, Model UN remains the most influential part of her college career. Houston is especially appreciative of how it benefits all majors and interests. The organization has also prepared her for post-college life, including her upcoming work at Goldman.

“It has really honed my interpersonal skills. I wouldn’t be as confident or as good in interviews without it,” she said. “And I’ve been on a lot of committees discussing history and current issues, and that knowledge has helped me understand our economy and what influences business decisions.”

CMC MUN also emphasizes collaboration. Most teams CMC faces are larger, and members compete among themselves as well as with other schools.

“Our strategy is putting the team first, always,” Houston said. “We go into every competition with the mindset of promoting the team and everyone on it as one. It can be hard to uphold at times because as individuals we also want to win, but we stick to it.” The team-first approach ultimately helps students perform better. “It takes some of the pressure off,” she said.

Houston calls the team her “second family.” “They really are my best friends,” she said. “It is not easy being in a room all day, sometimes 12 hours a day when you are competing. It can be stressful and you become really close to the people going through it with you.”

Before she leaves CMC, Houston intends to do her part to continue strengthening the team she loves, including making a video to help recruit more students and helping plan the conference CMC hosts for high school Model UN teams in April.

“CMC has done so much for me, I want to give back any way I can,” she said.

—Susan Price