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Award Winning Extreme Athlete Kyle Maynard at UVU: No Excuses

Utah Valley University student body (UVUSA) attempted to host Kyle Maynard for many years and finally was able to do that on February 1, 2018. So many students, me included were excited for him to become available. Mr. Maynard is an entrepreneur, speaker, bestselling author, award-winning extreme athlete, and the first man to bear crawl to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kyle Maynard

Kyle Maynard is also a incapacitated man without limits. He was born without arms and without legs yet has never encountered a challenge or obstacle that he could not overcome. To begin his presentation, Kyle reminded the audience that nobody is self-made and that the only reason any human can reach their full potential is through the help of others. This serves as a valuable reminder that the only way that humankind can move forward, is by remembering and reflecting on where they have come from. The whole of Kyle’s presentation was based upon the idea that when we are called to do the impossible, there is no room to make excuses.

One of Kyle’s heroes, the Navy SEAL Richard Mackowicz, has been quoted as saying “not dead can’t stop”, a sentiment that reveals the true grit that is needed to attain impossible goals. The idea that Kyle presents in accordance with this statement is that anything can be done as long as an effort is put forth. He affirmed that there is always freedom to try, though that is without guarantee that it will be accompanied with success. He taught that the only thing that keeps a human from attaining their goal is the excuses that one makes. To overcome the negative excuses that stem from the desire to attain a difficult goal, one must remember the reason for which that goal is to be attained. The purpose is the motivator that can push the human mind beyond what it possible. Material things will never bring true happiness, that can only come about as goals are set and achieved. Kyle continues to compare mental perceptions and realities to a mental map. He affirms that the map is not the territory, that one can walk around with our mental map and perceptions and then go online and have those concrete ideas demolished and changed in a fraction of a moment. It is the constant update of the map that will everlastingly propagate happiness.

Kyle then proceeds to share his life history and the struggles and challenges that he had as he was growing up. Everyday he said that he prayed for arms and legs, yet the attitude his was treated with at home varied greatly from this precept. All throughout his formative pre-teenage life his parents never allowed him to address his own lack of external extremities. Kyle shared how this was critical in helping him while in his early years to understand that he is not limited by his physical disabilities. He talked about how life with disabilities is not much different than one with disabilities, there is just an increased need to learn how to adapt. He shared a touching story, about how he was once boarding an airplane when a flight attended insisted that he needed the special disability chair. As she turned to get the chair he sprinted past her as fast as he could. He related this to everyone’s reality, that sometimes people will claim that something cannot get done, when in reality the only thing to do is sprint past those that hold humankind back. To illustrate this point, Kyle shared the story of how he climbed the highest peak in South America. He had special shoes that allowed him to climb up the face of the mountain, a feat never attempted by anyone with his disability. Not only did he attempt this feat, he was able to accomplish his goal. Though it was difficult, by sacrificing his excuses and by exerting all the effort he could, Kyle was able to accomplish an impossible task.

Kyle’s visit to Utah Valley University profoundly influenced lives of students across campus by teaching that anything is possible if excuses are removed and the true potential of the human race is realized.

Andrew Jensen, member, UIMF


UVU Review About Kyle Maynard



Timothy Jenkins-Inspired by Kyle Maynard


Ezra-Pugliano-Kyle Maynard speaks at Utah Valley University


Karson-Kestner-Kyle Maynard on seeking our own “Why?”


Students host Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the UN, Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov

On February 5, 2018, I had the opportunity and privilege to contribute to hosting the visit of Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations, His Excellency, Bakhtiyor Ibragimov to Utah Valley University (UVU).  I was there representing the UVU Foreign Affairs club as its president and the Youth in The Mountains Journal as its editor. This was an extremely unique opportunity for me to learn first hand about the foreign affairs priorities of Uzbekistan along with being able to ask questions directly to the Ambassador Ibragimov and discuss with him programs pursued by UVU students at the United Nations.

The meeting with the Ambassador of Uzbekistan was started from lunch with him and his fellow diplomat who accompanied him. It was a part of tradition established at UVU to get students participate at breakfasts and lunches with foreign dignitaries to learn how to build personal relationships with visiting dignitaries. During this lunch we got to learn about his background and how he came to be the top envoy of his country. He had the unique situation of living in Uzbekistan when it was still part the Soviet Union prior to it being broken up into the several countries it is today. Therefore, he had the uncommon perspective of being part of the Soviet system to then also being in Uzbekistan when the state declared its their independence in 1991. What was very interesting about this talk was when we as students were able to ask the Uzbekistan’s Ambassador how this breaking up of the Soviet Union impacted Uzbekistan and what it meant for Uzbek nationality as well. This was particularly interesting to hear about because learning about how states go from communist regimes to democratic systems is something as students we learn but its completely something else when you hear about it from someone who has been through it. Additionally, I found it intriguing that the country is 90% Muslim and that Uzbekistan had such an open and tolerant position on religions present in the country that are not Muslim.

Following lunch, the Uzbek Ambassador gave a lecture on the foreign policy priorities of his country. The topics he discussed included environmental issues, trade development in Central Asia along with new initiatives Uzbekistan is trying with their close neighbor Afghanistan. These initiatives include more friendly gestures such as reopening Uzbekistan presence in Afghanistan and open regular air flight routes between the countries. These gestures are in the wish of as the Uzbek Ambassador said “peace to the future” for the ailing Afghan state.

Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov with Rebecca Bindraban

After the lecture a group of students, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum, (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU ( including myself got to have a round table style discussion with the Ambassador Ibragimov to ask questions, and also had the opportunity to speak about what we do at UVU about the promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and in particular mountain targets through the efforts of both UIMF and its particular branches such as the Sustainable Mountain Development club, undergraduate student research journal “Youth and the Mountains,” and diverse activities including the annual commemorations of the United Nations International Mountain Days on December 11th.  Ambassador Ibragimov then spoke about how important Sustainable Development Goals are not only for the global communities but also for the people in his country which is of particularly interest to me as the chief editor of the Youth in the Mountains Journal at UVU which specifically is about mountain peoples, research and perspective about life and economics of people from the mountains

Overall it was an extraordinary opportunity to be part of such an engaged learning opportunity and to raise an awareness of the visiting dignitary of the contribution from our student community to the United Nationals agenda of global significance. It was fascinating to learn the perspective of the Uzbekistan people through their top envoy and to experience what the Ambassador of the country does regularly as the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United Nations.

Rebecca Bindraban, President, Foreign Affairs Club and editor, “Youth and the Mountains” journal 


Photos of the visit of the Uzbekistan’s Envoy to UVU 



Andrew Jensen-Interacting with Ambassador Ibragimov about foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan


Warren-Kyle-Taking part at lunch with Ambassador Ibragimov


Nathan Erickson-Learning about foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan


Ezra Pugliano-Uzbekistan’s Envoy to the UN Ambassador Ibragimov speaks at UVU


Leslie-Sixtos-Cruz-Foreign Policy Priorities of the New Government of Uzbekistan


Caitlin Dally – PR of Uzbekistan to the United Nations,   Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov at UVU

Congressman John Curtis town hall meeting

I had the opportunity to attend Representative John Curtis’s town hall meeting at the Orem City Council office On January 24, 2018. This was the first town hall that I have ever been to. I have been privileged to spend a year interning in Washington, D.C., but, I have not had much experience in politics at the local level, so this spring semester of 2018, being back in Utah, I have made it a goal of mine to become more familiar with local politics. I had heard a lot about John Curtis before, for the most part, all good things. The one criticism that I had heard previously was that he was a Democrat that had run as a Republican because he knew he wouldn’t be able to get into office otherwise. But, like in anything that I do in life, I like to question things for myself and go straight to the source.

Candidate John Curtis during town hall meeting on August 8, 2017

After listening to Representative Curtis for over an hour, I have to say that I walked away being pretty impressed with him. I think he will do a good job in D.C. at helping bring both sides together and not spend his time playing partisan politics. A major issue in D.C. right now is that both parties have become so polarized that passing any major legislation is difficult unless there is a substantial majority in one party in both chambers.  I think the biggest struggle that he will run into in D.C. is not having any name recognition and not being familiar with all the topics of today’s national politics. Truthfully, John Curtis is a small fish in a big pond. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as most politicians have to start at the bottom and make their way to the top.

Preston Parry as an intern in Washington, D.C.

At the town hall there were many opinionated people, mostly on the left. People were very outspoken, and some were even emotional. There was one woman in particular who was an undocumented immigrant. She was very upset with the way that the DACA issue was being handled at the national level and felt scared for herself and her family. She became so upset that she began to cry and yell and did not accept what Representative Curtis had to say. I think this is a huge problem, because if we cannot talk in a calm and composed manner, then we will have a very difficult time making any substantive progress in America.

I also had the opportunity to ask the Congressman a question. I asked Curtis how he felt about those in positions of power at the FBI and DOJ and some of the new allegations that are coming to light. As much as I liked most of what he had to say that night, his answer to my question was one that concerned me. He basically said that he believes that those who are in positions of power know what they are doing and that they are the best people for the job. He explained to me that he trusted those who were handling sensitive cases to the national security of the United States. This bothered me because we have seen time and time again why we should not trust someone just because they are powerful. If anything, I would argue that power and influence can have very negative affects on people. Additionally, I think we have seen much evidence laid out in the past couple months that suggest there have been huge issues at the highest levels of our government.

Overall, I am very happy that I got to attend the John Curtis’s town hall. I feel that he is a very good man who wants to do best for the people of the 3rd district of Utah. Being a junior congressman, I believe that he has a lot to learn, but I am confident that he will do so to the best of his ability. It is also my hope that collectively as Americans we can get to a point where we can have a dialogue that is both calm and productive.

Preston Parry, UVU student


Daily Herald about town hall meeting


To fight poverty globally by empowering students

Three non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Mountain Institute, and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce will present their joint vision regarding the fight against poverty in mountainous regions of the world at the special United Nations forum fighting poverty at the beginning of 2018.

The United Nations Commission for Social Development will hold the fifty-sixth session on 31 January–7 February 2018. The priority theme of the session will be “strategies for the eradication of poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.”  It is a follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen – 1995, and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly: Social Development (26 June-1 July 2000, Geneva).

In a joint statement E/CN.5/2018/NGO/71, accepted and distributed by the United Nations Secretariat on December 1, 2017, they emphasized, that: “Today, mountain communities, being disproportionately affected by the challenges of living at high altitudes, and left almost on their own to deal with emerging new threats such as climate change, etc., are among the world’s poorest. They must be at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On their behalf, we must address poverty and hunger eradication; promote gender equality; provide decent work opportunities and economic growth; and develop industry and infrastructure. Lack of access to education and information further deepen their dependence.  About 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people are estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity, according to a recent study of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat. When only rural areas are considered, nearly half the population is at risk. During the period 2000–2012, despite food insecurity decreasing at the global level, it increased in mountain areas. The study revealed a 30 percent increase in the number of mountain people vulnerable to food insecurity from 2000 to 2012, while the mountain population increased by only 16 percent.”

As one of the ways to raise awareness about the need for sustainable development and poverty eradication for mountain communities, they cite an example from Utah Valley University, which is an active contributor to the sustainable development of mountain communities in the developing world. UVU does this by engaging students, non-traditional students in particular, in a hands-on involvement and practical implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to address the eradication of poverty, principally in impoverished mountain regions of the world.

Non-traditional students are often older than 25 years old, and may have delayed enrolment into postsecondary education; attended university part-time and work full time; are financially independent for financial aid purposes; have dependents other than a spouse; are single parents; or do not have a high school diploma. The UN statement says that, “These students represent more than 30% of college students in the United States and many are women. However, most have diverse professional skills and experiences which they are ready and eager to contribute to benefit the global communities — mountain ones in particular.”

UVU’s model represents a service learning initiative which allows students through the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, to gain professional skills and experiences by addressing real-world problems such as poverty eradication at local, regional and United Nations levels with an instructor serving them as a mentor.

As a highlight of the model, three NGOs have mentioned that “The fourth international Women of the Mountains conference was hosted in Utah, October 7–9, 2015 solely through the efforts of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University. Members of the coalition, the majority of whom are non-traditional students, raised funds to host the event and brought diplomats, experts and women from mountain nations worldwide to Utah. The goal was to engage students in creating awareness and seeking solutions compatible with gender-related Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.” As a former president of the UIMF, I am grateful to all three NGOs and their leaders, Dr. Rusty Butler, Dr. Andrew Taber and Ms. Wendy Jyang for such high praise, and at the same time an objective evaluation of the efforts through which my peers and myself were able to contribute to the advancement of the mountain communities’ cause at the United Nations level.

The statement also mentioned that “The model allowed students, non-traditional ones in particular, to gain professional skills and experiences through the advocacy of different initiatives with a focus in particular on poverty eradication among the mountain communities on local and global levels. They did it by not only hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences and conducting research on gender norms, sexuality, and religion in Utah, but also by successfully teaching women business management in Zambia; working with students in Indonesia on tsunami-preparedness community education projects; conducting research on water quality in Senegal, the impact of mining and oil pipelines on indigenous people in Ecuador and globalization impact to Tarahumara Mexican women.”

I completely agree with recommendation made by these NGOs that “This experience demonstrates that students of all ages can play an essential role in the implementation of the 2030 development agenda of the United Nations, and in poverty eradication in particular. It can be used by other universities in rural and mountain states of North America and globally to provide similar benefits to their students, and at the same time encourage them to contribute to advocating the post2030 Development agenda with a focus on poverty eradication.”

The experiences which I have gained through working with the UIMF are incredible, and I hope that many students in other academic schools—especially throughout the Rocky Mountains region—would be able to do the same things: advance themselves professionally by promoting the noble cause of eradicating poverty, both in their neighborhoods and in the rest of the rural and mountainous world.

Tony Medina, President Emeritus, UIMF    

Statement submitted by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Mountain Institute, and the Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council


FAO-UN and MP news item about the event



Statement advocating mountain women is included in the agenda of the UN CSW62

Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations submitted joint statement for presentation during the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) on 12-23 March 2018.

Statement was already approved and distributed by CSW62 on December 7, 2017.

Statement emphasizes the importance of implementation mountain targets among the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and in particular the empowerment of not only rural but also mountain women who are usually among the poorest and neglected by international community.  it also says, that “…about 39 percent of the mountain population in developing countries, or 329 million people, is estimated to be vulnerable to food insecurity, according to a recent study of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in collaboration with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS). When rural areas are considered, nearly half the population are at risk, particular women.”

Further statement says, that : ” as one of the ways to raise awareness about the need for sustainable development for mountain communities, families and women, the Mountain Partnership focuses efforts in mobilizing grassroots activists, youth and students in developed and developing nations.”

We appreciate very much, that Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative of RANS at the United Nations and Ms. Wendy Jyang, President of Utah China F.I.S.H  focus attention of the CSW62 audience on the Utah Valley University model of student engaged learning developed with support from the MPS  and how students were able to contribute to the advocacy of the mountain women in the State of Utah and North America since 2007.

This statement represents great example of UVU student engagement  with prominent NGOs affiliated with the United Nations, which provides an important opportunity for joint implementation of mountain targets.  We are glad that the visit of the UVU delegation to CSW62 will be fruitful and allow students to contribute practical recommendations to the final documents of this important UN forum on gender issues.

Yanko Dzhukev, VP on Social Media, UIMF

For more information, see:

Statement submitted by Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce


MP about statement submission to the CSW62 










UIMF at the Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership

The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership:
Report about participation at the meeting on behalf of the Utah Valley University

The Mountain Partnership (MP) organized on 11-13 December 2017 the Fifth Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in Rome, Italy, under the theme ‘Mountains under pressure: climate, hunger, migration’. MP is a voluntary alliance of nearly 300 members including countries, intergovernmental and civil society organizations with a global Secretariat, hosted by the FAO-UN.

Opening Ceremony | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The event aimed to gather MP members and to summarize main results in raising awareness of the importance of mountain ecosystems and peoples at the global level since the Fourth MP Global Meeting in Erzurum, Turkey in 2013.  The main concern of the Mountain Partnership was focused on: 1) the low attention to the mountain agenda at the UN level; 2) raising awareness of the need to place mountain ecosystems and peoples at the center of international negotiations, policies and investments; 3) the challenges and the opportunities in sustainable mountain development (SMD). More than 220 participants – high-level representatives from mountainous countries, goodwill ambassadors, and representatives of UN conventions, intergovernmental organizations, private sector and civil society, in addition to Mountain Partnership members gathered in Rome.

I represented Utah Valley University (UVU), a MP member since 2006 and at the same time the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. UVU participates for the third time in a MP global meeting – the first time was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership held on 19 June 2012, and the second time in Erzurum, Turkey on 16-19 September 2013 at the Fourth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership.

My important priority during the Fifth Global Meeting was to report to the participants about UIMF contributions to the UN SMD agenda and the implementation of mountain targets among the Sustainable Development Goals and how unique the approach developed at UVU and contributions from UIMF members made a difference since 2011, when UIMF was established. The UVU presentation was scheduled during a side event dedicated on education in mountains during to second day of the meeting which was not the main activity of the meeting, however, it still provided an opportunity for me to make a statement and presentation about the UVU model.

During the three-day event, countries, international and intergovernmental organizations as well as the non-government organizations discussed the future goals and activities of the Partnership. Among others, the agenda covered the following topics: how to improve advocacy for mountains in major global processes; how to promote joint communication efforts, which will be the main events in which the MP will participate in the upcoming years; and who will be elected to four-year terms by the various membership categories and regions as new members of the Steering Committee (SC) of the Mountain Partnership. The Committee provides programmatic orientation to the Mountain Partnership, monitoring the work of the MP Secretariat, the implementation of the ‘Mountain Agenda’ and the achievements and impacts of their respective electoral groups.


During the first day of the meeting, which coincided with the United Nations International Mountain Day and the 15th anniversary of the MP, participants heard opening statements by founding members of the MP, including the FAO-UN, the governments of Italy and Switzerland, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). The session continued by remarks from the three Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassadors: His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, head of the Drikung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism; Arjun Gupta, founder of TeleSoft Partners; and Jake Norton, founder of MountainWorld Productions. Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, gave a keynote speech.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Thomas Hofer, Outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev

I was very happy to return to the FAO headquarters and to meet old colleagues and friends from the MP Secretariat, where I interned during several months at the beginning of 2016. It was great seeing Thomas Hofer Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer, RosaLaura Romeo, FAO Programme Officer, Sara Manuelli, FAO Communication Officer, Samantha Abear, FAO Communication Specialist and many more. While spending several months at FAO, I had a chance to gain engaged learning experiences by developing long lasting relationships and networking with many MP members globally, with which I have been staying in touch, just to name a few – Zaya Batjargal from University of Central Asia; Alberto Pascual from Fundación CoMunidad, Panama, Marisa Mabel Young from Fundación Agreste, Argentina, and many more.

L-R: Arjun Gupta, founder, Telesoft Partners, H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang, Mountain Partnership Ambassador, Jake Norton, Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Following the opening of the High-Level Segment and the celebration of International Mountain Day, the Framework for Action was launched. It was endorsed by the governments and civil society to support concrete actions, to put in place long-lasting processes and to establish policies that strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples and environments. Mountain Partnership members considered the challenges and responses of the Framework for Action and its alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several speakers further emphasized on the importance of adopting the framework, outlining many challenges and possible responses. The first day of the Global Meeting was ended by showcasing practical approaches towards making the Global Framework work by remarks from Nurlan Jumaev, Deputy Director, State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry, Kyrgyz Republic; Matthias Fiechter, Communications Associate, Secretariat of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program; Matt T. Reed, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Development Network; H.E. Ambassador Hersey Kyota, Ambassador of the Republic of Palau to United States of America, Board Chair, Global Island Partnership; Kate Brown, Executive Director, Global Island Partnership (GLISPA); and Matthias Jurek, Programme Management Officer, UN Environment, Carpathian Convention.

Launched in 2006, the Global Island Partnership has been looking at working more closely with the Mountain Partnership over the last years because of the similar interests the two alliances have such as addressing the effects of climate change on vulnerable ecosystems. It was very interesting for me to see how members of the Global Island Partnership have come together in a united coalition to become a very powerful and impactful group which performs lobbying and negotiating functions within the United Nations, most notably focusing on climate change and its impact on GLISPA worldwide. I am sure that if MP members follow GLISPA as an example, similar results might be achieved relating to the SMD agenda. UIMF members also contributed similar efforts when they recently hosted several events, most notably the visit to UVU of the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Ambassador of Fiji to the United Nations Peter Thompson in December 2015.

Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director, Forest Policy and Resources Division, FAO, presents the Framework for Action | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli


The second day kicked off with a presentation of activities and challenges, highlighting the objectives, governance structure and composition, and achievements of the Partnership from Thomas Hofer, an outgoing Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, urging MP members to “move from the opera house to the stadium” in broadening the advocacy and communication activities. UVU and UIMF in particular has already adopted the proposed approach. Students do not only advocate SMD among local communities in Utah, but also aim to bring mountain issues to the highest level at the United Nations.

Two UVU partners made presentation during that day. Andrew Taber, Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee moderated a short session during which Steering Committee members reported on the achievements, priorities and challenges in their constituencies. Dr. Taber, an Executive Director of The Mountain Institute and UVU have been working jointly for the last several years.  As one of the most important examples, they partner with the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences to make statements during major UN high-level forums and highlight the mountain agenda. In his presentation, Dr. Taber mentioned about round table hosted by UIMF in October 2017 as preparations for the next such joint presentation during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.

The other UVU partner, Karinjo Devore, President of ‎Aspen International Mountain Foundation and member of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee representing North and Central America and the Caribbean highlighted major contributions from the region towards the SMD agenda. In her presentation, she mentioned UIMF contributing to the MP activities by hosting annually the International Mountain Day celebrations. She apologized to me that she was not able to highlight major achievements from student coalition due to the time constrains. I was able to do that by highlighting all major contributions of UIMF to the SMD agenda in my presentation during the side event on education later same day.


In addition, during the second day of the Global Meeting, during noon three side events were held to report on respective outcomes of events on: promoting mountain products to improve local economies and livelihoods; education in mountains; the launch of the Mountain 2018 platform. UVU was provided a spot at a side event dedicated on education in mountains and its role in sustainable mountain development. The event was moderated by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources. While 31 academic institutions currently are part on the Mountain Partnership, only 5 of them, among which is Utah Valley University where present at the Global Meeting. It was a great honor for UVU and for me, as VP of UIMF, to be among the members provided with the opportunity to present our model of engaged learning and some of our achievements.

Along with UVU, participants of the panel were Michele Freppaz, University of Turin, Italy; Stella Giannakopoulou, from the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC), Greece; Laurie Vasily, Head, Knowledge Management and Communication, ICIMOD; and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS), Western Colorado University, USA.

The purpose of my presentation was to show to side event participants and members, how the developed UVU model allows one generation of undergraduate students to gain professional advancement and recognition internationally through full-fledged contribution of initiatives and funds to the practical implementation of the mountain targets, under the effective encouragement of the United Nations Mountain Partnership. I also aimed to encourage universities in rural and mountain states elsewhere to apply similarly the model and provide similar benefits to their students, and at the same time to contribute to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally.

The presentation entitled “Mountain targets implementation through the student engaged learning model” and a PowerPoint highlighted following important contributions to the advocacy of the SMD agenda and mountain targets:

  • The leading role which students, especially non-traditional ones could play in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and the mountain targets;
  • The implementation of three recommendations of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “International Year of Mountains, 2002:” 1) to encourage institutions worldwide to join MP; 2) to make contributions to the SMD advocacy of funds and sustain initiatives established during celebrations of the UN International Year of Mountains in 2002; 3) to celebrate International Mountain Day on December 11;
  • Hosting the international Women of the Mountains conferences since 2007 as one of the leading forums in North America to advocate and contribute to the implementation of Goal 5 in interaction with mountain targets and as a follow up of the 2002 “Celebrating Mountain Women” conference in Bhutan;
  • Encouraging students to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets by participating at the UN Open Working Groups on SDGs in New York during 2013-2015;
  • As one of the major effort to advocate for the adoption of mountain targets among SDGs, hosting at UVU during 2013-2015 Permanent Representatives of more than 20 nations accredited to the UN, including the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) PR of Austria to the UN, Martin Sajdik, President of the General Assembly PR of Fiji to the UN Peter Thomson, Co-chairs of the Open Working Group on SDGs, the PR of Kenya to the UN, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, and PR of Hungary to the UN, Mr. Csaba Kőrösi among them;
  • Contribution to the MPS initiative to sign a petition about including mountain issues in the agenda of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP21), when students collected more than 2,000 signatures from 6,283 gathered by the MPS globally;
  • Contribution of more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy;
  • Advocacy for the mountain targets implementation at major forums at the United Nations in cooperation with NGOs with consultative status under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC);
  • Advocacy for mountain women at the 60th and the 61st sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW);
  • Contribution to the agenda of the 62nd session of CSW, by making a statement, hosting side and parallel events with focus on the advocacy of the mountain women and results of the hosting four international Women of the Mountains Conferences since 2007;
  • Commemoration annually since 2010 the United Nations International Mountain Day (IMD) as an important activity to raise awareness about SMD among students and local communities in the State of Utah and in North America;

The following recommendations were made in UVU presentation to the participants of the side event and Global MP Meeting:

  1. It is important to engage students, and in particular non-traditional ones in hands-on activities associated with the implementations of the SDGs and mountain targets among them;
  2. The UVU model can be applied by academic institutions in rural and mountain states worldwide to provide benefits of professional advancement to students and at the same time encouraging them to become the contributors to the implementation of the post 2030 Development agenda globally;
  3. As UVU example demonstrates, academic institutions could provide substantial financial resources as well to the implementation of United Nations activities and post 2030 agenda in particular;
  4. Academic institutions will greatly benefit by developing joint curriculum and partnerships with each other and with NGOs under consultative status under ECOSOC in order to make their voices heard at the UN level;
  5. It is important for the MP members to work jointly to make bigger impact at the UN.

During Q&A session, some of the questions have been asked by Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources about how students have been able to contribute more than $250,000 during 10 years of activities to the SMD advocacy and John Hausdoerffer, Dean, School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, who was interested in how students have been able to advocate SMD at the United Nations. I was very proud to highlight the fact that even the funds for my participation at the Global Meeting was raised by myself, a non-traditional student, locally, and contributed to the UN SMD agenda. In addition, I recognized my colleagues from UIMF, who currently are raising funds to participate at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 12-23 March 2018, where in addition to a side event, they are planning to make an oral statement before the UN audience.

In general, both the audience and the MPS demonstrated their appreciation to the efforts of UVU and students, and what has been achieved by them during the last ten years. Further, they were pleased to hear that students while achieving results and demonstrating professionalism are motivated more than ever to continue advocating the SMD agenda at the highest UN level and implement mountain targets globally.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU), Andrey Kushlin, Deputy Director, FAO, Michele Freppaz – IPROMO Scientific Director during side event dedicated on education in mountains | ©FAO/Samantha Abear

The afternoon continued with a panel session on resource mobilization, which included reports from key note speakers sharing their experiences in the private sector, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

Thomas Hofer, Outgoing Coordinator, Mountain Partnership Secretariat & FAO Programme Officer | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Thomas Hofer shared with members feedback on governance issues, including considering options on membership fees, the inclusion of Central Asia as a separate region, selecting alternate Steering Committee members, an approach to dealing with inactive members, the hosting arrangement of the Secretariat, and deletion of the Mountain Partnership’s function of “innovation.” During a discussion regarding the possibility of introducing a member fee, participants expressed concerns that it might be difficult for institutions with limited resources and who raise funds from local communities, to commit to paying a fee. Yet, Thomas emphasized that the possible fee would be based on the institution’s contribution capability, and by paying even a small amount would encourage members to be more active within partnership activities.

Amendments to the Governance paper were discussed and new Steering Committee members were elected. Work priorities for the next four years, organized around the Mountain Partnership’s functions of advocacy, capacity development, joint action, and communication, were identified.

The evening concluded with three side events focusing on: understanding landscape and watershed management in mountains; science and research for evidence-informed policy and action on the ground – experiences and outlook in mountain-specific cases; and the Andean Mechanism. The day concluded with an official dinner hosted by FAO.


On the final day of the Global Meeting, the Partnership considered how best to support the implementation of the Framework for Action. The organizers of the six side events that were held on day two reported of their events. Michele Freppaz from University of Turin summarized the side event on education, and I was very pleased with his highlights on the UVU presentation, noting that non-traditional students have went “out of the opera” making a noise at the UN headquarters in New York.

Throughout the day, members focused on the internal governance of the Partnership by voting the inclusion of Central Asia as an additional region. Further, members made endorsements and nominations of Steering Committee members and alternative members for the period 2017-2021.

L-R: Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah Valley University (UVU) and Zaya Batjargal, programme officer for the Mountain Partnership in Central Asia | ©UIMF/Yanko Dzhukev

It was interesting to hear a proposition from the MP Secretariat during the election alternate Steering Committee members to be voted in cases in which the leading members are unable to attend SC sessions or initiatives. On behalf of UVU, I voted for Aspen International Mountain Foundation to serve on the 2017-2020 Steering Committee representing the interests of the major group organization from North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Fundación CoMunidad as alternate SC member. Based on unanimous nominations and vote, the following MP members were selected in different categories and regions:


Asia and the Pacific: Philippines, Nepal (Alternate)

Europe: Italy (Chair), Turkey (Alternate)

Middle East and North Africa: Tunisia

North and Central America and the Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Guatemala (Alternate)

South America: Argentina, Chile (Alternate)

Sub-Saharan Africa: Uganda, Cameroon (Alternate)

Intergovernmental Organization

United Nations Environment Programme (Vice Chair), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Alternate)

Major Group Organizations

Asia and the Pacific: Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre (Vice Chair), Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation (Alternate)

Central Asia: Institute for Sustainable Development Strategy Public Fund, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (Alternate)

Europe: Centro de Investigação de Montanha and Euromontana

Global Civil Society Organization: Mountain Research Initiative, The Mountain Institute (Alternate)

Middle East and North Africa: Mountain Environment Protection Society

North and Central America and the Caribbean: Aspen International Mountain Foundation, Fundación CoMunidad (Alternate)

South America: Consortium for Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion, Fundación Agreste (Alternate)

Sub-Saharan Africa: Foundation for Environment and Development, Les Compagnons Ruraux (Alternate)

Following the election of the Steering Committee, a session was held on setting priorities and identifying the main areas of work of the Secretariat for the next biennium, including advocacy, capacity development, joint action, communication, and setting regional and thematic topics; and considering the meeting outcomes and steps going forward.

During lunchtime, participants took part in a speed-geeking session, engaging with different challenges and experiences related to sustainable management of mountain ecosystems and ways to engage with mountain people.

Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, Utah International Mountain Forum -UVU, United States, participates in a closing discussion | ©FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

The Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership concluded with a session, in which representatives from the donor countries – Italy, Grammenos Mastrojeni, Assistant Director-General, Coordinator for the Environment, Italian Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and François Pythoud, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to FAO, IFAD and WFP Switzerland, Hiroto Mitsugi, Assistant Director-General of FAO as host of the Secretariat, and the outgoing Chair of the Steering Committee Andrew Taber and Thomas Hofer provided concluding remarks. The meeting closed with a group photo, after which the newly-elected Steering Committee met to consider its work for the next biennium. Italy, represented by Grammenos Mastrojeni was elected as the Chair of the Steering Committee and UN Environment and the Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Centre were elected as Vice Chairs.


Participating at the Fifth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership allowed UVU to strengthen its position as one of the most active MP members on the global stage. Making a presentation during a side event allowed members to get the full scope of UVU advocating activities and demonstrating results of UVU by being featured in four UN Secretary Generals’ Reports on SMD, reveals the dedication and the effective contributions from UVU students. In addition, meeting members with which UVU has been interacting during the last four years in an effort to ensure that mountain targets are included in the SDGs further strengthen relationships with partners globally.

I, as VP of Global Affairs and Outreach at UIMF, had a chance to discuss collaborations and future joint projects with NGOs and in particular educational institutions, among them the Western Colorado University, the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (MIRC) from Greece, Fundación CoMunidad from Panama, the Romanian Mountain Forum, ForestAction from Nepal, the Mountain Institute from the USA. The UVU representative proposed working jointly in an alliance with other educational institutions and MP members, with UIMF serving as an activity coordinator and to submit joint written and oral statements to various UN forums. Providing students with major responsibilities would encourage them to contribute more actively own professional experiences and to raise financial resources to SMD advocacy for which to be recognized for that by the United Nations. With the Dean of School of Environment and Sustainability (ENVS) at Western Colorado University, I discussed the possibility of UVU students obtaining a master degree in Environmental Management, with focus on mountain sustainability, from Western Colorado University while being at the UVU campus and contributing to UIMF efforts, allowing UVU to keep its best talent and in the same time students can develop in an environmental area which has not been introduced as a study option at UVU.

Being present at a major global UN forum such as the MP Global Meeting, allowed UVU and UIMF to be recognized for contributing to a major UN agenda such as sustainable mountain development globally, and in particular for introducing a model for engaging students in SDGs implantation, which demonstrates that in times of limited resources students’ presence, involvement and contribution is crucial.

Yanko Dzhukev, Vice President of Global Affairs and Outreach, UIMF


Yanko-Dzhukev: UIMF statement during the side event “Education in Mountains”


Yanko Dzhukev: power point presentation


Photos from the event 


Agenda of the Fifth Global Mountain Partnership Meeting


2030 Agenda on mountains- Framework_for_Action


MP Advocacy strategy 2018-2021


Communication_Strategy of the MP for 2018-2021


Side events schedule for December 12, 2017


Side event agenda on education




International Mountain Day 2017 at Utah Valley University


On December 4th, 2017, Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) were able to again host International Mountain Day (IMD) at UVU campus. First established by the United Nations in 2003, this will be the seventh IMD celebration held by UIMF at UVU. IMD is usually celebrated on December 11th, however students decided it best to hold the event a week prior to the designated date so that students would not have conflicts with their final examination schedules.

Dr. Baldomero Lago addressing audience members at Utah Valley University

Students, members of UIMF hosted the event as a tradition through student engaged learning initiative, when students are provided an opportunity to gain professional experiences and skills while working on all details of the event by themselves as a team with faculty giving up them power and serving as mentors only. Students were pleased to assign responsibilities through task list posted online: some of them invited academics, community members, and student speakers to give presentations during the event. others handled protocol or logistics or media coverage, and many other important aspects of hosting such high-level event like IMD.  This year’s celebration included the following agenda featuring many prominent presenters;

  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO/Vice-Rector of the Office of Global Engagement at Utah Valley University
  • Letters of greeting from Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, Mayor of Orem Utah Richard Brunst, and Dr. Ross “Rusty” Butler of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Chelsey Butchereit, a refugee advocate and professor at Brigham Young University
  • Gina Cornia, the executive director of Utahns Against Hunger
  • Colleen Bye, a representative of the lobbyist group Citizens Climate Lobby chapter in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Derek Garfield, a student at UVU
  • Megan Raines, a student at UVU
  • Baktybek Abdrisaev, a former Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States and Canada from 1997-2005; a current professor and focal point for the United Nations Mountain Partnership at UVU

      Mayor Brunst of the City of Orem greets audience  on occasion of the IMD 2017

Speakers addressed topics from the 2017 IMD theme: “Mountains Under Pressure: climate, hunger, migration.” Students worked hard to find speakers who could adequately address each theme for IMD both for Utah, nationally, and internationally. Many from the audience commented that the list of speakers was very diverse and allowed each topic in the 2017 theme to be covered.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, the CIO and Vice Rector for the office of Global Engagement at Utah Valley University was identified as a keynote speaker. IMD celebration as prominent gathering featuring the United Nations mountain agenda during already seven years provided him a unique opportunity to make major announcement that UVU joined a partnership program with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN/DPI). When Dr. Lago colleagues applied for such status to the UN DPI, they made references on many initiatives and achievements of UIMF in promotion of mountain agenda during last 10 years. As Dr. Lago emphasized in his speech, UVU hopes to continue to be a leading player in sustainable mountain initiatives and is honored to be afforded such a prestigious opportunity.

Honoring student’s efforts in hosting IMD 2017 and as a response to their invitation to IMD 2017, Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, sent a letter of well wishes to those who set up the event, and also about his beliefs in the importance of Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) goals. Mayor of the City of Orem Richard Brunst, supports IMD celebrations since 2011, when Orem joined the United Nations Mountain Partnership and he warmly greeted the audience as well. Similarly, Dr. Ross Butler, the main representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and NGO registered under the United Nations spoke and highly evaluated his experiences of working with UIMF both in IMD celebrations and in general in advocacy of the SMD agenda.

Ms. Chelsey Butcherit, refugee advocate and adjunct faculty at Brigham Young University, spoke on the importance of helping refugees in Utah. She spoke of the need to see the humanity in all humans no matter how far away or how different their culture may be, that we ought to help them and Utah is the perfect place where such an ideal could be sustained.

Ms. Gina Cornia, the executive Director of Utahns Against Hunger spoke on the vast poverty divide that is so ever present even in modern-day developed societies (such as Utah). She urged audience members to understand that many people in Utah Valley struggle to feed themselves and/or their families. Furthermore, that we ought not to look down upon these underprivileged people, rather we ought to empower them and provide them with more resources and different opportunities within their respective communities.

Ms. Colleen Bye, a resident faculty member at UVU, who also actively involved and represent prominent NGO Climate Change Lobby spoke passionately about climate change – a rather hot topic in Utah today. She showed audience members factual evidence of the harm modern day people are doing to planet Earth and the ramifications of what could happen if our current (negative) trajectory. Furthermore, she also gave audience members ways in which they are able to positively impact their environment by becoming active in local organizations and movements working in climate change.

Our two student speakers Mr. Derek Garfield and Ms. Megan Raines took the time to address specific cases they have been tirelessly studying. Mr. Garfield educated audience members on climate change impact on Sami indigenous groups in Sweden and Ms. Raines was able to show what a bit of money and compassion can do to provide help to children and families in Uganda. Both undergraduate students showed extreme passion and promise, and myself and other audience members included were moved by their research and passion in their respective areas of study.

During the event students were able to engage with speakers about the 2017 theme and learn the ways in which they would be able to engage with sustainable mountain development in the future. However, they were able to invite not only students in the audience. Community members from Utah Valley and faculty and staff from UVU were also able to attend the event to learn the ways they can influence their community, workplaces, and better ways in which they can teach their students to progress the agendas of mountain sustainability. One audience member stated “I was not aware of the problems mountainous communities were facing before today. I am happy that I chose to attend because I have been inspired to learn more about my own mountainous community, and understand how to help internationally!”.

Aaron Holloway, UIMF member with certificate of contribution from FAO-UN

After the event concluded many stayed around to have further conversations with speakers, and to engage with each other. During this time Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UVU faculty and a focal point for the United Nations Mountain Partnership with the help of Matthew Rands UIMF President  and Danny Davis, UIMF Vice-President presented certificates to all those throughout 2017 that helped to advance the sustainable mountain goals. It was incredible to see the huge amount of people that actively helped in the process. It also helped students to see and understand the importance of working together with one’s community and the help that can be found as long as one asks for it. In all, the event was a huge collaborative effort from students and the community and the UIMF leadership was so pleased with the outcome of the event.

Pictured: Audience members during IMD 2017.

UIMF is beyond pleased with all the student’s effort in making IMD a reality for this seventh annual celebration and hopes to continue to implement practices from the UN’s 2015 agenda, and work towards the 2030 agenda.

Lacee Meyer, Vice-President, UIMF



Brochure                      Task List


MP about IMD at Utah Valley University


                      UVU Press-Release         Daily Herald about IMD          


Video: UVU Office for Global Engagement




Greetings From Governor Herbert


Letter of Greetings From Mayor Brunst, Orem City 


Greetings From Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, MP member


Logan Environmental Action Force



Lacee Meyer: Seventh Annual International Mountain Day Celebration at UVU


Andre Jones: From mountain development to national security: UVU becomes a member of the United Nations DPI


Dylan Genes: Hosting the International Mountain Day at UVU


Ruben Garces: Utah Valley University becomes a member of the United Nations DPI




Mark Wait: International Mountain Day at UVU


Kristine Beardall: UVU’s seventh annual International Mountain Day: a student’s perspective


Pamela Miller: International Mountain Day 2017


Kimberlee Anderson: International Mountain Day Commemoration


Logan Perfili: International Mountain Day at UVU




Promoting Mountain Targets During UN Day at UVU

On October 24th, 2017 students from Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs from Utah Valley University (UVU) participated at the celebration of the United Nations Day while promoting sustainable mountain targets. The event was hosted by the UVU Office of Global Engagement with a particular focus on the meaning and importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Attending the event were UIMF, National Security Club, Foreign Affairs Club, Model UN Club, UNICEF Club, ENACTUS initiative of the UVU Woodbury School of Business, and representatives from the UVU Office of Global Engagement. Students, through engaged learning approach interacted, were very pleased to see the level of activity and engagement from all the UVU students and faculty in learning how to work towards the implementation of 17 United Nations SGDs and 169 targets

Poster about UIMF members contribution to the adoption of the mountain targets among SDGs during 2013-2015.

The event went on from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. to allow for the maximum amount of UVU student and faculty engagement. UIMF members were excited to be engaged with those who came to the event to explain mountain targets role among the UN SDGs. They also explained how the United Nations Mountain Partnership Secretariat, a subunit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations coordinates globally activities of numerous institutions and NGOs, including UVU  with focus on Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations. UIMF members contributed to the campaign to adopt mountain targets among SDGs by the United Nations during 2013-2015. Jesler Molina, former UIMF President also informed the audience how he was able, with his peers, to participate at campaign and even make a statement during the sixth session of the United Nations Open Working Group on SDGs in December 11, 2013. UIMF members were happy, when in September 25-27, 2015 the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development adopted SDGs three mountain targets were included among them.

(L to R) Andre Jones, UIMF member, discusses with Derek Garfield, Vice President, UIMF, and Dylan Genes, President, Foreign Affairs Club, initiatives at UVU to implement mountain targets as part of SDGs.

UIMF also showcased student projects that are important to sustainable mountain development. Derek Garfield, a Vice President of UIMF, presented his project about Sami indigenous communities in Scandinavian states and how new challenges like climate change have an impact on their livelihoods. It is one of the goals of UIMF to push for students to have a platform to present their projects, therefore it was very exciting to have Mr. Garfield in attendance to further educate students about his project as an example of both to be engaged with the United Nations Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) Agenda and to inspire other students to do research based on their professional interests.

     (L to R) Lacee Meyer, Vice President UIMF, Derek Garfield, Vice President UIMF, Matthew Rands, President UIMF, (behind) Dylan Genes, President Foreign Affairs, (front) Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO/Vice-Rector of UVU’s Office of Global Engagement during the UN Day at UVU

Dylan Genes, the President of Foreign Affairs, a club under the umbrella of UIMF, played a big role in the event as he was able to stay for the entirety of the event and take time to talk to each individual that showed interest in the 17 SDGs and how mountain target fit among them. He stated that “UN day at UVU proved to be an enlightened and fulfilling experience for participating clubs and members alike, including myself. I strongly feel that reaching out and engaging in dialogue has helped not only the students learn about our initiatives with focus on UN SMD agenda, but helped club members grow in defining mission goals.” Dylan highlighted the very nature and initiatives of UIMF to engage students in the initiatives for UN sustainable mountain development while also creating dialogue with different demographic groups among them by providing them great opportunities for professional growth and advancement.

Rebecca Bindraban contributed to the event by informing students about her work as co-editor of the “Youth and the Mountains” Journal, which publishes student research papers with focus on SMD and implementation of the mountain targets since 2013. She stated that “The UN Day at UVU was significant because it showcased the UIMF activities and the clubs in coalition with the UIMF. It shined a spot light on the important issues with focus on SMD each club is trying to perpetuate along with supporting an open forum to talk with students about the clubs. During the event, I talked to several students about UIMF initiatives and goals, promoting mountain communities, and it was a great because it provided a forum to have a casual open conversation. By talking to different students, the UIMF’s goals and issues were discussed, and students learned about our clubs and opportunities they have in the future to get engaged.”

UIMF hopes to continue to work towards the SDGs, with a specific goal of implementation of mountain targets. On December 4th, 2017 UIMF will have another opportunity to do that by hosting an event in celebration of the United Nation’s International Mountain Day. It is an honor to work with the United Nations in reaching these initiatives and UIMF hopes to continue to work also towards the implementation of UN Post-2015 and towards the UN 2030 agendas.

Lacee Meyer, Vice President, UIMF


FAO and MP about event


Task list


Photos from the event




Lacee Meyer: Event announcement


Dylan Genes: UN day at Utah Valley University focuses on sustainable development goals


Rebecca Bindraban: advocating mountain targets through student academic research 


Andre Jones: United Nations Day at Utah Valley University focuses on sustainable development goals


Derek Garfield: United Nations info fair at Utah Valley University


Mary Cisneros: Reflections of my undergraduate years at Utah Valley University



UIMF and UN NGOs discuss how to advocate for mountain women globally


The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) hosted representatives of several NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for brainstorming sessions on October 2nd, 2017.  Main discussions took place during a round table titled: “Joint Advocacy of Mountain Women and Agenda at the United Nations.”

The overall goal of the event was to unify efforts from both local and international NGOs, along with UVU students and faculty in order to raise awareness of mountain sustainability issues; particularly issues regarding women of the mountains. Efforts will be presented in March 2018 at the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) at UN headquarters, New York. UIMF members have participated at the CSW60 in 2016 and CSW61 in 2017, which helped them to gain knowledge and experience to better contribute to the agendas of the highest gender-related UN forum in a professional way. As a result, they are determined to accomplish one of three activities during CSW62 next year: 1) make a statement during the general discussions; 2) host a side event together with one of the mountain countries, or; 3) host a parallel event together with NGOs accredited under the UN.

The local focus of UIMF efforts is to involve students in activities at the UN through the student engaged learning. This approach allows members of the UIMF and affiliated clubs an opportunity to apply academic knowledge gained in studies to real world situations. Being a student led organization, faculty only provides them advice when students will absolutely need it. It became a tradition for the UIMF since 2011 to host foreign dignitaries and ambassadors of nations accredited to the UN or US at UVU. Every aspect during their visits to UVU is entirely student planned and executed.

As president of the UIMF, I was afforded the opportunity to direct planning and delegate tasks to club members. In preparing for last week’s activities, students prepared the agenda and task list for assignments. This included printing brochures and other materials, contacting media, executing protocol, logistics and moderating sessions with VIP-guests among others. UIMF members usually are able to take into account their professional background in choosing assignments from the developed task list. They are then afforded room in deciding on how to carry out the work.

As part of agenda, UIMF members invited and hosted Dr. Andrew Taber and Dr. Jed Shilling from the Mountain Institute (TMI), from Washington, D.C., an NGO accredited under UN. They coordinated between departments at UVU a fundraising campaign to bring the VIP guests and accommodate them. Students also reached out to NGOs from Utah to join invited scholars and discuss a strategy on how to present the mountain women cause at the UN level in successful way. Having experience moderating discussions with previous UIMF activities to host VIP-guests, I was given the opportunity to moderate this discussion. The student engaged learning model has built my confidence in the presence of professionals to where I too, as a student, felt professional when moderating this event. UVU faculty have also assisted us, students in building professionalism to where they could effectively plan and partner with the UN officials, diplomats and civil societies groups leaders on the international level. Examples of this professional growth can be seen when students attended CSW60 and CSW61 and discussed with Permanent Representatives to the UN of different mountain nations on ways to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to mountain targets. Thus, the success of the UIMF activities in this particular case was based on the hard work and coordination between students and diplomats and experts on gender issues during three years.

UIMF members during the meeting of Dr. Lago with VIP-guests

At the beginning of the day’s activities we arranged a meeting between Dr. Lago, CIO and Vice Rector for Global Engagement at UVU and Dr. Taber and Dr. Shilling. The visiting guests were able to get acquainted with Dr. Lago and had preliminary discussions of the agenda’s activities. As the meeting continued, the discussion turned to future plans in regard to the UN and how UVU, UIMF, and TMI will benefit from the joint activities.  Dr. Lago stated that on November 17th, 2017, UVU will officially become an associated member at the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). The initiative will be called UVUN and a channel from UVU to the UN will be created. This will assist the UIMF members in particular in advocating on topics of mountain sustainability. In addition, Dr. Lago has reached out to the mayor of Salt Lake City about hosting a UN summit in Utah in 2019. It is expected that 15,000 NGOs will attend this event and the UN Secretary General will be in attendance as well. Dr. Taber saw the benefit that could come from this event. He stated that “Mountain environments are neglected and need international response, but the 2019 event should bring [Mountain] issues to the front.” It was discussed that now the U.S. is not part of the Mountain Partnership (MP), which facilitates the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda. Thus, this event will provide an opportunity for the state of Utah to possibly join the MP and lead by example, raising awareness for mountain causes, eventually inspiring other mountainous states in the U.S. to join. This plan will be a great opportunity for UIMF, UVU, and MP efforts to be highlighted and draw attention to mountain sustainability issues.

Attending the round table event in order of presentation were Dr. Baldomero Lago, and four individuals representing different NGOs in consultative status with the ECOSOC: Dr. Jed Shilling, TMI; Dr. Andrew Taber, TMI; Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences; and Mrs. Wendy Jyang, President of the Utah-China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands and Development and Commerce (FISH D&C), NGO from Salt Lake City, Utah. The discussion began with Dr. Lago announcing that UVU students and faculty can become more internationally involved through the new program of partnership between UVU and UN DPI called UVUN. Students now see a more clear vision of how UVU and the UIMF will interact with the UN.

Dr. Taber helped reinforce the need for initiatives such as that presented by Dr. Lago. He  stated that as part  of the discussion, presenters supported the idea that states within the U.S. become members of the MP, which facilitates the UN sustainable mountain development agenda. The need for international response is imperative. The mountain areas of the world are facing unique problems. Some examples include the emigration of men to find work in other countries which leaves ½ of women to farm for their families. Unorganized road construction creates landslide hazards which are easily preventable. These issues can be solved with international efforts and assistance.

Dr. Jed Shilling  in his presentation outlined the importance of the mountains for the world communities and the mountain women as well. Many of the states in the U.S. do not care enough about mountain issues such as the allocation of water, even though all states depend on runoff water from mountain regions. Dr. Shilling told students that his wife Dr. Jane Pratt was the driving force of change in mountain areas and has contributed to the preservation on wildlife while keeping sustainable mountain development.

Dr. Rusty Butler informed audience how his NGO, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences assisted UVU and UIMF in promotion of gender and SMD agendas since 2008. His NGO is in a unique position as it has general consultative status with the UN ECOSOC. This, for example, has helped UIMF students to get into the U.N. during previous CSW events. During his presentation he made two recommendations. 1) the engaged learning model at UVU be shared with other universities. UVU is the first university in Utah to put students on an international level. As the profile of the UIMF and UVUN grows, students will have even more opportunities and a higher profile of professionalism to advocate for SMD. 2) The need to reach out to more NGOs to further the SMD Agenda. As a retired Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, Dr. Butler has seen the success that the UVU model of engaged learning has had on the international level.

Ms. Wendy Jyang, gave a similar presentation targeted at the non-traditional student engagement with the UN. Non-traditional students are those that may work in professional jobs, have families, or attend school at a later age. She told them to “follow their heart” in doing what is right. She mentioned her story of being born in Taiwan and the struggles faced by many she discovered in China. Her efforts have helped Utah in creating assistance to the Chinese people and a friendship between the two sides.

Participants of the round table agreed to work jointly on advocating mountain women during both CSW62 and at the UN in general by using different forums, while focusing on the implementation of the mountain targets among UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).  Other events during the visit included a lunch with the guests and UVU faculty where UIMF members continued conversation about mountain women advocacy at the UN. It is also a tradition now at UVU for students to join faculty during lunches with dignitaries and both to build close ties with VIP guests and to contribute conversation in an informal environment. Students continued to converse with Dr. Taber and Dr. Shilling as they gave the guests tours around UVU and the Provo area.

Group photo after the round table

The success of the UIMF rests on student engagement. It is through the engaged learning model that students grow in professionalism and facilitate meetings that involve real world situation. In this case, students were able to assist in forming a unified plan with local NGOs and the members of the MP. Next year, UIMF students would be able to present this plan at the CSW62 by both raising the professional profile of the Utah International Mountain Forum members and contributing to the implementation of the UN SDG#5 on gender with focus on mountain women.

Matthew Rands, President, Utah International Mountain Forum


Agenda                       Brochure                   Task List


MPS and FAO-UN about the event


UVU press release about round table


Video from the event         Photos from the event




Pasang Sherpa: Announcement about round table


Lacee Meyer: Student engaged learning experiences about mountain women advocacy at the UN


Derek Garfield: report: engaged learning between UIMF and Mountain Partnership NGOs


Jenny Hoppie: Making a Difference Where I Stand



Mark Wait: Learning how to advocate for mountain women at the United Nations


William Gum: Why it is important to advocate mountain women and their cause globally


Andre Jones: UVU students advocate for mountain women at the United Nations


Jordan Ramos: Review of the round table for joint advocacy of the mountain women at the UN


Logan Perfili: We need to advocate for mountain women 


Patrick Larkin: Insreasing awareness of the geographic problems facing women in the mountains


Kymberlee Anderson: Utah International Mountain Forum and advocacy of mountain women at UN


Evelyn Alpizar: Summary of the women of the mountain’s round table at UVU


Skyler Barton: Joint advocacy of the mountain women and agenda at the United Nations roundtable


Chalis Myers: How to advocate for mountain women



Club Rush at Utah Valley University

Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) (, a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) had another opportunity to promote goals of the coalition, to recruit new members from UVU students and raise funds by participating at traditional student club rush on September 12-13, 2017. The event allowed also for the three core clubs of coalition – foreign affairs club, UIMF club and sustainable mountain development club to meet with forward thinking students and future leaders in their field alike.

In order to participate at club rush, our clubs were required to get registered by recruiting each of them at least six member and identifying their president from one of the experienced students. This year the club requirements were changed substantially with the aim to provide students with more independence and self-rule: faculty, who previously served as advisors and helped to manage many club activities including finances, now have to be in role of mentors only and allow students maximum freedom with their activities.

Matt Rands, UIMF President and Pasang Sherpa, UIMF member during the club rush

After satisfying requirements with registration and being accepted as participants of the club rush, members of our three clubs prepared necessary materials, posters, brochures etc for the gathering. As one of the advantages of the coalition, we were able to combine our tables and work with student audience as one joint team.

Within the upbeat environment and beautiful weather, our booth proved successful in drawing in students from all backgrounds and nationalities with the clubs mission statement of raising awareness and the exchange information in mountainous regions.

Club members provided exciting opportunities for students to improve themselves, as well as the world around them through coalition of clubs initiatives and activities with focus on promotion of the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations in the state of Utah and globally such as hosting the international Women of the Mountains conferences or celebrating the United Nations International Mountain days at UVU. Club members made it a point to engage idle passerby’s in dialogue, invoking critical thought and analysis of pertinent issues. Aiming to target not only students in the field, but those that are not as well.

We found that it was vital to inform said students on the importance of their role accompanied with their particular skill sets, whether it be computer science or even health science, their skill sets are cherished and valued in our determined efforts to raise awareness about promotion of sustainability among mountain communities and the model of economic development in Utah as one of the good examples to emulate and share.

Club Rush at UVU

We met a plenty of old friends as well as new faces this year and it is a pleasure to present to more than thirty students who expressed interest to join our activities the opportunities UIMF as a coalition of clubs has to offer to its members. We look forward to the work ahead of us this year and into the next, all while improving ourselves and others in the world today.

Dylan Genes, member, Foreign Affairs Club at UVU