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World Polio Day at UVU in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations

On Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract, in conjunction with the UVU Office of Global Engagement, held its first event of the semester. Rotaract is a member of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. UIMF is also a UVU chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). The event was a virtual commemoration for Rotary International’s World Polio Day, dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. UVU students, as well as members of Orem Rotary, who sponsored the event, watched event via a YouTube livestream video. Those presenting at the event were invited to attend in-person at 12:00 pm at room 206a of UVU’s Sorensen Center.

Presenters during the World Polio Day commemoration at UVU

 Rotaract is the student organization of Rotary International (RI). RI is an international organization founded in 1905. Since its founding, RI has grown to over one-million members worldwide. Individual RI clubs exist all over the globe. Each club is actively involved in humanitarian and other service efforts in their local communities and around the world. 

Rotaract at UVU has existed on-campus since in 2017.  UVU Rotaract implemented a student-engaged learning (SEL) model to create, organize, and execute the event. Through SEL Rotaractors gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of local and global communities as a group with a faculty serving them as a mentor. In order to execute the World Polio Day event and gain professional skills, UVU Rotaract created a task list, whereon students could sign up for and provide help for the event. UVU Rotaract Vice President Albeny Singh reached out to local leaders in the community, and through that correspondence secured the speakers for the event. Jose Coreas, UVU Rotaract Secretary, collected biographies of the speakers to be used in the event’s brochure. New Rotaract member Jessica Hair attended the event on-campus and acted as the event photographer. Sam Elzinga, Utah International Mountain Forum President, provided UVU masks as part of the special gift for each presenter. As president of UVU Rotaract, I had the opportunity to create an event poster, coordinate with the UVU Office of Global Engagement, moderate and present at the event.

RI has contributed greatly to the eradication of Polio. From raising funds to providing vaccines to children in remote locations throughout the world, RI has helped eradicate 99% of Polio. From 350,000 cases in 1985 to now only 29 cases left in the world, Rotary continues these efforts.

At the event, four members of the local community presented on their fields of expertise. The speakers were, in order: Dr. Baldomero Lago, Yana Andersen, Dr. Scott Leckman, and Dr. Dean Robinson.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, VP for Global Engagement at UVU speaks about United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The first speaker at the event, Dr. Lago of the UVU Office of Global Engagement emphasized the importance of international cooperation through non-governmental organizations. He explained the United Nations’ Seventeen Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs), and praised Rotary International’s paramount efforts in achieving these goals. He highlighted SDG number three, health and wellness. Through Rotary’s efforts to eradicate Polio, they’ve contributed directly to that goal.

Yana Andersen, UVU Rotaract President speaks at the event

As the second speaker, I was able to speak on the background of Rotary and Rotaract. I discussed the contributions UVU Rotaract has made to promote both the six Rotary Goals as well as the UN SDGs. I highlighted past UVU Rotaract contributions to the UN agenda, including their presentation at the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Next March, UVU Rotaract will return back for the 64th UN CSW to present research on the model that Rotary provides on an international and local level for effective community engagement. This model can be used to improve the lives of women and girls in mountain communities, in order to prove their quality of life. This model will focus on contributing to SDGs three, five, and six.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to connect with our main presenter, Dr. Scott Leckman, via Zoom. Dr. Leckman is a former Utah District Rotary Governor, and has been involved personally with eradicating Polio. He presented on the several trips he has taken to India to personally administer oral vaccines. Since 1985, yearly polio cases went from 350,000 per year, to only 29 cases in the world. Rotary International continues to raise funds and provide vaccinations to children.

Dr. Scott Leckman, former Utah District Rotary Governor speaks via Zoom

Dr. Leckman then received questions from students interested in joining Rotaracts, and offered an invitation for students to attend the Utah Rotary World Polio Day event on Saturday, October 24th. His presentation was informative and inspirational and provided such meaningful context for the incredible efforts of Rotary International to make the world a safer place for all to live in.

Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary president speaks during the event

Our final presenter was Dean Robinson, current Orem Rotary president. Dr. Robinson presented on the history of Rotary’s inception, its connection to the United Nations, and reported on the contributions Utah Rotary has had in performing service and making an indispensable difference in Utah communities. He highlighted that Salt Lake City Rotary was created in 1911, several years after RI was established by Paul Harris in 1905.  In the last year, Utah Rotary has contributed over 34,000 hours of service by over 8,000 members.

UVU Rotaract is deeply grateful for the efforts of the presenters, as well as for the Orem Rotary for sponsoring the event. UVU Rotaract looks forward to working on future events, and is committed to continuing to promote Rotary goals and the UN SDGs, in order to create communities of peace and well-being for all.

Yana Andersen

UVU Rotaract President







Scott Leckman

Yana Andersen



Kaden Smart- Rotaract Polio Activity

Utah Valley University Rotaract Meeting With District Rotaract Chair

On October 10, 2020 Utah Valley University’s Rotaract Club had the opportunity to meet with Martha Velasco, the District Rotaract Chair via Zoom. Martha was able to speak with us about the importance of getting everyone in our club registered with My Rotary. We made a goal to get all of our members enrolled as well as making sure our advisor and president are listed correctly. We also talked about working on recruiting new members and increasing our club status.

Yana AndersEn, Utah Valley University’s Rotaract Club President

Ms. Velasco then told us about the amazing opportunity Rotaract members have to virtually participate in the Big West Rotaract Conference. Big West Rotaract Foundation is an organization that trains students in leadership in the Western U.S. that is formed by Rotaract and Rotary clubs in the area. These clubs have been collaborating since 2010, but the foundation wasn’t founded until 2015. The conference takes place from Thursday, November 12 to Saturday, November 14. The conference will feature presenters from both inside and outside of Rotary who will speak on many Rotary topics.

Martha Velasco, District Rotaract Chair

After that, we were able to speak with our club about the upcoming World Polio Day that Rotaract is organizing on October 21. We talked about finalizing our key speakers which include; Dr. Baldomero Lago, the Chief International Officer at UVU’s Office of Global Engagement, Dr. Scott Leckman, the Utah Rotary Governor, and Mr. Dean Robinson, the President Elect of Orem Rotary. We discussed the coming up sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. We talked about Rotaract’s contribution and statement regarding it. Ms. Velasco was able to talk with us and give very insightful information regarding these events. Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to meet with Ms. Velasco and our Rotaract Club here at Utah Valley University.

Albeny Singh, Utah Valley University Rotaract member

Orem Rotary Video Call With Senator Mitt Romney

Zoom call with Senator Mitt Romney

On Wednesday, April 15th, 2020, The Orem Rotary Club hosted U. S. Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, for their weekly luncheon.

Rotary International is “a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.” More than 35,000+ Rotary International clubs globally work together to: 1) Promote peace; 2) Fight disease; 3) Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; 4) Save mothers and children; 5) Support education; and 6) Grow local economies.

Orem Rotary is one such club, located in northern Utah.  With a long history of community outreach, service, and humanitarian efforts, Orem Rotary is a staple of community engagement in the area. Orem Rotary also assists in the efforts of Utah Valley University Rotaract, a partner in this event. “Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18-30 to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. In communities worldwide, Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service”. Utah Valley University Rotaract extended the invitation to Senator Romney, as well as planned the logistics of the meeting. Senator Romney was happy to accept UVU Rotaract’s invitation to speak at the Orem Rotary club’s weekly luncheon.

 Due to the current environment, social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the luncheon was held virtually, and Senator Romney participated via Zoom call, as did the other club members. He expressed his appreciation and excitement for the opportunity to gather with Rotarians from across Utah county. Rotarians from the Orem club, Provo club, Lehi club, as well as others attended the virtual luncheon. Clark Merkley, Orem Rotary Club President, moderated the event.

After receiving the floor, Senator Romney began to address various concerns regarding the current pandemic, a topic that many of the attending Rotarians expressed interest in. Among many things, Senator Romney expressed his appreciation for the efforts shown by the public through enduring the pandemic, “I know people are really suffering. But people are hunkering down and facing it with as positive of an attitude as they possibly can”.

Senator Romney continued his comments by addressing the critical role of NGOs during this time of crisis. Senator Romney commented that the ability of organizations, such as Rotary, to quickly identify those in need, organize, and provide the necessary relief was something that government could not compete with. He congratulated Rotary for its effectiveness in global service, especially in the local communities.

With the current pandemic taking its toll on the local economies, Senator Romney discussed the urgent need for communities to reach out to local businesses and business owners who may be feeling afraid and isolated. He urged those with business experience to share advice on how to weather these conditions with those who are struggling. Senator Romney also took the time to explain some of the government programs that have begun as a result of the pandemic. Rotarians joining the event asked follow-up questions regarding this topic.

            In closing, Senator Romney left a simple message to the Rotarians. The message was for everyone to strive to aid those in their immediate surroundings. With so many people becoming overwhelmed with the expansive, global concerns resulting from the pandemic, many are losing heart. To this Senator Romney encouraged those attending that, if everyone would place their efforts on those things that are close to them, then it would make a difference.

            Orem Rotary and Utah Valley University Rotaract were grateful for the time that Senator Romney gave. As an organization that seeks to draw humanity closer, Rotary is always looking for opportunities to work with government leaders for the betterment of our communities. Utah Valley University Rotaract was also grateful for the kindness and speed to which Senator Romney’s senate office accepted the speaking invitation.

Kyle Warren, President, UVU Rotaract

Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy

Events poster

A round table at Utah Valley University on March 10, 2010 titled Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy highlighted the unique partnership Utah shares with Morocco.

In coordination with the Office for Global Engagement, Center for National Security Studies, and the Utah International Mountain Forum, I had the pleasure of welcoming to Utah Valley University. Hon. Consul Dr. Keith W.Martin, retired Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, Lieutenant-Colonel Dustin Carroll, and a Department of Defense representative, native Moroccan Ms. Fatima Taki. Each person brought their unique perspective on the relationship between Morocco and Utah by highlighting the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program (SPP) and its effectiveness in advancing US interests in security, sustainable development, and promotion of democratic values globally. The event educated on the State Partnership Program, the objectives and outcomes of the program, and more closely analyzed the relationship Utah has built with Morocco, highlighting progress, developments, challenges, and benefits since the program’s inception.

Event audience at Utah Valley University

I opened the event by addressing the question on many students’ minds, why Utah and Morocco? To many it seems haphazard and random as to why there would be such strong relationships between a state in the Western US and a country in Africa. However, as was highlighted by the presentations, both Utah and Morocco have strong similarities and relevant practices, from which we can learn from one another to help set us up for a path to sustainable development in the 21st century. For one, Morocco, with the Atlas range traversing the country, and Utah, adjacent to the Wasatch Range, are both mountain communities with many similar climactic regions. Utah, like Morocco, has a burgeoning youth population, which according to the World Bank is a vital source of growth, innovation, and productivity. (Utah has the largest percentage of youth over the population 0-24 in the US, and Morocco has a 10% share of the entire youth in the MENA.) And like Utah, Morocco has a strong history of interfaith cooperation and peace. Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential.

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin speaks about Utah-Morocco Partnership

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin opened the event and spoke about the longstanding relationship between the US and Morocco. He emphasized how Morocco was the first country to recognize the independent United States of America. He also highlighted some of the cultural aspects that make Morocco unique. He shared with us his lifetime of experiences interacting with Moroccans and the potential opportunities that Utah students can take advantage of today, such as study abroad programs or service projects between Utah and Morocco.

Major General Burton (retired) during the panel presentation

Next Major General Burton (retired) spoke to us about the State Partnership Program (SPP), a Department of Defense initiative. He has years of experience implementing the program between the Utah National Guard (NG) and Morocco as head of the Utah NG. He emphasized how much the program is able to do with its minimal budget. The purpose of the program is create stronger relationships between our country and other nations—this builds trust and helps the US maintain security worldwide by having allies in hotspot regions.

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carrol speaks during the panel session

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carroll, who currently oversees the SPP for the Utah NG, highlighted some of the benefits Utah has seen as a result of the partnership. For example, this program has an exchange component where Utah NG youth family members can do an exchange, where they spend time in Morocco with a Moroccan family, and then the same family sends a Moroccan youth to Utah. This helps them learn about their similarities and build strong relationships. Additionally, the NG benefits from the joint operations and training that the program implements in Morocco.

Ms. Fatima Taki during the event

Ms. Fatima Taki was our last presenter. We were especially honored by her attendance because she is a native Moroccan and currently works in the National Guard department in Washington D.C. She gave unique insight on how Morocco has benefited from the SPP, such as increased security in the region with US support, upgrading in their own military through joint operations and training, in addition to the humanitarian efforts that have helped rural Moroccan communities.

After the presentations, there was a panel discussions and questions were fielded from the audience. The panel was started with a few questions addressing of the role of the SPP in pandemic preparedness, as well as a question pertaining to how the SPP has helped rural mountain communities, and women in particular, to sustainably develop their communities. Students questioned the specialists on issues of security in the Western Sahara and sought advice on how one could pursue a career in sustainable development in an African context.

Students – hosts of the event with panel presenters

What makes this event particularly unique was the student engaged learning model that Utah Valley University emphasizes. As a student I spearheaded this project because of my interest in Morocco and the greater Maghreb. In fact, Lt. Col. Carroll thought I was an employee and was shocked to learn that I was an undergraduate student. I organized a student committee to make all of the preparations and worked with our university departments to find sponsorship and resources to make this event a success. As a result, we were able to find event space, provide a luncheon and thank you gifts, and the Department of Defense generously covered the travel costs for our invited guests. Each student on the committee was directly involved in coordinating the event, from presenting bios, to filming, to advertising. It was a collaborated effort of engaged students that I was able to lead. 

 Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential. The close relationship between our great state and the Kingdom of Morocco will only stand to better prepare Utahns and Moroccans alike for the decades to come as our youth enter the work force and innovate for a better world.

            Jon Downs, UVU Student, Political Science, emphasis Global Politics and National Security Studies



Keith Martin Jefferson Burton

Dustin Carroll Fatima_Taki



Lieutenant-Colonel Dustin Carroll

Dr. Keith W.Martin

Ms. Fatima Taki



Sarah Michaelis-Contributing to the Partnership Between Utah and Morocco


Hazim Alshanbari-Distinguished Guests Present on Utah and Morocco’s Strong Partnership


Ethan Elzinga-Helping Build a Strong Relationship Between Utah and Morocco


Andrew Tschirki-The Significant Relationship Between Utah and Morocco


UVU Rotaract and United Nations 75th Anniversary

On Monday March 2, 2020, Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract in junction with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), and the UVU Office for Global Engagement hosted a panel in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The event was hosted from 10:30-11:30AM (MST) in the Liberal Arts Building (LA) 116. “UVU and the United Nations 75th Anniversary” was open to all interested members of the community.

Kyle Warren, UVU Rotaract President moderated the event

Rotaract is the student organization of Rotary International which is an international organization founded in 1905. Since its founding, Rotary has grown to over one-million members worldwide. Individual Rotary clubs exist all over the globe. Each club is actively involved in humanitarian and other service efforts in their local communities and around the world. Rotaract, Rotary’s student branch is comprised of individuals whose ages range from eighteen to thirty. These student branches are also found all over the world, the first one being formed in 1968. UVU Rotaract is also a member of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU to promote the United Nations sustainable mountain development agenda in the state of Utah and North America.

The main event of UVU and the United Nations 75th Anniversary was a panel consisting of five individuals from the local community. The panelists were selected from among UVU faculty, as well as local NGOs: Dr. Baldomero Lago, Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham, Dr. Ryan Vogel, Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, and Clark Merkley. Each Panelists focused on a different aspect of the United Nations, with subjects ranging from the history of the UN to the effects of the UN in our local communities. The current efforts of local groups in reaching for the UN 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) were also discussed. Kyle Warren, President of the hosting organization, UVU Rotaract, moderated the panel. As the panelists concluded remarks, we then turned the time over to the audience for a period of questions and answers.

Dr. Baldomero Lago Speaks about UN -UVU Partnership

The fist panelist to speak was Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO for UVU Global Engagement. Dr. Lago works with many international organizations. He serves as the Honorary Consul of Spain for Utah and was awarded the title of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Civil Merit by King Phillip VI of Spain. Dr. Lago spoke on Utah Valley University’s involvement with the United Nations and how the University interacts with the UN. He made remarks about how UVU was able to help coordinate the recent civil society conference which was held in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2019. In addition to the past civil society conference, Dr. Lago talked about how UVU held its very first high school model UN conference, as well as the upcoming global Civil Society Conference being planned for August of 2021 on sustainable development being held at Utah Valley University.

Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham during round table at UVU

Following Dr. Lago, Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham addressed the audience. Dr. Cockerham, Associate Professor of Political Science and UVU, received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Arizona with a specialization in international relations. Dr. Cockerham took the time to explain the history of the United Nations, including its origins in the League of Nations as well as other important aspects of its history.

Professor Ryan J. Vogel Speaks about United Nations reform

Our third panelist was Professor Ryan J. Vogel, founding director of the Center for National Security Studies at UVU. Dr. Vogel served at the Pentagon as a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dr. Vogel spoke to the audience regarding the United Nations Security Council. He expressed the reasons behind its formation and its current functions in todays international political environment. Among other points mentioned, he explained past efforts as well as current ideas of expanding the UN security council and the plausibility of these efforts. Dr. Vogel had the chance to expand on these subjects during a period of Q&A after the conclusion of the panel.

Mr. Clark Merkley, President of Orem Rotary during round table

Clark Merkley, Executive Director of BootUP PD, then addressed the audience. Clark currently serves as President of the Orem Rotary Club, a local branch of Rotary International. Clark spoke from a different perspective then most of the other panelists, from the perspective of the NGOs. He described the United Nations role in working with NGOs and providing a forum where they are able to gather together and discuss global issues and efforts. A key point mentioned by Clark is that Rotary has been involved with the United Nations since its creation 75 years ago. Rotary has also recently commented on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations saying that it was intending to continue its partnership into the future.

Our final speaker was Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, former ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States and Canada from 1997 to 2005, and member of the Kyrgyz Parliament from 1995 to 2000. Dr. Abdrisaev spoke on aspects of Utah’s mountainous living and the United Nations commitment to sustainable mountain development. The Utah International Mountain Forum, under the mentorship of Dr. Abdrisaev, has continued over the course of several year to promote sustainable mountain development as an agenda item at the UN. This effort has led to increased international awareness toward mountain communities, a population generally overlooked in global politics. Dr. Abdrisaev spoke about Utah’s model of sustainable mountain development being an excellent model for international implementation, something that UIMF as well as UVU Rotaract, in combination with other local partners, intends to present on in a parallel event at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, being held in New York later this month.

UVU Students in the Audience

UVU Rotaract is committed to continued efforts with the United Nations. As a club, we were happy to extend our efforts toward educating the student body and attending faculty on the subject of international collaboration between such political bodies and other NGOs. As a member of UIMF, Rotaract is also committed to continued efforts with local organizations for the advancement of the sustainable mountain development agenda. We look forward to future events in which we may demonstrate our commitment to these causes through active participation.

Kyle Warren, UVU Rotaract President


Front side

Back side




Dallas Karren-UVU Celebrates 75 Years of United Nations


Yana Andersen-UVU Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the UN through Engaged Learning


Jose Coreas-Rotaract hosted UN 75th anniversary event at UVU


Kelly Roark-75th Anniversary of the United Nations commemorated at UVU


Reviewing UIMF Preparations for Mountain Women Advocacy at CSW64

On March 17-20, 2020, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University, will participate in the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) in New York City to advocate for women and girls living in mountainous communities globally, as well as highlight how Utah Valley University’s (UVU) developed student engaged learning model (SEL) constitutes best practices for empowering youth and other learners to contribute to implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

CSW64 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, considered by many to be the first comprehensive global agreement on gender equality. The priority theme of CSW64 is to assess the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and how to fully realize gender equality as part of the 2030 Agenda.

Given the priority theme and in continuance of its important advocacy of sustainable mountain development (SMD) topics, the delegation’s goals for CSW64 are to:

  • 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 titled “Mountain Women Empowerment Through the Inclusive Student-Engaged Learning Model” under co-sponsorship of 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.

Along with sponsorship of 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)—two NGOs under consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)—the delegation includes for the first time 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 various stakeholders, including UVU and other Utah academic institutions.

Since the fall of 2019, UIMF members have worked closely with Mr. Uday Teki, founder and CEO of Project Work Groups, and other delegation members to make all preparations to attend CSW64 under SEL, which gives students the primary responsibility of solving problems related to SMD implementation by working together as a grout with faculty serving as mentors. Under SEL, the delegation has accomplished the following preparations:

  • Wrote and submitted with RANS, Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C, and Project Work Groups a written statement highlighting UIMF’s implementation of SEL to solve problems related to advocating for SMD, mountain communities and families, nontraditional students, and other sustainability issues. The statement was published by ECOSOC as official document E/CN.6/2020/NGO/91 on November 20, 2019;
  • Contacted permanent missions of various UN member states, including members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries, to have meetings about building a coalition within the UN system to ensure mountain women and girls are not neglected by the UN;
  • Set up continuing partnerships with UVU Rotaract, a student club sponsored by Rotary International, to address SMD issues locally, as well as the UVU Foreign Affairs Club, to mobilize student members of the delegation;
  • Contributed language about SMD, mountain communities, nontraditional learners, and SEL to the NGO Recommendation document for the priority theme of CSW64

Under SEL, the delegation is also finalizing plans for a parallel event mentioned above in order to share best practices related to advocating under SEL for mountain communities and families, empowering all learners—including nontraditional ones—to implement the 2030 Agenda under SDG target 4.7, as well as to highlight Utah as the best model for addressing local, regional, national, and global SMD issues.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President


UIMF delegation members/statements:

Samuel Elzinga, UIMF President

Jon Downs, Sustainable Mountain Development Club Vice President   

William Gum, Foreign Affairs Club Vice President

Michael Hinatsu, Foreign Affairs Club President

Mizuki Olivares, Foreign Affairs Club Vice President

Megan Raines, UVU Adjunct faculty, UIMF Alumni   

Bethany Raines, High school student

Kyle Warren, Rotaract Club President


UIMF delegation advisers:

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, lecturer, History and Political Science, UVU ; mentor, UIMF

Dr. Ross E “Rusty” Butler, RANS focal point at the United Nations

Ms. Wendy Jyang, founder, Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C

Mr. Uday Teki, Project Work Groups founder/CEO

Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard at UVU

Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard at Utah Valley University

On February 21, 2020, Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard came to Utah Valley University (UVU) to present her platform on which she is running for President. She was hosted by UVU History and Political Science Department and answered questions from mainly political science students. Mrs. Gabbard is a Hawaii Army National Guard major and is currently serving as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii’s second congressional district.

            One of the main points Mrs. Gabbard made during her speech is that she believes that one of the biggest problems in Washington D.C. right now is that politicians there have forgotten who they work for. They are more concerned with getting and keeping power instead of serving the people. One of the examples she used to prove this point was the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. People in Washington were so involved in the trial they forgot that most Americans had other, more pressing issues they were concerned about. She believes that politicians and people need to leave their partisanship at the door to make sure we have a government that is of, for, and by the people. We as the people need to use our power to vote and hold leaders accountable.

Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard speaks before UVU students

            After this, the floor opened to students in the audience to ask her questions. I think one of the most relevant questions that was asked was about speakers view on second amendment rights and how she differs from her running mates. VIP-guest said that we need to first encourage a dialogue so both sides can better see eye to eye. It is a complicated issue because some are worried about their rights getting taken away while other are more concerned about shootings and how to ensure that those who wish to do harm cannot obtain firearms. We need to be able to have a conversation and find a middle ground. 

            Another question that she addressed was her take on healthcare. Congresswoman Gabbard started with discussing the issue of our current medical industry that is very greed driven. From this we are seeing prices on many medical supplies continue to rise. Some say this is because research is expensive, but this isn’t the case for all medications and technology. Things like insulin, a drug many people need to live, had its patent sold for $1 yet now a single vial can cost people over $300. She said that she would push for a single payer plus plan loosely modeled after Australia. This would provide all Americans will healthcare while still giving people the freedom to choose different options. She also said that the country can save money by pushing for prevention of health issues through education and awareness.

Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard responds to student question

            One other question that was asked was how Congresswoman Gabbard would shift America from a culture of partisanship to compromise. She said the first thing she would do would be to invite leaders of Congress to the White House to talk. Nowadays whenever members of Congress go the white house it is a big deal and it is always scripted, not a real conversation. She said that her first years as a congresswoman was under a Republic majority, so people said she wouldn’t be able to get anything done. To try and overcome the barrier she asked her mother to make over 800 boxes of toffee for the members of Congress as well as staff. She also hand wrote notes. Because of this people from the Republican started to come up to her to thank her. Following this she was able to get things done and eventually pass a bill. She said that there needs to be a way for us to come together, treat each other with respect and have levelheaded discussions and debates.

            Finally, one other question she addressed that I found interesting was Congresswoman Gabbards’ perspective on cyber security threats coming both from China and Russia. She said that one problem is that our laws have not caught up with this threat. The government doesn’t know whose jurisdiction cyberattacks fall under and what the rules of engagement are. She also said that we need more people working within our government to protect and ensure us against threats. Many of the best people in the field are taken up into the private sector. We need to figure out a way to get these people to work for the government.

            Overall, I was very happy I had the opportunity to attend this advent. Congresswoman  Tulsi Gabbard was a candidate that I knew little about, so it was a great opportunity to hear her speak in person and see her view on issues that I and many other Americans are concerned about. One reason I think that she would make a great president is her background has given her a lot of experience that sets her apart from other candidates. Aside from serving in the National Guard, she is a woman, a Samoan-American, and the first Hindu member of U.S. Congress. I think these things give her a unique perspective that is becoming more important as the United States becomes increasingly diverse. I appreciate efforts of the UVU History and Political Science Department to arrange a presentation for us, students of such an important and interesting dignitary, which contributes to our professional advancement.

(Left to right) Jeff Hibbard, UVU student, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Megan Davis, UVU student

I had a brief opportunity to meet and take a picture with Congresswoman Gabbard. She was very nice and took time to stay and talk to all who wanted to meet her.

Jeff Hibbard, UVU student



Deseret News: Democrat Tulsi Gabbard Makes Campaign Stop in Utah to Share Hope to End War Unite Country


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Salt Lake Tribune – Tulsi Gabbard Brings Her Campaign to Utah ahead of Super Tuesday Vote



Megan Davis-Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Speaks to UVU Students


Jake Lamoreaux-Attending Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Event


Dallas Karren-Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Presents before UVU students


Yana Andersen-Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard at Utah Valley University


McKay Anderson-Tulsi Gabbard Presentation at UVU


Thomas Ulrich-Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Visit to UVU


Paige Laursen-Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Visits UVU


Anthony Jackson-Tulsi Gabbard and Working Across the Aisle


Miriam Funk-Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard With UVU Students


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


20-01-31-Albeny Singh-Rotaract Club Rush at Utah Valley University


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