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Rotaract and UIMF at Utah Valley University Club-Rush 2020

On January 14-15, 2020, Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract participated in UVU’s semiannual Club-Rush. In attendance with over 50 clubs, members of UVU Rotaract sought to raise funds, recruit new members for its activities, and to promote seventeen of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Rotaract student members also spoke to UVU students to educate both about Rotary International (RI) and Rotaract’s role as a student club to contribute to the implementation in the state of Utah for the six areas of RI’s focus: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies. 

In addition to myself, Rotaratct members such as Albany Singh, Yana Andersen, and Jose Coreas were able to aid in our efforts at Club-Rush. All our members discussed their excitement about the opportunities, which our organization provides for professional growth and networking on a global scale,  with other UVU students attending Club-Rush during the two-day event.

Left: Kyle Warren (UVU Rotaract President), Albeny Singh (UVU Rotaract Secretary)

Using the student engaged learning  model (SEL), we worked jointly with our partner clubs, Foreign Affairs and Sustainable Mountain Development, which are united under the umbrella of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU.  SEL model encourages students to work on practical tasks as a group with faculty mentoring them throughout the process. As a result, over twelve students were present at our table. Each of them were happy to discuss our club’s implementation in a variety of UN-sponsored SDGs that Rotaract had been assisting, and would continue to assist in. We shared with UVU students how Rotaract members and UIMF successfully contributed to the 68th UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City during August 2019 and commemorated the World Polio Day at UVU on October 23, 2019. UVU Rotaract currently is preparing to participate and contribute to the agenda of the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which will be hosted by the UNWomen in March of 2020.  We were excited to discuss with UVU students our involvement and the efforts of our coalition to contribute to the implementation of the SDG #5 on gender equality with focus in particular on mountain communities and families during the CSW64 in the UN headquarters. 

Rotaract members were also excited to discuss the upcoming Pan-American Conference being hosted by District Rotary in April of this year in Mexico. With Rotaractors gathering from around the world, UVU students were interested in hearing about options to get involved in such a historic event. UVU Rotaract is planning on having a few of its club members travel to Puerto Penasco for this Pan-American Conference, and contribute to the many amazing events that will be taking place under the umbrella of the District Rotary.

Overall, Club Rush was  successful in achieving both goals to raise funds and gain new student members. With a large number of individuals signing up to join the team, we now look at our upcoming opportunities with excitement and anticipation. With all the good that needs to be done in the world, UVU Rotaract is excited to be the ones who are out there doing it.

Kyle Warren, President, UVU Rotaract



20-01-14-Megan-Davis-Promoting the UIMF Agenda During the 2020 Spring Semester Club Rush


20-01-24-Yana Andersen-Rotaract at Club-Rush


20-01-25-Samuel Elzinga-Utah International Mountain Forum Clubs Participate in UVU Club Rush


20-01-24-Jose Coreas-Rotaractors contributed to UVU Club Rush


My Summer Internship in Washington D.C. and its Valuable Lessons

Samuel Elzinga on the Dome of the Capitol

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to intern for Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08). Interning with her was a fabulous experience, and my time out in Washington, D.C. taught me not only how congressional offices functioned in our nation’s capital, but how to remain resilient in times of uncertainty and challenges. I initially left for Washington D.C. in the beginning of June with the anticipation of interning with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. Due to my activities at the United Nations with focus on sustainable mountain development and especially in mountain countries of Central Asia, I was extended a conditional offer to intern with them back in December of 2018, and immediately accepted. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside my control, I arrived in Washington D.C. without my security clearance fully processed, and because of the opaque and slow-moving bureaucracy of the U.S. State Department’s clearance process, I did not know if I would get my clearance in time to intern.

(L) Samuel in the Library of Congress, (R) Samuel below the Apotheosis of George Washington in the Capitol

I would never receive word on my security clearance. Many factors go into giving someone a security clearance, and internships have a very short window to process them in time. This was, of course, a huge blow to my summer plans, as I had turned down opportunities at Cambridge University and other think tanks this summer and instead moved to Washington, D.C. However, after waiting until June 20th, 2019, with the guidance of Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, my mentor and a faculty at Utah Valley University, I reached out to some professional contacts, I had in the office of U.S. House Representative John Curtis (UT-03) to see if they could help with the clearance. Initially, they advocated on my behalf to the U.S. Department of State to see if that could expedite the process. When that did not work, Congressman Curtis sought to help me find a different internship in D.C. His staff sent urgent messages to offices of other members of the U.S. House of Representatives and several of them immediately positively responded without asking any security clearances.  I was able then to check first which members had any connections to Central Asian countries through their committee responsibilities: It allowed me to land an internship with Congresswoman Lesko of Arizona, who oversees the partnership of the Arizona National Guard with the military of Kazakhstan, and this twist of fate was one of the biggest blessings I had in my academic career.

It just so happened at the time I began with Congresswoman Lesko, that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Having interned with Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02) before and specializing in national security and defense policy, I was familiar with the process of getting the NDAA passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The NDAA was one of the largest bills passed that summer, and one of the most controversial as well. Because of this, a lot of attention was given to ensuring Congresswoman Lesko knew the ins and outs of the bill. For this, I worked very closely with the legislative staff to catalogue each amendment and made sure stakeholders’ interests were documented.

Samuel Elzinga (L) with Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R) at an intern appreciation event

Congresswoman Lesko’s districts hosts a very large population of ethnic Armenians, and there were many amendments to the bill relating to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The staff knew I was knowledgeable in Central Asian security issues and asked me to help provide vote recommendations on these amendments that were critical to our security relations in the Caucasus. Though the Caucasus is not the same as Central Asia, I was still able to provide an extra level of expertise as it pertained to these issues. I was also able to draft correspondence to the Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard commending his units on a successful completion of joint exercise between the Arizona National Guard and the Kazakh military. This internship, though was not what I expected for the summer, was just as fulfilling as any other internship. I was able to work on pressing issues in the Caucasus and Central Asia, all while making a noticeable impact when providing vote recommendations on national security issues. Despite the summer starting off a little rougher than expected, I will always look back on this internship with nostalgia and pride for the work I did.

Samuel Elzinga, President, Utah International Mountain Forum

Utah International Mountain Forum Service Project

Dirk Gum ( L ) brought donated clothes to the Road Home, a shelter for homeless people

In December 2019, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) held a clothing drive to benefit local men and women in need of professional clothing. All UVU student clubs are required to engage their communities in a service project. There are forms to fill out, dates that must be noted, and club admittaturs that oversee the process. After these requirements are met, you can carry out your service project. This year the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) was honored to collect nice clothes for the homeless in hopes that these clothes could be used for the purpose of interviewing for employment.

            Every club must engage in a local service project each quarter to maintain their status as a club registered with UVU. This is allowing students the opportunity to organize complicated tasks, engage with other students and other members of our local communities, and provide a valuable service to those who may need it. This also allows club members to realize that club organizations are a form of civil society which are valued for their own sake. UIMF’s service projects also contribute to the implementation of United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for sustainable development by empowering students to gain the knowledge and skills needed to address both local and global sustainability issues related to poverty, urbanization, and other areas in a cooperative way with various stakeholders.

            There are forms for nearly every engagement that a club may want to pursue on and off campus. These forms can be found online at or by web searching UVU and clubs. Scroll down and you will see an expansion window titled “Service Project Information” which will take you to the form that will need to be filled out. You MUST fill these requests out two weeks before you wish to conduct the project. It is recommended that you take it upon yourself to go to the club office because there may be certain requirements, such as cash handling, that can only be fulfilled in person. Calling and emails are recommended and are considered a formality in today’s professional environment.

            For this year’s UIMF Project, several members, including Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President  and myself  collected clothing from local student housing apartment complexes. UIMF student members asked their peers for clothes that could be used for the purposes of interviewing. This will allow job seekers the opportunity to compete in the job market. Student peers were extremely responsive; they donated what they could, and many professional clothes were gathered. Some students were extremely charitable. For instance, a couple individuals, including Barbara Christiansen, a writer for the UVU Marketing and Communications Department, donated brand new clothes which will undoubtedly advance the current living conditions of someone in need. These clothes were donated directly to The Road Home 529 9th Ave, Midvale UT.

The Road Home is a shelter for men, families, and anyone who is in need. Unlike thrift stores and chains, The Road Home never sells their donations which means that you can be sure that your donations will go directly to benefit someone, as opposed to a thrift shopper. This is important because thrift stores, which can provide value to those in need, are often targeted by bargain shoppers, and this leaves a lower quality of clothes to those who may be in need. This means that when new clothes are donated, like the clothes donated by Christiansen mentioned above, these clothes will go directly to men, women, and children who have applied for assistance here locally in Utah.

            Though service projects are a requirement to maintain club membership at UVU, UIMF students were allowed the opportunity to be creative in helping address real issues to those in need locally. This required an in-depth engagement process of filling out paperwork, timing, and organizing with the administrations that oversee these projects. It is the express wish of the UIMF and its members to help those who live in mountain regions around the world and here at home in Utah. By providing services to those in need by researching where they are and how we can help them directly, we can make a real and meaningful difference for those in our communities.

Dirk Gum, UIMF member

UIMF Preparations for Mountain Women Advocacy at CSW64

On November 30, 2019, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) published as official document E/CN.6/2020/NGO/91 a joiunt written statement by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce (Utah China F.I.S.H. D.&C.), NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC. The statement supported efforts of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University UVU) to advocate for mountain women and girls at the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) in March of 2020.

The statement, entitled “Mountain women and girls must be in the focus of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” highlights UIMF’s implementation of UVU’s developed student engaged learning model (SEL), which gives students the primary responsibility of working as a group, with faculty serving as mentors, to solve problems related to advocating for sustainable mountain development, mountain communities and families, nontraditional students, and other sustainability issues.

The statement advocates for the inclusion of mountain communities and families, including women and girls—who are among the world’s most neglected and poorest groups—in the assessment of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the focus of CSW64.

UIMF is currently preparing for advocacy campaign at CSW64 during March 17-20, 2019, to meet the following goals:

  • Raise awareness about mountain communities and families as the most neglected groups at the national and international levels and most vulnerable to modern challenges such as climate change, outmigration, food insecurity, etc.;
  • Urge the members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries to include language about mountain women and girls in the CSW64 final document, as well as reporte about measures to empower mountain communities and families in national review reports;
  • Urge the CSW64 audience to implement three mountain targets, designated by the UN among 17 SDGs as a roadmap for mountain communities to be in the focus of 2030 UN Agenda for sustainable development;
  • Host a parallel event co-sponsored by RANS and UIMF at the Salvation Army Auditorium on March 19, 2020 at 6:15pm;
  • Promote Utah as the one of the examples of sustainable mountain development (SMD);
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of the student engaged learning (SEL) model to advocate for mountain communities and Utah as the SMD example;
  • Deliver an oral statement and intervention from the floor during CSW64 about the above topics.

UIMF preparations for CSW64 also include building a coalition of students and other stakeholders, affiliated with Project Work Groups, a company that works to find global sustainability projects related to food security, agriculture, and the environment and provide services and support for such projects from Brigham Young University, The University of Utah, and Utah State University, in order to augment the youth/student voice to better achieve the above goals.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President


Written Statement of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development & Commerce


NGO CSW Forum Orientation Series:


VIDEO 10: Highlights: The First week of CSW

VIDEO 9: Preparing for Your Trip

VIDEO 8: UN Grounds Pass

VIDEO 7: Preparing for CSW64

VIDEO 6: Preparing for CSW64 Process

VIDEO 5: Preparing for CSW64 Participation

VIDEO 4: Events & Registration

VIDEO 3: NGO Forum Overview

VIDEO 2: CSW Registration

VIDEO 1: Introduction and Visa Information

UIMF Contributed to 2019 International Mountain Day Observation at United Nations

(L to R):  PR of Canada to the UN Mr. Marc-Andre Blanchard,
Ms. Carla Mucavi, Director, FAO liaison office in New York;
PR of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN Mrs. Mirgul Moldoisaeva; and
PR of Norway to the UN Ms. Mona Juul preparing their statements

On December 11th, 2019, the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) was invited for the second time to contribute to the observation of the International Mountain Day (IMD) at the United Nations headquarters and promote sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations. The event was hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN), Mountain Partnership, and the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries, headed by the Permanent Mission of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN. The event was attended by diplomats, representing over 20 members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous countries. This year’s theme of IMD was titled “Mountains Matter for Youth,” and UIMF was the only student group invited to the event. This was also the first time when UIMF represented the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), as recently established chapter of that prominent NGO on my campus.  UNA-USA is one of the oldest and prominent NGOs in the United States which promotes values of the UN nationwide.

The event was moderated by Ms. Carla Mucavi, the director of the FAO liaison office in New York, who reminded everyone in attendance of the importance of mountains and those who call them home. Mountains are home to over 1 billion people and provide food, water, and resources to billions more. Despite their importance globally, mountains are often left out of global discussions on climate change. Her Excellency Mrs. Mirgul Moldoisaeva, Permanent Representative (PR) of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, also reiterated the importance of mountains globally and to her home country while also informing those attending of her country’s initiatives to promote youth engagement in the SMD agenda.

Attendees of the International Mountain Day observation at the United Nations headquarters

The first part of the event featured a panel of PRs of different mountain nations accredited to the UN as keynote presenters. PR of Norway to the UN Ms. Mona Juul, PR of Canada to the UN Mr. Marc-Andre Blanchard, PR of Andorra to the UN Mrs. Elisenda Vives Balmana, PR of Bhutan to the UN Mrs. Doma Tsering, PR of Nepal to the UN Mr. Amrit Bahadur Rai, PR of Greece to the UN Mrs. Maria Theofili, Deputy PR of Austria to the UN Mr. Hans-Joachim Almoslechner, and Deputy PR of Italy to the UN Mr. Stefano Stefanile spoke on what their country do to  empower youth in mountainous regions. Most notably, Austria is including special dialogues in their youth parliament about sustaining and preserving alpine culture, Canada’s youth board is additionally holding special discussions on supporting unemployed youth within the mountainous regions of Canada, Andorra has integrated the SDGs into their school curriculum, Bhutan has plans to cut youth unemployment by half in their country in 2023, and Greece is in the process of developing a specific and coordinated policy to support youth in rural mountain villages.

During the second part of the event Assistant Secretary General of the UN, Head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) New York Office, Satya Tripathi spoke on the importance of mountains and the dire need to protect them. He reminded attendees that mountains sustain half of the world’s population through their resources, and unfortunately, are the first indicators of climate change. He remarked that the international community has not acted in 10 years, and we need to scale up the international solutions.

Samuel Elzinga addresses the attendees of IMD

During my presentation, I spoke about successes UIMF has had since its establishment in 2011  in implementing the SMD agenda in the state of Utah and globally through the inclusive student engaged learning (SEL). SEL, an educational philosophy employed by my university, allows students to gain practical skills through real-world experiences as a group when faculty serve them as mentors. 

I spoke how from 2013 to 2015, through this model, students advocated for the adoption of mountain targets at sessions of the UN Open Working Groups on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the fourth International Women of the Mountains conference on October 7-9, 2015. I reminded the audience that UIMF members have advocated for the implementation of mountain targets at forums of the UN ECOSOC on sustainable development such as the 52nd session of the Commission on Social Development; the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) and CSW63; and the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. I also highlighted how students were able to include language about mountain communities for the first time in the final document of the 68th UN Civil Society Conference, held in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 26-28, 2019. The Preamble of the Conference’s Outcome Document stated the need to address the specific conditions of mountainous areas and small island developing states. At the conference, UIMF also hosted a workshop and an exhibition about the student engaged learning model to advocate for mountain women and targets at the United Nations.

Our next priority is to advocate for mountain women and girls at the CSW64 this march, which will assess the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Declaration and Platform does not specifically mention mountain women and girls. However, it includes actions critical to empower such vulnerable groups, in particular through education. Our delegation will be comprised of students from UVU, Brigham Young University, and Utah State University. It will also provide them an opportunity to conduct the advocacy campaign jointly with mountainous nations accredited to the United Nations. We hope to both learn and share experiences in mountain targets implementation with the newly created Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries.

I remarked that UIMF has already achieved the following:

  1. Through the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Utah China F.I.S.H.D.C, NGOs accredited with ECOSOC and Mountain Partnership members, requested in written statement to include mountain women and girls in the final document of CSW 64.
  2. A parallel event scheduled at CSW 64 on March 19, 2020 about mountain women and girls advocacy through the student engaged learning and a similar request about them to be included in the final document of CSW 64.
  3. Plans to make an oral statement and intervention from the floor during CSW64.

I also urged the members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries to include:

  1. In the draft of the CSW64 final document a language about bringing mountain women and girls in the focus of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  2. In national review reports about their actions about empowering mountain families and women.
  3. Members of UVU delegation to  their side event, if they are hosting the one during the second week of the CSW64;

After my presentation, Dr. Orlove of Columbia University spoke about his research in compiling data on the effects of climate change in mountainous regions. He reiterated the importance of taking action to protect these unique ecosystems. Overall, it was an important event raising an awareness about challenges experienced by mountain communities worldwide, and I am grateful for the chance to have participated. I would like to also thank the UVU College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the History and Political Science Department, for co-sponsoring this trip on such short notice as well as other initiatives of UIMF to advocate SMD since 2011.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF




UIMF Power Point Presentation at UN


Statement Copy




FAO-UN About IMD at UN


Daily Herald- UVU students speak to UN group on mountain communities

2019 United Nations Secretary Generals’ Report on SMD recognizes UIMF

In March of 2018 I was the president of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) which a coalition of student led clubs at Utah Valley University. (UVU) We had the opportunity to host both a side event and a parallel event at the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. (CSW62).

It is heart warming that nearly two years later our efforts were highlighted in the 2019 Secretary General’s report on Sustainable Mountain Development. (P10). This Achievement was the result of a team effort by many students both part of the UIMF and those that are part of other on-campus organizations. Our objective at the CSW62 was to promote mountain sustainability by presenting projects that students had worked on in the field of improving the status of Women. Most of these projects had taken place in Utah which is a mountainous State that has prospered due to efforts to create a sustainable way of life.

The UIMF strives to share ideas from mountainous communities that better the livelihood of Men, Women, children, and the population as a whole.

Matt Rands, UIMF President (2017-2018)


2019 UNSGs’ report on SMD


Excerpt from the 2019 UNSG report on SMD about UIMF




Dylan Genes-The great recognition of UN Secretary General of UIMF activities at CSW62


Derek Gardield-Our success starts with us


10th Annual International Mountain Day Observation at Utah Valley University

The International Mountain Day (IMD) at UVU was observed for the third time under the umbrellas of the United Nations Mountain Partnership and the United Nations Academic Impact and for the first time as part of the United Nations Association of the United States of America

On December 2nd, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), observed for the 10th time the International Mountain Day (IMD).   This event about why mountains matter for youth was hosted by UIMF through the student engaged learning model, which provides students the opportunity to resolve complex problems as a group under faculty mentorship.

IMD 2019 was hosted under the umbrella of both the MP and the UN Academic Impact (UNAI), which is an initiative of the UN Department of Global Communications. UIMF also observed IMD as a chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA) at UVU. UNA-USA, which has promoted UN values in the US since 1943, posted a toolkit why mountains matter for youth and officially included IMD among the UN events to be observed by its 60,000 members and over 200 chapters nationwide.     

During the event, Dr. Baldomero Lago, UVU Vice Rector for Global Engagement and UNAI representative, congratulated UIMF on contribution in the 68th UN Civil Society Conference (68UNCSC) in Salt Lake City as the only student – led group which hosted a poster session and a workshop and added language in the outcome document about mountain communities;

Dr. Rusty Butler, main representative at the UN of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, an NGO in General Consultative status with ECOSOC and MP member, spoke about joint with UIMF advocacy efforts at the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women and preparations for CSW64 in March 2020. 

Mrs. Wendy Jyang, Founder of Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C, another NGO in special consultative status with ECOSOC and MP member, discussed joint activities of her NGO with UIMF during CSW63 as well.

Mr. Uday Teki, CEO of Project Work Groups, introduced his company initiatives to reduce food insecurity in mountain communities worldwide and informed about preparations for students from three major Universities in Utah to join the UIMF delegation at CSW64.

Ms. Lacee Meyer Vice President of UIMF, spoke about challenges experienced by rural and mountain communities and her vision about local economic Utah.

Mr. Michael Hinatsu Vice President of UIMF, informed about UIMF’s advocacy for mountain targets and women during CSW63, 68UNCSC and coming visit to CSW64.

At the end of the event, UIMF leaders presented on behalf of the MP a specially designed certificates to all contributors to the SMD advocacy in Utah and globally.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF




Video 1 from IMD

Video 2 from IMD


Photos of the IMD 2019



Front side
Back side




Mountain Partnership About Samuel Elzinga and UIMF


Mountain Partnership About IMD at UVU


UNA-USA About IMD and Why Mountains Matter for Youth


IMD at UNA-USA Calendar



Thomas Ulrich ———————– Meg Haroldsen


Caleb Stowell ——————– Conner Schenk


Bethany Smith ——————– Anthony Jackson


Dillon Vanderhooft ——————– Jake Jex


Victoria Bindrup ——————– Ashlyn Baker


Albeny-Singh ——————- Jeff Hibbard


Moesinger Krosbi ——————- Emily Burke


Yana-Andersen ——————- Austin Meline


Brennan Pearson ——————- Lee Kanyon


Carter Morrison ——————– Titus Elanyu


Michael Hinatsu ——————– Rachel Godfrey


Mark Driggs ——————– Hannah Thayne


James Uhl ——————– Abdulrahman Alghanmi


Kyle Warren

UIMF is a UVU chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America

On November 13th, 2019, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) established its chapter at Utah Valley University (UVU) through the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs on campus at UVU. UIMF advocates for the United Nations Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) Agenda in the State of Utah and in North America since 2011.

It would provide more opportunities for UIMF to involve our members in the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and sustainable mountain development in Utah as well.

UNA-USA has already supported efforts of UIMF in promoting SMD agenda and highlighted that by posting a toolkit on why mountains matter and adding the International Mountain Day to observe among the UN event recommended to all its chapters around the United States.    

The chapter was created as a result of the support from the UVU Office of Global Engagement which facilitated a partnership since 2018 between UIMF and UNA-USA youth engagement manager Anna Mahalak. Two sides worked closely during preparations and participation at the 68th United Nations Civil Society.  Conference, co-hosted by UVU with Salt Lake City on August 26-28, 2019, involved youth in all activities and UIMF contributed to it by hosting a workshop and a poster session.

UIMF is looking forward to continuing cooperation with UNA-USA and during the 64th session on the Commission on the Status of Women, which UIMF members are currently making final preparations for.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF.

My Internship at the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations

Brandon Pedler with Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Ambassador Kelly Craft,

In the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to work as an intern for the US State Department at the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) in New York City. Situated directly across 1st Avenue from the United Nations, the twenty-three-story building overlooks the UN General Assembly building and the East River. On the twentieth floor of the building is the Political Section where I have been interning. This section is primarily responsible for issues pertaining to the UN Security Council but also helps with the General Assembly (GA) and its committees where needed.

I arrived at the Political Section at USUN on the 16th of September 2019, one week before the beginning of high-level week at the UN. High-level week saw the arrival of the heads of state of over one hundred and eighty countries to come speak in front of the General Assembly. During this week I had the opportunity to sit in the GA and listen to some of the heads of state hold their addresses on the world stage. In a small special gathering just for USUN staff and their families I also had the chance to meet the President of the United States. However, the real work began after all the world leaders left New York City.

Brandon Pedler at the podium in the UN General Assembly Hall

The Security Council has had a very busy few months leading up to the holidays, with the renewal of several Peacekeeping Missions around the world coming due in the last few months, and a few more still to come before Christmas. Under the direction of the mission staff, I helped with the renewal of the peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and am currently helping with the efforts to renew the mandate of the mission in Abyei, a disputed region on the border of Sudan and South Sudan (UNISFA), and the mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). While my role in all of these efforts have been primarily supporting in nature, I have had the chance to help inform US policy makers on what is happening in these negotiations and back the efforts of the diplomatic staff.

Brandon Pedler behind the US desk in the UN Security Council Chamber

Along with these efforts, I have been involved with the Fourth Committee, which deals with decolonization and special topics. While I have usually been taking notes and back benching for USUN staff, I have had the chance to sit in the chair as the representative of the United States in the committee when the primary was unable to attend the meetings. Many of the responsibilities here again included supporting the US staff and providing summaries of the events during the meetings. Nevertheless, the experience has taught me how the United Nations functions at the highest levels of multilateral diplomacy.

Additionally, I have engaged with other member states of the UN on different topics such as Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), Protection of Civilians (POC), and Disarmament (DDR). In some of these meetings I was sent alone as the representative of the United States when our own primaries were unable to attend due to other commitments. This has given me the chance to make professional connections with representatives of other countries and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) while representing the interest of the United States in these issues. This hands-on learning experience has been invaluable to my professional development and builds upon the skills learned at UVU and UIMF.

Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations in New York

As I come upon the end of my internship on the 22nd of November, I still have a lot of work ahead in the coming days. The process of peace never stops, and I am grateful for what I can do to be part of that progression and representing the United States’ interest in that peace. While the United Nations is not a perfect tool, it has helped prevent the development of large-scale conflict in the last seventy-four years. As the UN celebrates its sesquicentennial next year, I hope and believe that my efforts here have helped to make the world a safer and more peaceful place. I am grateful to all those who have helped me get here and the experience and education I received through the Utah International Mountain Forum and Utah Valley University through engaged student learning.

Brandon Pedler, member, UIMF

Utah Valley University Hosts 3rd Annual Diplomatic Conference

On November 4th, 2019, the Utah Valley University Office for Global Engagement hosted its 3rd annual Utah Diplomatic Conference focused on foreign trade and investment between Utah and the rest of the world. This conference usually brings together trade representatives, consuls general, honorary consuls, and members of Utah’s state and local government to learn more about Utah’s role in international trade and diplomacy, all while being accessible for Utah Valley University (UVU) students interested in these areas of focus.

This year’s conference brought to UVU campus hundreds of guests from around the state of Utah and beyond, all while hosting official representatives of 13 countries who focused specifically on trade and investment. The foreign governments in attendance included: Australia, Canada, Czechia, Finland, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Astrid Tuminez, UVU President speaks during the diplomatic conference

The conference itself was divided into three distinct sections: the plenary session, the breakout sessions, and the networking session. The opening plenary was opened by Dr. Baldomero Lago, Chief International Officer on Global Engagement for Utah Valley University, who was then followed by President Astrid Tuminez, President of UVU, and lastly followed by Lieutenant Governor of the State of Utah Mr. Spencer Cox. Each of these esteemed presenters focused their remarks on welcoming all to the conference. Following him, David Utrilla, President of the Consular Corps of Utah, provided remarks, as did the Regional Director for the Office of Foreign Missions for the Department of State Christina J. Hernandez, followed by the Director of US Commercial Services, Shelby Daiek.

Dr. Val Hale, Executive Director for the Governor’s Office for Economic Development speaks during the diplomatic conference

After these remarks, attendees of the conference were able to hear from various business leaders from around Utah on their thoughts concerning foreign trade. Such presenters included Franz Kolb, the director of protocol for the State of Utah; Miles Hansen, the president of WTC Utah; Dr. Saeed Movani, Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology at UVU, and Vicki Bennet, the director for sustainability for Salt Lake County. These speakers all remarked how Utah was a unique place with its international focus and presence of many citizens who speak foreign languages. Additionally, Utah continues to lead in emerging sectors like technology and cybersecurity, and as the world becomes more globalized, the demand for employees in these fields will only grow. However, the economic growth Utah will have from an increasingly global economy must be done so sustainably to ensure the environment is preserved. I personally found these remarks from these presenters to be particularly insightful.

After the plenary session, attendees were invited to participate in breakout sessions in another section of UVU and learn more about investment opportunities for their businesses in the foreign countries that were attended. Following the breakout sessions, a special networking session was made specifically for students to network with these diplomats and consuls to learn more about student opportunities.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, Chief International Officer, speaks during the diplomatic conference

UVU office for Global Engagement continued the tradition of having students through the student engaged learning to assist with hosting the conference by providing logistical and protocol services for VIP guests. It was so great and important that members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU were able to contribute to co-hosting the event. 

From a student’s perspective, I think this was a fabulous conference and offered many new insights into an emerging and necessary field of international trade as it relates to technology and sustainability. Though this is the first time I have attended the conference, I was amazed at the ability of the UVU Global Engagement Office’s ability to put on an event like this. I am grateful for the chance I had to participate in this conference both as a volunteer and as a participant, and I am looking forward to attending next year.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF




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