UIMF Becomes an Ally to Rural Utah

Since beginning my involvement in Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University,   I have wanted to host event relevant to one of my passions; advocating for rural communities. Finally, through collaboration within the coalition within the club and in rural communities, I was able to host an event to educate students and urban community members about the complexities facing rural Utah. I am grateful to my many peers at UIMF who helped to create the event, which through student engaged learning model.  Members of the coalition were able to gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of mountain communities as a group with faculty member Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev serving them as a mentor. According to the engaged learning model, my student colleagues divided responsibilities through a task list depending on their interest. They dealt with protocol, logistics, helping to me to handle agenda, among many other tasks. For example, Joel Frost, President of Foreign Affairs Club was assigned to help me with moderating the panel, Hailee Hodgson, UIMF member, was able to cover photography and multimedia for the event.

Students in attendance at ‘Sustainable Development in Rural Utah: Roundtable” on April 19th, 2019

             The event, Sustainable Development in Rural Utah: Roundtable, took place on April 19, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the campus of Utah Valley University in the Fulton Library. Attendees including students, faculty, and community members. Event speakers included; Ms. Geri Gamber, Executive Director of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments/ Southeastern Utah Economic Development District (SEUALG/SUEDD); The Honorable Mrs. Christine Watkins, Utah Representative of District 69; Ms. Nicholina Womack, CEO of FutureINDesign; Mr. Tony Martines, Carbon County Commissioner; and The Honorable Michael Kourianos. Speakers primarily came from Carbon and Emery counties in Utah, both fully rural counties in the state.

My intended focus for this event was to bring the issues facing rural communities directly to the urban population. I have found through my personal, academic, and professional ventures that many in urban Utah are unaware of the complexities facing those in rural Utah, and also the importance of those whom reside there. Coming from a rural part of Utah I can affirmatively declare the important of rural communities, but many do not share such a background or appreciation for rural areas.

The Honorable Representative Christine Watkins speaking at the event.

             Each of the speakers took it upon themselves to address a specific, yet important area of development in rural Utah. Ms. Geri Gamber spoke to rural Utah as a whole and the many facets of daily life for government agencies, elected officials, and citizens of the area. Representative Watkins spoke to the difficulties and benefits of passing legislation concerning rural Utah. Ms. Womack addressed bringing business and education to rural Utah. Commissioner Martines educated on the current state of development in Carbon County. Mayor Kourianos discussed what it takes to “sell” a rural county, and obtaining funding to reach desired goals and outcomes.

Speakers were able to captivate the attention of the primarily urban audience by effectively bringing rural Utah to them via presentations, meaningful stories, and statistics. Even having lived in rural Utah and working for government officials who represented rural parts of the state I was able to learn and be moved by each of the speakers. I was reinvigorated with a sense of purpose to help those in rural communities – but never to feel like they needed saving, rural people are strong and proud, they just only need to be heard and given more opportunity to succeed.

Many students in the audience such as MIchael Hinatsu, Nathan Wagstaff,   Brandon Pedler,  Vanessa McCann and Parker Dolton were able to reflect on their thoughts as they pertained to the content of the event.

Speakers (from left to right) Mrs. Geri Gamber, the Honorable Representative Christine Watkins, and the Honorable Mayor Michael Kourianos receiving gifts from Vice President Lacee Meyer.

            ‘Saving’ rural areas was a topic brought up specifically by Ms. Womack, but addressed by all of the speakers. Being from a rural area, I myself even fall into the ideological trap of being a ‘savior’ to those in rural areas. Rural people are not uneducated, or lacking the will or drive to succeed and sustain their communities – rather they are stifled by other interests. I have realized from this event it is not my job to be a savior, rather to be an ally, and listen rather preach to my friends that still reside within rural parts of the state. I think this is an important lesson many can implement not only when referring to rural areas and populations, but to marginalized peoples in general.

(From left to right) President of the Foreign Affairs Club Joel Frost, Mrs. Geri Gamber, the Honorable Representative Christine Watkins, Vice President of UIMF Lacee Meyer, the Honorable Mayor Michael Kourianos, Ms. Nicholina Womack, and the Honorable Commissioner Tony Martines posing together with gifts.

            As the Vice President of UIMF, it is my hope that in the coming year I will be able to continue to advocate for rural Utah and other rural part of the United States. I know many within the infrastructure of UIMF feel the same way. I am excited about the pathways that this first event has opened up and I am beyond honored to have played a part in its creation. Furthermore, I am proud to be a student of Utah Valley University (UVU), and institution that values student engagement and empowers students like myself to pursue their academic and professional goals – without the support of faculty at UVU this event would not have been possible. Like UVU, UIMF is excited to engage, empower, and include rural Utah in upcoming events and discussions as it pertains to sustainable development in mountainous regions.

Lacee Meyer, Vice President, UIMF

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VIDEO OF THE ROUND TABLE

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POWER POINTS

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Ms. Geri Gamber             Ms. Nicholina Womack

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TASK LIST

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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MIchael Hinatsu-Reflections on UIMF’s Panel Discussion on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Nathan Wagstaff – Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Brandon Pedler-Learning about sustainable development issues in rural Utah

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Vanessa McCann-Economic Development in Utah 

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Mariah Todd-Helping with the Sustainable Development in Utah Roundtable

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Parker Dolton-Taking part at the roundtable Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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MacKenzie Williams-Sustainable Development in Rural Utah Roundtable

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Shea Sawyer -Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Miles Gevas-UVU Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Brianna John-Round table on economic development in rural areas in Utah_