UIMF Members at the National Prayer Breakfast and Advocating for the Gender Agenda in Washington, D.C.

UVU Delegation Attends National Prayer Breakfast and Promotes Women of the Mountain Conference

Utah Valley University delegation attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., February 3-5, 2015 under the invitation of the United States Congress. It included Jesler Molina, Andrew Allen, and Jared Reni, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF)–a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU); Dr. David Connelly, Chair, History and Political Science Department at UVU, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department at UVU.

Taking the opportunity of the visit to the capital of the United States, UVU students and faculty met with various NGO’s and governmental officials to discuss, and gain from them, support of the upcoming Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOM), which will be held at UVU in Orem in October 7-9, 2015. It was one more effort from UVU to maintain high level of commitment to the promotion of the sustainable mountain development agenda of the United Nations.


UVU Delegation Meeting at the American Councils for International Education

On Monday, February 2nd, 2015 the delegation started official program from the meeting at the American Councils for International Education’s (ACCELS), NGO which facilitates programs of language training and educational exchanges globally. ACCELS has contributed to the WOM conferences since 2007 by regularly sending scholars from mountain nations of Eurasia to make presentations on different aspects of the gender agenda in their respective countries. ACCELS joined the Mountain Partnership in 2010. Representatives of ACCELS expressed their interest to do so again this year with the possibility oftheir program in Kosovo.


UVU Delegates at the National Endowment for Democracy

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was the next institution for UVU to have a discussion about possible partnership under the umbrella of the WOM. NED was created in 1982 under President Reagan’s initiative to promote democracy around the world. The goal of the meeting for UVU was to spread the word through the network of NED partners about the WOM conference, and invite all interested institutions and individuals to submit their papers. NED representatives were impressed by the efforts of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU to involve high schools students into the WOM activities. They also recognized the annual Utah high school essay contests as a very impressive program of engagement by UVU students to the global activities, and the United Nations initiatives. NED spread the word about WOM through their network, and also arranged an additional meeting for the UVU delegation with their partner – Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). UIMF members learned great lessons about how the system of promoting democracy overseas works in a practical way.


Warm reception for the UVU delegation at UNA-USA-Headquarters

During the meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), the hosts shared main programs and initiatives with focus on promotion of the United Nations agenda in the United States. The UVU delegation expressed appreciation for being involved with the program of the Model U.N., which is promoted and sponsored by UNA-USA. The UVU delegation also shared experiences about promotion of the United Nations’ sustainable mountain development agenda in the western part of the United States, and their hosts in Washington, D.C. were very impressed by the achievements of UVU in that area. Both sides were then able to discuss a possibility of creating a chapter of UNA-USA at UVU’s campus due to the fact of a limited presence of UNA-USA in the rural areas of the United States, and in Utah in particular.

npb4 Meeting with a team from IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network

The final meeting on Monday took place with the International Republican Institute, who’s stated mission is to, “support the growth of political and economic freedom, good governance and human rights around the world by educating people, parties and governments on the values and practices of democracy.” Erika Veberyte, Director, Women’s Democracy Network at IRI hosted the meeting with the UVU delegation. It became immediately clear during the joint conversation that WDN’s goals coincide with the main priorities of the WOM Conference. The primary goal of the Women’s Democracy Network is to prepare women around the globe for leadership positions in politics and business. Both sides agreed to keep each other informed about progress in their efforts to promote gender agendas and activities.


On Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 the UVU delegation met with Dr. Andrew Taber, executive director of the Mountain Institute, William W. Beddow, Trustee, the Mountain Institute, and Dr. Jed Shilling, Trustee, the Millennium Institute, long time partners of UVU in their efforts to promote the sustainable mountain agenda throughout the world. The discussion was centered on future joint efforts from three institutions to promote mountain indicators among the SDGs, and post-2015 agenda of the United Nations. An important part of the discussion was focused on joint initiatives of the Mountain Institute and UVU in Central Asia, and how to find a proper approach in working with the State Department and U.S.A.I.D. on that matter.


After the Meeting at the State Department

The team from the Mountain Institute joined the UVU delegation during the next meeting at the State Department in addition to Alexey Semyonov, President of Andrei Sakharov Foundation. The State Department Bureau on South and Central Asian Affairs hosted a meeting and invited representatives from the Office of the Coordinator of Assistance to NIS, Bureau of Global Women’s Issues and Bureau of Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. During the meeting, the main request was made for them to use their huge international network to contact interested partners on the issues that will be discussed at the WOM conference. The UVU delegation also invited representative of the Bureau of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department to take part in the WOM conference.

The meeting with Ambassador John O’Keefe, executive director of the Open World Leadership Center, U.S. Library of Congress focused on the continuity and sustainability of the partnership between UVU and famous institutions in the nation’s capital established since 2007. The Open World program facilitates exchanges between countries of Eurasia and the United States by bringing to the USA judges, legislators, and educators among others. The UVU delegation explored chances of having a group of women from Eurasian nations during the WOM conference. However, response from Ambassador O’Keefe was diplomatic, and he explained that many things here will depend on the situation with the budget for this organization.

The final meeting on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 took place at the National Democratic Institute, which also promotes democracy and reforms around the world. The hosts highlighted several projects of NDI in Kyrgyzstan to train and motivate women to serve in government. NDI expressed an interest to contribute to the conference’s activities. It also proposed the idea of adding a mechanism, like Skype, for people to participate while they cannot be in Utah physically.


President Obama During The National Prayer Breakfast

On Wednesday and Thursday, UVU’s delegation attended the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB). This unique event is held every year on the first Thursday of February, in Washington D.C. since 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower was the first President of the United States to attend the NPB. Since that time, all U.S. Presidents attend the NPB and make a statement. The NPB, since the 1980’s, has been hosted at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue, NW. The event is comprised of a series of meetings during breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners which highlight the importance of building understanding and tolerance through religious dialogue. The event congregates leaders and members of various religious groups and affiliations as well as members of the U.S. Congress, the President of the United States in addition to guests from all around the world. This year the NPB was highlighted by the participation of the Dalai Lama, and the King of Jordan, who had to leave the event earlier due to the crisis with ISIS, in addition to many dignitaries from around the world.

npb8 The UVU Delegation during NPB

It was a great opportunity for the UVU delegates to not only to learn about the meaning of prayer, but also to get connected with many distinguished people.

During the the NPB, the UVU delegation had the opportunity to spend time with a delegation from Kyrgyzstan, represented by Mr. Emil Ajibekov, Commercial Director AYU Group, his wife Gulshan Tynystanova, Dr. Pierre Padiukov and his wife Olga Padiukov. The UVU delegation also met with US Ambassador Tony P. Hall, the Ambassador of Tajikistan to the United States, His Excellency Farhod Salim, and the Minister of Defense for the Republic of Macedonia Dr. Zoran Jolevski, among many others. All of them are good friends of UVU of many years, and to whom the UVU delegation extended invitations to participate at the WOM conference.

npb9Ambassador of Jordan Dr. Alia Hatoug Bouran and Jesler Molina

I also had the opportunity to personally approach the Ambassador of Jordan to the U.S., Her Excellency Dr. Alia Hatoug Bouran, first women ever to be part of the diplomatic body of Jordan, and invited her to visit Utah and make a presentation during the WOM conference at UVU.


UVU Delegates during the Meeting with Judge Thomas B. Griffith

On Thursday afternoon, February 5, 2015, the UVU delegation had the unique opportunity to meet with United States Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith. During the discussion, Judge Griffith asked what the UVU group was doing in Washington, D.C. He was also informed about the WOM conference, and both Jesler Molina and Andrew Allen extended an invitation to Judge Griffith’s wife, Susan Ann Stell Griffith to be a part of the organizing committee. The UVU delegates asked questions to the Judge about what in particular his role as the Judge of the Circuit District plays. The judge was very kind to patiently explain how he is mostly dealing with appeal cases against federal agencies. Judge Griffith was very helpful and willing to answer all the questions our students had.

On Friday morning, February 6, 2015, the UVU delegates had their last official meeting with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). This last meeting happened thanks to efforts of Miriam Lanskoy, Director of Programs for Eurasia for the National Democratic Endowment who was very kind to introduce UVU’s delegation to CIPE. CIPE officials made several suggestions and recommendations, and expressed interest to continue to work together in the future.

During these meetings, Jesler Molina was in charge of presenting the WOM Conference, while Andre Allen provided support answering concerns arose by the institution, and Jared Reni focused on asking about internship opportunities for UVU students. Dr. Connelly and Ambassador Abdrisaev provided support to the students through their advice, and highlighting UVU’s mission and role as an engaged learning institution.

The trip was very successful, both for the experiences gained by UVU students from interactions with many important people during the trip, and from its outcomes for the future contribution to the WOM conference. Now, UIMF will focus on following up on major agreements and commitments achieved during the meetings in order to successfully host the WOM conference on October 7-9, 2015.

Jesler Molina, President of UIMF


Receiving the Utah Valley University (UVU) delegation in Washington D.C. this February was truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The representatives were invited to participate at the National Prayer Breakfast, which was hosted by the members of the United States Congress on February 5, 2015. The delegation, led by Jesler Molina, President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, was composed of UIMF Editor Andrew Allen, as well as Dr. David Connelly, Chair, History and Political Science Department at UVU, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department at UVU. The delegation also included me, a graduating senior at Utah Valley University and Outreach Coordinator for the UIMF, tasked with the responsibility to both to help arrange meetings and follow up on our interactions with several entities in Washington, D.C.

Since moving here in August of 2014 to spend the final year of my undergrad in an engaged learning environment, I was able to intern in a number of NGO and government institutions in the nation’s capital. As a result, I have been fortunate to also take part in advancing UIMF relationships and advocating for the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference, to be hosted by UVU students on October 7-9, 2015 in Orem, Utah. Other undergrad programs around the country would surely have delegated this kind of responsibility to university faculty and staff. But at Utah Valley University, this has not been the case. Our faculty advisors, together with the Department of Political Science, have empowered us, the students, to take a leading role in every aspect of the organization, including both the conceptualization and execution of all initiatives. I have been a large beneficiary of this approach, as I have had the opportunity to participate in important meetings by building and maintaining relationships with our allies in Washington, D.C. in order to foster opportunities for future students. Not only do I see this as invaluable personal experience, but also as a way to give back to my fellow emerging UIMF students.


UVU Delegation during the Tour at the U.S. Capitol (L to R):Jared Reni, Dr. David Connelly and Jesler Molina

While the delegation was here in D.C., I was afforded the opportunity to meet with officials from a number of important non-profit and government organizations, including The National Endowment for Democracy, The United Nations Association of the United States of America, The Mountain Institute, The Library of Congress, and the State Department. Each one of these organizations were surprised to find that the students were taking a leading role in the conversation, and I believe that they were very impressed. Even though the focus of the meetings was to promote the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference, each one of the above mentioned organizations showed interest in receiving applications from our top UIMF students for internships. It is evident that the experiences that UIMF students are taking part in are catching the eyes of top employers in the non-profit and government sector in our nation’s Capital.

npb2Jared Reni (Third from the Right) after the meeting at United Nations Association of the United States in Washington, D.C.

I would like to say thank you to Utah Valley University for creating an environment for us to succeed, and to UIMF for being a true laboratory for UVU students to work on their professional skills and to gain truly unique experiences, creating networking opportunities and recognition on national and international levels. Looking forward, I will continue to do my best to stay engaged with our many partners in Washington, D.C. to do my part in making certain that Women of the Mountains will be a success. This will be the first time that the conference will be hosted by students, including UVU and other universities from the state and the rest of the Rocky Mountain region. Topics addressed will include Transmitting Family Values, Heritage & Culture; Education of Women & Children; Human Trafficking and Exploitation; Leadership for Women; and more. For more information on the conference, visit



Jared Reni, UIMF Outreach Coordinator

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