A UVU STUDENT’S APPRECIATION FOR DR. RUSTY BUTLER

As a senior in the World Politics program at Utah Valley University (UVU), I have often reflected back on those who have had a significant impact on me as a person and on my education. While many other faculty and staff at UVU deserve recognition and praise, one man in particular comes to my mind: Dr. Ross “Rusty” Butler, Associate Vice President for the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy and the Honorary Consul General of the Russian Federation to the State of Utah.

When the news of Dr. Butler’s retirement reached me, I was struck by a series of bittersweet feelings. On one hand, I felt very happy for Dr. Butler and saw his retirement as a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary career of a wonderful person. Yet, on the other hand, I was overcome with a deep sense of whether the university would be able to replace him, and that Dr. Butler’s leadership and contributions to the expansion of student’s engagement of the world as a whole will be deeply missed.

I first met Dr. Butler in the January of 2014 when he arranged the visit of the Czech Republic’s Consul General, Michal Sedlacek, to UVU to discuss the current progress in the Czech Republic, and Czech relationships with other countries. I was in charge of filming the presentation for the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. After filming, I was introduced to Dr. Butler’s very high standard of excellence as I didn’t quite reach his expectations. I was determined to improve, as I realized that to be a viable professional in the world of international diplomacy, Dr. Butler was a great person to measure myself against and emulate in the professional world.

When the news of Dr. Butler’s retirement reached me, I was struck by a series of bittersweet feelings. On one hand, I felt very happy for Dr. Butler and saw his retirement as a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary career of a wonderful person. Yet, on the other hand, I was overcome with a deep sense of whether the university would be able to replace him, and that Dr. Butler’s leadership and contributions to the expansion of student’s engagement of the world as a whole will be deeply missed.

I first met Dr. Butler in the January of 2014 when he arranged the visit of the Czech Republic’s Consul General, Michal Sedlacek, to UVU to discuss the current progress in the Czech Republic, and Czech relationships with other countries. I was in charge of filming the presentation for the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. After filming, I was introduced to Dr. Butler’s very high standard of excellence as I didn’t quite reach his expectations. I was determined to improve, as I realized that to be a viable professional in the world of international diplomacy, Dr. Butler was a great person to measure myself against and emulate in the professional world.

Dr. Butler’s style of student engagement did not stop at classroom lectures, however. In February 2015, Dr. Butler hosted His Excellency Martin Sajdik, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Austria to the United Nations and President of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). It was amazing that Dr. Butler was able to convince such a very high-level VIP guest to come to speak before the UVU students and faculty on the post-2015 development agenda of the United Nations. As the then-Vice President of the UIMF, I was invited to a private luncheon with H.E. Sajdik, and during a special meeting with VIP guest, arranged by Dr. Butler, I was able to share with him my personal experiences both as a combat veteran of the US Army and as a leader of students group which promotes sustainability issues for the mountain communities in Utah and beyond its borders. The President of ECOSOC was very impressed with what we, the UVU students, do here in order to support the new agenda of the United Nations on their sustainable development goals (SDGs).

But, it did not stop there. I soon found myself invited by the office of Dr. Butler to represent the UVU student body at luncheons and gatherings held in the honor of: His Excellency Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations; His Excellency Kaha Imnadze, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Georgia to the United Nations; Francisco Javier Vallaure de Acha, Spanish Consul General to Los Angeles, California; His Excellency Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Fiji to the United Nations, and Musa Francis Ecweru, Uganda state minister for relief, disaster preparedness, and refugees, among many others. Several years ago, it was unimaginable to see any UVU student’s presence among such high-level foreign dignitaries during lunches and specially arranged meetings.

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Ambassador of Austria to the UN and President of the ECOSOC, H.E. Martin Sajdik (with yellow tie) with UVU faculty and students 

Sign under the photo: “My best wishes to the Utah International Mountain Forum in – so ably – promoting the SDGs, and the post-2015 Development Agenda. With my fondest memories, Martin Sajdik.”

Incredibly, Dr. Butler’s mission to support and educate the students of UVU does not end with luncheons and one-on-one interactions with dignitaries. On October 7-9, 2015, the UVU students, and UIMF in particular, hosted and organized for the first time solely through our own efforts, the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference under the umbrella of the Mountain Partnership-affiliated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Yet, Dr. Butler as before, was continually offering his advice and support from his office to the students on how to approach high-level international dignitaries to be invited to the conference, and funded the travel and lodging of a number of them as well. The professional skills, personal connections, and experiences gained through this conference would not have been possible without Dr. Butler’s mentorship, guidance, and support of the students’ goals and aspirations to succeed.

Finally, I am honored to represent the UVU student body, UVU Women’s Success Center, and the UIMF for the first time at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters. Dr. Butler’s office has kindly agreed to cover my travel expenses and lodging, and even though he could not attend himself (because of his retirement reception scheduled at UVU), he asked me to both to attend the meetings and to deliver statements on his behalf when necessary. This is only the latest in many examples of the trust and faith he has in the students of UVU, and it represents the pinnacle of Dr. Butler’s vision and dedication to the success of the students through engaged learning on the local, regional, and global levels.

These are only examples of how Dr. Butler has impacted my experiences as an undergraduate student at UVU, and I am confident that there are many other students who can share countless more. Although his retirement is a well-deserved rest from his tireless efforts to expand the world of UVU’s students, I sincerely hope Dr. Butler continues to lend his expertise and experiences to the next generation of UVU’s student body. While I can’t express in words the sincere appreciation I have for you Dr. Butler, please accept my sincerest thanks for your guidance and faith in me these past years. I hope one day to pay it forward in honor of you and your dedication to the incredible institution that is Utah Valley University. Thank you, Dr. Butler! You will be missed.

Tony Medina, President, Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University