Category Archives: 2014

UIMF Members at the National Prayer Breakfast and Advocating for the Gender Agenda in Washington, D.C.

UVU Delegation Attends National Prayer Breakfast and Promotes Women of the Mountain Conference

Utah Valley University delegation attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., February 3-5, 2015 under the invitation of the United States Congress. It included Jesler Molina, Andrew Allen, and Jared Reni, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF)–a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU); Dr. David Connelly, Chair, History and Political Science Department at UVU, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department at UVU.

Taking the opportunity of the visit to the capital of the United States, UVU students and faculty met with various NGO’s and governmental officials to discuss, and gain from them, support of the upcoming Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOM), which will be held at UVU in Orem in October 7-9, 2015. It was one more effort from UVU to maintain high level of commitment to the promotion of the sustainable mountain development agenda of the United Nations.


UVU Delegation Meeting at the American Councils for International Education

On Monday, February 2nd, 2015 the delegation started official program from the meeting at the American Councils for International Education’s (ACCELS), NGO which facilitates programs of language training and educational exchanges globally. ACCELS has contributed to the WOM conferences since 2007 by regularly sending scholars from mountain nations of Eurasia to make presentations on different aspects of the gender agenda in their respective countries. ACCELS joined the Mountain Partnership in 2010. Representatives of ACCELS expressed their interest to do so again this year with the possibility oftheir program in Kosovo.


UVU Delegates at the National Endowment for Democracy

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was the next institution for UVU to have a discussion about possible partnership under the umbrella of the WOM. NED was created in 1982 under President Reagan’s initiative to promote democracy around the world. The goal of the meeting for UVU was to spread the word through the network of NED partners about the WOM conference, and invite all interested institutions and individuals to submit their papers. NED representatives were impressed by the efforts of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU to involve high schools students into the WOM activities. They also recognized the annual Utah high school essay contests as a very impressive program of engagement by UVU students to the global activities, and the United Nations initiatives. NED spread the word about WOM through their network, and also arranged an additional meeting for the UVU delegation with their partner – Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). UIMF members learned great lessons about how the system of promoting democracy overseas works in a practical way.


Warm reception for the UVU delegation at UNA-USA-Headquarters

During the meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), the hosts shared main programs and initiatives with focus on promotion of the United Nations agenda in the United States. The UVU delegation expressed appreciation for being involved with the program of the Model U.N., which is promoted and sponsored by UNA-USA. The UVU delegation also shared experiences about promotion of the United Nations’ sustainable mountain development agenda in the western part of the United States, and their hosts in Washington, D.C. were very impressed by the achievements of UVU in that area. Both sides were then able to discuss a possibility of creating a chapter of UNA-USA at UVU’s campus due to the fact of a limited presence of UNA-USA in the rural areas of the United States, and in Utah in particular.

npb4 Meeting with a team from IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network

The final meeting on Monday took place with the International Republican Institute, who’s stated mission is to, “support the growth of political and economic freedom, good governance and human rights around the world by educating people, parties and governments on the values and practices of democracy.” Erika Veberyte, Director, Women’s Democracy Network at IRI hosted the meeting with the UVU delegation. It became immediately clear during the joint conversation that WDN’s goals coincide with the main priorities of the WOM Conference. The primary goal of the Women’s Democracy Network is to prepare women around the globe for leadership positions in politics and business. Both sides agreed to keep each other informed about progress in their efforts to promote gender agendas and activities.


On Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 the UVU delegation met with Dr. Andrew Taber, executive director of the Mountain Institute, William W. Beddow, Trustee, the Mountain Institute, and Dr. Jed Shilling, Trustee, the Millennium Institute, long time partners of UVU in their efforts to promote the sustainable mountain agenda throughout the world. The discussion was centered on future joint efforts from three institutions to promote mountain indicators among the SDGs, and post-2015 agenda of the United Nations. An important part of the discussion was focused on joint initiatives of the Mountain Institute and UVU in Central Asia, and how to find a proper approach in working with the State Department and U.S.A.I.D. on that matter.


After the Meeting at the State Department

The team from the Mountain Institute joined the UVU delegation during the next meeting at the State Department in addition to Alexey Semyonov, President of Andrei Sakharov Foundation. The State Department Bureau on South and Central Asian Affairs hosted a meeting and invited representatives from the Office of the Coordinator of Assistance to NIS, Bureau of Global Women’s Issues and Bureau of Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. During the meeting, the main request was made for them to use their huge international network to contact interested partners on the issues that will be discussed at the WOM conference. The UVU delegation also invited representative of the Bureau of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department to take part in the WOM conference.

The meeting with Ambassador John O’Keefe, executive director of the Open World Leadership Center, U.S. Library of Congress focused on the continuity and sustainability of the partnership between UVU and famous institutions in the nation’s capital established since 2007. The Open World program facilitates exchanges between countries of Eurasia and the United States by bringing to the USA judges, legislators, and educators among others. The UVU delegation explored chances of having a group of women from Eurasian nations during the WOM conference. However, response from Ambassador O’Keefe was diplomatic, and he explained that many things here will depend on the situation with the budget for this organization.

The final meeting on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 took place at the National Democratic Institute, which also promotes democracy and reforms around the world. The hosts highlighted several projects of NDI in Kyrgyzstan to train and motivate women to serve in government. NDI expressed an interest to contribute to the conference’s activities. It also proposed the idea of adding a mechanism, like Skype, for people to participate while they cannot be in Utah physically.


President Obama During The National Prayer Breakfast

On Wednesday and Thursday, UVU’s delegation attended the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB). This unique event is held every year on the first Thursday of February, in Washington D.C. since 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower was the first President of the United States to attend the NPB. Since that time, all U.S. Presidents attend the NPB and make a statement. The NPB, since the 1980’s, has been hosted at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue, NW. The event is comprised of a series of meetings during breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners which highlight the importance of building understanding and tolerance through religious dialogue. The event congregates leaders and members of various religious groups and affiliations as well as members of the U.S. Congress, the President of the United States in addition to guests from all around the world. This year the NPB was highlighted by the participation of the Dalai Lama, and the King of Jordan, who had to leave the event earlier due to the crisis with ISIS, in addition to many dignitaries from around the world.

npb8 The UVU Delegation during NPB

It was a great opportunity for the UVU delegates to not only to learn about the meaning of prayer, but also to get connected with many distinguished people.

During the the NPB, the UVU delegation had the opportunity to spend time with a delegation from Kyrgyzstan, represented by Mr. Emil Ajibekov, Commercial Director AYU Group, his wife Gulshan Tynystanova, Dr. Pierre Padiukov and his wife Olga Padiukov. The UVU delegation also met with US Ambassador Tony P. Hall, the Ambassador of Tajikistan to the United States, His Excellency Farhod Salim, and the Minister of Defense for the Republic of Macedonia Dr. Zoran Jolevski, among many others. All of them are good friends of UVU of many years, and to whom the UVU delegation extended invitations to participate at the WOM conference.

npb9Ambassador of Jordan Dr. Alia Hatoug Bouran and Jesler Molina

I also had the opportunity to personally approach the Ambassador of Jordan to the U.S., Her Excellency Dr. Alia Hatoug Bouran, first women ever to be part of the diplomatic body of Jordan, and invited her to visit Utah and make a presentation during the WOM conference at UVU.


UVU Delegates during the Meeting with Judge Thomas B. Griffith

On Thursday afternoon, February 5, 2015, the UVU delegation had the unique opportunity to meet with United States Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith. During the discussion, Judge Griffith asked what the UVU group was doing in Washington, D.C. He was also informed about the WOM conference, and both Jesler Molina and Andrew Allen extended an invitation to Judge Griffith’s wife, Susan Ann Stell Griffith to be a part of the organizing committee. The UVU delegates asked questions to the Judge about what in particular his role as the Judge of the Circuit District plays. The judge was very kind to patiently explain how he is mostly dealing with appeal cases against federal agencies. Judge Griffith was very helpful and willing to answer all the questions our students had.

On Friday morning, February 6, 2015, the UVU delegates had their last official meeting with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). This last meeting happened thanks to efforts of Miriam Lanskoy, Director of Programs for Eurasia for the National Democratic Endowment who was very kind to introduce UVU’s delegation to CIPE. CIPE officials made several suggestions and recommendations, and expressed interest to continue to work together in the future.

During these meetings, Jesler Molina was in charge of presenting the WOM Conference, while Andre Allen provided support answering concerns arose by the institution, and Jared Reni focused on asking about internship opportunities for UVU students. Dr. Connelly and Ambassador Abdrisaev provided support to the students through their advice, and highlighting UVU’s mission and role as an engaged learning institution.

The trip was very successful, both for the experiences gained by UVU students from interactions with many important people during the trip, and from its outcomes for the future contribution to the WOM conference. Now, UIMF will focus on following up on major agreements and commitments achieved during the meetings in order to successfully host the WOM conference on October 7-9, 2015.

Jesler Molina, President of UIMF


Receiving the Utah Valley University (UVU) delegation in Washington D.C. this February was truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The representatives were invited to participate at the National Prayer Breakfast, which was hosted by the members of the United States Congress on February 5, 2015. The delegation, led by Jesler Molina, President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, was composed of UIMF Editor Andrew Allen, as well as Dr. David Connelly, Chair, History and Political Science Department at UVU, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department at UVU. The delegation also included me, a graduating senior at Utah Valley University and Outreach Coordinator for the UIMF, tasked with the responsibility to both to help arrange meetings and follow up on our interactions with several entities in Washington, D.C.

Since moving here in August of 2014 to spend the final year of my undergrad in an engaged learning environment, I was able to intern in a number of NGO and government institutions in the nation’s capital. As a result, I have been fortunate to also take part in advancing UIMF relationships and advocating for the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference, to be hosted by UVU students on October 7-9, 2015 in Orem, Utah. Other undergrad programs around the country would surely have delegated this kind of responsibility to university faculty and staff. But at Utah Valley University, this has not been the case. Our faculty advisors, together with the Department of Political Science, have empowered us, the students, to take a leading role in every aspect of the organization, including both the conceptualization and execution of all initiatives. I have been a large beneficiary of this approach, as I have had the opportunity to participate in important meetings by building and maintaining relationships with our allies in Washington, D.C. in order to foster opportunities for future students. Not only do I see this as invaluable personal experience, but also as a way to give back to my fellow emerging UIMF students.


UVU Delegation during the Tour at the U.S. Capitol (L to R):Jared Reni, Dr. David Connelly and Jesler Molina

While the delegation was here in D.C., I was afforded the opportunity to meet with officials from a number of important non-profit and government organizations, including The National Endowment for Democracy, The United Nations Association of the United States of America, The Mountain Institute, The Library of Congress, and the State Department. Each one of these organizations were surprised to find that the students were taking a leading role in the conversation, and I believe that they were very impressed. Even though the focus of the meetings was to promote the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference, each one of the above mentioned organizations showed interest in receiving applications from our top UIMF students for internships. It is evident that the experiences that UIMF students are taking part in are catching the eyes of top employers in the non-profit and government sector in our nation’s Capital.

npb2Jared Reni (Third from the Right) after the meeting at United Nations Association of the United States in Washington, D.C.

I would like to say thank you to Utah Valley University for creating an environment for us to succeed, and to UIMF for being a true laboratory for UVU students to work on their professional skills and to gain truly unique experiences, creating networking opportunities and recognition on national and international levels. Looking forward, I will continue to do my best to stay engaged with our many partners in Washington, D.C. to do my part in making certain that Women of the Mountains will be a success. This will be the first time that the conference will be hosted by students, including UVU and other universities from the state and the rest of the Rocky Mountain region. Topics addressed will include Transmitting Family Values, Heritage & Culture; Education of Women & Children; Human Trafficking and Exploitation; Leadership for Women; and more. For more information on the conference, visit


Jared Reni, UIMF Outreach Coordinator

UVU Press Release:

Powerpoint Presentation:


UVU hosted a dignitary from Czech Republic


My Thoughts About Presentation of Michal Sedlacek, Consul General of Czech republic

On Tuesday January 27th 2015, our comparative politics class was privileged to hear from the Czech Republic’s Consul General, Michal Sedlacek. We had the opportunity to hear him discuss the current progress in the Czech Repulic and some of the steps they are taking to improve the lives of the Czech citizens and ideas they are hoping to implement in the future to move forward as a country and people. He discussed many topics such as the history of the Czech Republic, the economy, the trade and Czech relationships with other countries.

The Consul began by explaining a bit about the history of the Czech Republic, which I found very interesting. It became the Czech Republic in 1993 after being the state of Czechoslovakia since 1918. This change came about after the Velvet Revolution which occurred when Czechoslovakia reject the communist party and the country converted to a parliamentary republic. I found it very interesting that Consul Sedlacek was present for one of the most peaceful revolutions in history, and also that he has been been able to see many of the changes and much of the progress which he discussed in lecture.

In 2004 Czech Republic became part of the European Union also called the E.U. This has helped improve their relationships and trade with other European countries. When they joined the Union they agreed to someday change their currency from Czech crowns to Euros, which is what much of the Europe uses. The change has still not occurred but the Consul says this may not happen for quite sometime. The countries who agree to use the Euro must have an economy that is stable enough to make the change of currency or it might go badly. He used the example of Greece multiple times. As he spoke of their currency he also expounded on their trade and economy.

In his lecture Consul Sedlacek stated that the Czech Republic actually exports many of their goods and resources. He said their economy is very trade oriented and that their economy is based on many industrialized products. He explained that one of those major products is cars. The Czech Republic exports over one million cars per year. There are multiple car factories including Hyundai, and Toyota. He pointed out that Germany is the recipient of 60% of their exported good. So they have a strong trading relationship with the Germans and hope that this continues. They are striving to expand their trading partners, and he said it has been a bit difficult to export goods and resources to the United States but they will continue to try.

When asked about the situation in Ukraine the Consul explained a little about the Czech view of what is going on with Ukraine. He explained some of the history of Czechoslovakia including the Russian invasion after World War II. Under this rule they were not allowed to travel or even watch or listen to foreign news. Which may be some of the freedoms many today take for granted. He said the Czech people can understand what Ukraine is going through due to their own history with Russia. But also explained that their is hope for an independence from Russia, especially if we are looking at the example of Czech Republic. They have overcome soviet control and come to be very developed, they have little foreign debt, and many of their businesses have gotten better through privatization. They are also now looking forward to what they can do with energy and he explained about LNG terminals, which a pipelines that they would like to run across multiple parts of Europe providing them with multiple ports for oil.

I found the whole presentation very enlightening. It was such a privilege to hear from someone who has experienced so many things both good and bad in his country. I was very impressed with his hope in the future of the Czech Republic and his joy in how far they have come. They seem to be a very extraordinary people who have overcome multiple obstacles and continue to strive to make economic, and diplomatic progress to better the lives of their people. Overall I believe it was a great presentation.

Georgina Wolfgramm, UVU Student

Consul General of Czech Republic Michal Sedlacek

This week I had the privilege of hearing the Consul General of the Czech Republic, Michal Sedlacek speak at UVU. It was a great opportunity to hear from a foreign dignitary, and he was even kind enough to answer some questions at the end of his speech.

Consul General Sedlacek began his speech by giving us a quick breakdown of the history of the Czech Republic from it’s creation in 1918, the turmoil of World War II, life under the occupation of the Soviet Union, and life since it’s return to Democracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The Consul General told us that the Czech Republic joined the WTO in 1999 with the assistance of then United States President Bill Clinton. I found this to be interesting, as last year the Consul General of Vietnam spoke to UVU, and he explained that President Clinton also helped Vietnam gain admittance to the WTO and World Bank. Bill Clinton obviously made it a priority to help expand the United States role in emerging countries around the world. The Consul General spoke briefly about the Czech Republic’s role in the European Union, and how the Czech Republic has agreed to switch the Euro at some point, but they haven’t seen fit to make the transition yet.

One of the students in the class asked a great question about how the Czech Republic was able to transition from the rule of the Soviet Union, into a Democratic system of government without losing control of much of its natural resources or other economic resources like many former Soviet Bloc countries did. The Consul General explained that after the Berlin Wall fell, the emerging Czech government provided Czech citizen with a “Coupon Book” which allowed them to purchase shares in the emerging private businesses and industries that were previously under the ownership of the State. This allowed Czech citizens to gain control of their economy and industries without losing these resources to foreign enterprises.

I asked the Consul General about how the Czech Republic views the crisis in the Ukraine, as Russia still maintains a great deal of influence inside the Czech Republic. The Consul General stated that there was 2 parts to his answer, the first in terms of the opinion of the people of the Ukraine, which is sympathy toward Ukrainians, as they had experience with Germany invading the Czech Republic under the guise of “Protecting German citizens and interests there” which is similar to the propaganda that Vladimir Putin is using to justify the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. The 2nd part of the answer had to do with the Diplomatic response to the crisis in the Ukraine, which is in line with the European Union, in terms of sanctioning Russia.

I really enjoyed hearing from the Consul General, and hope that UVU will be able to bring in more guest speakers to provide a global perspective of the Political and Social climate around the world.

Jason Linde, UVU student

Czech Consular Michal Sedlacek’s Visit

Mr. Michal Sedlacek’s sudden visit in our campus on January 27, 2015 was an extraordinary experience to me. Thanks to Professor Baktybek Abdrisaev’s effort we had a chance to talk and listen to what Mr. Michal Sedlacek has to say about today’s Czech. The meeting started with a humble greetings and small introduction of Mr. Michal Sedlacek’s background and few other jokes. What surprised me was that Mr. Sedlacek used to be a ski instructor in Park City. So with brief introduction we have discussed about Czechs Economy dependence on the Germany. Mr. Sedlacek explained that how important to keep an eye on Germany move. Since 85% of the export is relied on Germany. There were also a few questions about how European Union’s role within a Czech system. It seems that Czech doesn’t like to follow the herd. According to Mr. Sedlacek’s view that following EU’s influence blindly is dangerous. The Czech must always look for many other options and keeping their domestic and foreign policy transparent and thinking outside the box seems to good path for the Czech.

 During his speeches I wondered what made the Czech strong both economically and politically.

So I couldn’t resist my urge and asked Mr. Sedlacek that how did the country functioned right after the fall of communism. We all know that even today many countries having a difficult recoveries from that period. For example Moldova is known to one of the poorest in Europe.

 Mr. Sedlacek’s answer was rather blunt and quite simple. He explained that during the transition period Czech government started privatization, but the way they did was to giving away to the citizens of Czech almost free. This sudden property ownership was the key change in the country it seems. What I learned from his speech was that always looking for an alternatives to improve. He explained that depending on Germany to much is not good for the Czech so right now there are many other things that is concerning Czech foreign trade policy. He anticipated that if USA steps in exporting energy to Czech it would be a good for the Czech people. Right now depending on energy from Russia is rather risky. It would be a good idea that building more pipes vertically in Czech could benefit EU and Czech. Nevertheless this is we talking about gas. However later I found out that Czech has a Nuclear Power Plants powerful enough to exporting to the outside. But dealing with an energy is requires high maneuverability of political and economic policies. Maybe we will see changes in distant future.

Munkhbat Batmunkh, UVU student, member of the Foreign Affairs club

Presentation of the Dignitary from Czech Republic before UVU students

On January 27, 2015 the Consul General for the Czech Republic, Michael Sedlacek came to UVU to give an overview of his country. He shared a brief historical outline of events that led to the current Czech Republic as we know it today, including talking about the struggles that the country had under Soviet control after World War II and the peaceful dissolution of the then country of Czechoslovakia into the two separate counties of the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993. He touched on entering NATO in 1999 where the country helped in operations with a chemical unit in case Saddam Hussain used chemical weapons upon the people of the Middle East, as well as joining the European Union in 2004.

Questions were asked from those who participated; the majority had to do with domestic issues within the country as well as differences the Consul saw between growing up under Communist rule and now. The Czech Republic GDP relies heavily on trade (80%) and 20% on domestic. The Consul made special note that 60% of all trade is done with Germany; who continues to pressure the Czech Republic to switch their currency from their Czech koruna to the Euro. Mr. Sedlacek states that by 2020 the country has plans to bring the Euro to use within the country, though he personally feels it will take 10 additional years. He also made mention that currently the GDP per capita for the country stands at 90% of the EU’s GDP. According to the Consul, the German supply chain relies heavily on Czech industry.

The country has a strong industrial sector, with three major car factories including the Skoda which he stated was over a hundred years old and is survived because Volkswagen purchased the company. This particular brand of car is popular all over the world, but because Volkswagen owns the company they will not allow the popular car to move into the United States. The other two factories are Toyota and Hyundai. The Czech Republic also is a large producer of turbines four nuclear power as well as other heavy industry. The country imports everything, but no one specific thing is imported more than another because of the open boarders of the country with other EU Nations.

Mr.Sedlacek spoke about how the Czech people are very suspicious by character, thus many continually questions EU policies. While it was noted that domestically, 70% of new laws have their beginnings in the EU, they are always careful to apply those laws to the circumstances within the country. He also made mention that the Federalists within the EU view those who have a tendency to ask questions (which in the Czech Republic is many) as trouble makers. The Consul stated that the people of the Czech Republic like to discuss things in a very democratic manner.

The final question asked was how the people in his country felt about what was going on in Ukraine. Mr. Sedlacek said that the Czech people deeply sympathize with the Ukrainians, as it was not that long ago that the Soviet’s invaded Czech territory. He mentioned that in 2009 political asylum was granted too many political figures from Ukraine. He also mentioned that like the rest of the EU passports from individuals living in Crimea are not accepted because they are Russian passports.

Deann Torsak, UVU Student

UIMF Advocates Sustainable Mountain Development Goals During UNA-USA-Conference Call


15-01-14-From UNA-Reminder Join us for discussion on the Post-2015 Agenda

UIMF promotes Mountain Sustainable Agenda during

UNA-USA Conference Call

On January 15, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) hosted a conference call on Action/2015 and the Post-2015 Agenda. (see more: During 70 years, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) has dedicated to inform, inspire, and mobilize the American people to support the ideals and vital work of the United Nations (see more:

The conference call speakers were Robert Skinner Executive Director, New York Office, United Nations Foundation and John W. McArthur Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation. Both speakers shared their thoughts about the importance of the 2015 sustainable development goals agenda and what are main points and challenges for it. They emphasized that this time there is more participation of youth and local communities on helping out to shape this agenda at all levels. Among the challenges both experts underlined the fact that the agenda right now has too many items which may have to be narrowed, in order to be effective. And again they both highlighted the role that youth plays in helping to shape this agenda at all levels.


Jesler Molina During Conference Call

As a member of UNA-USA since 2013 and as a President of Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) I participated and spoke during the conference call. During Q&A I highlighted UVU and UIMF efforts to promote the sustainable mountain development indicators among post 2015 SDGs both in Utah and globally. We were able to participate at the United Nations Open Working Groups sessions and to contribute to their agendas. I also agreed with both speakers about the importance of involvement local communities, and students in advocacy of SDGs, and highlighted the importance to involve even high school students in that process as well, something that UIMF is already does through hosting annual essay contest competitions on different topics of the U.N. agendas since 2011 (see more:

Finally, I mentioned about desire from UIMF to partner with UNA-USA and to have their representation at the 4th Women of the Mountain conference, which will be held at UVU from October 7 to the 9 of this year (see more: As a follow up to our conversation, a UIMF delegation, comprised from myself; Andrew Allen, Vice President UIMF, Utah Valley University; Dr. David Connelly, Chair, History and Political Science Department, Utah Valley University; Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science Department, Utah Valley University; and Jared Reni, UIMF Outreach Coordinator, Utah Valley University, will have a meeting on February 2, 2015 at UNA-USA headquarters in DC.

This was another effort from the Utah International Mountain Forum to advocate the promotion of the mountain sustainable development among SDGs in post-2015 agenda.

Jesler Molina, President, UIMF

UVU Students for Referendum in Utah to Protect Mountains

we decide 1


We Decide PAC at UVU supports a referendum in Utah to protect mountain zones

mr1 Members of the PAC Gathering signatures at UVU

In December of 2014, three Utah Valley University students and their legal counsel formed the We Decide Political Action Committee. They did so in response to a zoning change passed by the Utah County Planning Commission to change a piece of historically protected critically environmental land to housing development. Their goal was to prevent the development by getting the zoning change on the ballot for the 2016 general elections in a referendum vote.

mr2Aaron Butler during the campaign at UVU

These students did not believe that the majority of Utah County Citizens wanted to see more houses built farther up the mountainside on environmentally protected lands. Recent fires and landslides in the area have cost the local taxpayers millions of dollars, and what used to be responsible developmental planning has turned into a system of government officials bowing to pressure from powerful residential developers.

The tool of referendum allows people like these three UVU student to take a stand when they believe their elected officials have failed to act responsibly and represent the wishes of their constituents. Our mountains are a prized and necessarily protected piece of Utah’s heritage. Too often we have seen trails, parks, natural wonders, and critical habitats closed to public access by housing development. Residential development in zones like these must be done with careful planning, considering all the unique circumstances that come with a mountain environment.

 We Decide has mustered a force of over 150 volunteers and 200 employees, with funding coming from concerned Utah County Citizens all over the valley. They are currently working to gather support to protect our critically environmental zones across the state.

Aaron Butler, Kellen Pead, and Andrew McGowen, UVU Students, Board Directors of We Decide PAC






Dear Utah County Residents,

Two weeks ago the Utah County Commission made a decision against their staff’s recommendation to approve a zoning change in Northern Utah County. This change would allow development on what has historically been protected land. Prior to this break with precedent, the area had been preserved in order to protect and conserve the water supply, vegetation, soils, wildlife, and other natural resources within the watershed.

We Decide is an effort to let the people of Utah County decide what happens to our mountains. We do not believe that most of Utah Counties citizens want more houses built near recent mudslides and wildland fires. Millions of dollars in damage and repairs from recent fires and floods came at taxpayer expense.  We propose putting this issue into the hands of the people by voting on it in the next elections. In order to get this issue on the ballot, we need to gather 20,000 signatures by January 30, 2015 from registered voters in Utah County. We are making history in this effort, once completed, it will be the first ever successful Utah County referendum.

For 20 years I have fought hard to maintain this protected area. The land provides a buffer zone that keeps residences away from potential hazards like landslides and fires, and allows for wildlife like deer to avoid denser neighborhoods and streets. We have seen the damage that landslides can cause in North Salt Lake and the Cedar Hills area. It is my firm belief that further development in this area is irresponsible and completely disregards the wishes of Utah County citizens. Changing the zone would also create a future precedent for building even higher up the mountainside across Utah County.This sudden decision to allow for development in a historically protected area is a departure from responsible planning and does not represent what the people of Utah County want.


We Decide will be sending circulators with petitions to all areas in Utah County, we encourage you to exercise your right to vote by signing when they come your way.


For those who would like to sign the petition immediately, volunteer, or find more information, please contact us on our facebook page: We Decide Utah.

Don Watkins, Mayor Alpine City

Local Media about “We Decide Campaign”



Second Call for Papers for the 4th International Women of the Mountains Conference


OCTOBER 7-9, 2015

Conference organizers: Utah Valley University (UVU), the Kyrgyz National Center for the Development of Mountain Regions under the auspices of the Mountain Partnership.

This conference will continue the tradition set during the previous International Women of the Mountains Conferences hosted in Orem, Utah in 2007 and2011 and in Puno, Peru in 2012 of strengthening the involvement of North American mountain communities with the United Nations’ Mountain Partnership. The International Women of the Mountains Conference promotes worldwide sustainable development in mountainous areas. It also addresses critical issues facing women and children in mountainous regions across the globe and provides a forum to raise both awareness and advocacy on eliminating gender inequality and addressing challenges to sustainability.

Conference organizers invite scholarly paper submissions related to women’s lives in mountainous areas including, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Transmitting Family Values, Heritage & Culture: The role of women in sustaining family values, heritage, and culture in mountain communities.
  • Health of Women & Children: Challenges of high rates of disease and mortality among mothers and children in mountain communities; problems such as malnutrition, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Education of Women & Children: Women’s and children’s education in highlands; development of political, legislative, and technological frameworks for improving the quality and availability of education.
  • Economic Issues Related to Women & Children: Women’s role in economic development in local communities and use of microcredit; women’s rights to property; issues of equal access; poverty; and drug trafficking.
  • Climate Change and Gender: Environmental issues such as the impact of climate change on mountain women and families;
  • Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Migration in the mountain areas and mistreatment of women and children; the aftermath of terrorism and violence; and measures for countering human trafficking and sexual exploitation in mountain areas.
  • Leadership Roles for Women: Women in leadership roles in mountain regions; developing women’s leadership capacities; and women’s leadership in entrepreneurial development and governance.
  • Access to Information and Public Services for Women: Women and technology, including use of modern information and computer technologies and distance education in remote regions.

Proposals from scholars in global mountain communities are especially welcome. The Conference may have limited funding for participants from developing countries in
mountainous regions. For more information on the upcoming 2015 conference and past conferences, please visit:

Taking into account the successful contribution to the Second and the Third International Women of the Mountains Conferences by UVU students, Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU, will play a major role in hosting the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference with faculty assisting them as advisors ( Students from other universities from the Rocky Mountain states are invited to join the organizing committee of International Women of the Mountains conference as well. For more information, students may email

An abstract (300 words maximum) and short bio of each participant should be sent to by June 30, 2015. After confirmation of acceptance of abstract, the complete paper should be submitted to the above e-mail address by August 31, 2015.

Deann Torsak, executive secretary of the Women of the Mountains Conference 

2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration at UVU


Utah Valley University and the Utah International Mountain Forum are fortunate to work together with Andrey Sakharov Foundation and its President, Alexey Semyonov, on a several initiatives including hosting regular annual Skype-video session regarding the status of human rights in Russia and nations of the former Soviet Union as a part of MLK commemorations at UVU. This year the Andrey Sakharov Foundation presented a new project just finished by Voice of America named “Parallels” about the history of the Human Rights Movements in former Soviet Union. Below we post opinions from several UVU students presented during Skype session organized by Alexey Semyonov, President of Andrey Sakharov Foundation and Natella Boltyanski, from the Echo Moskvy radio company

Skype Session With Russian Activists

Russian human rights activists, Alex Semyonov and Natella Boltyanskaya, spoke to students via Skype, on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at the Utah Valley University Martin Luther King Commemoration. Semyonov is the president of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, an organization instituted for the development of democracy and civil reform in Russia and other post-Soviet nations.  Ms. Boltyanskaya is a folk-singer, journalist, radio-host, and also an advocate for Russian political change. The topic of discussion was Martin Luther King’s impact on human rights in Russia.


Alexey Semyonov, President of Andrey Sakharov Foundation Speaks About Human Rights in Russia

Alex Semyonov began by explaining that political dissidence in Russia has historically been expressed through art, music, and literature. He said the dissident movement was often portrayed in fiction “carrying a universal humanist image.”  Boltyanskaya agreed that folk-music also carried political messages, enabling artists to express ideas without the censure that open discontent would receive.That being said, many times Russian artists have also fallen victim to political censure.  Semyonov spoke of works of political art that were completely destroyed when Russian nationalists called in bulldozers to level the exhibition. Other artists became imprisoned for expressing dissidence through their work.

In the 1960’s, Socialist Realism, or the positive portrayal of communist life in the Soviet Union, became popularized by the Communist government, and today propaganda continues to contribute to President Vladimir Putin’s popularity in Russia. Boltyanskaya said that the Russians are told that the “whole world is against them and wants to cheat them.”  She reported that Putin publicly regrets the destruction of the Soviet Union. Boltyanskaya, who contributes to the radio-program Voice of America, reported that in some circumstances in Russia, you cannot even mention the program without repercussions.  Russians are told to be afraid of Western influences.

When the guests were asked their opinion on current homosexual rights issues in Russia, Ms. Boltyanski replied emphatically, “It’s awful!”  Semyonov explained that while homosexuality is not against the law in Russia, it is considered to be a “psychological deviation,” so sexual minorities are denied basic rights, such as driver’s licenses. Boltyanskaya expressed regret that under Putin, attitudes toward sexual minorities had regressed compared to twenty years ago, when Boris Yeltsin was in office.


During the Skype-Session About Human Rights in Russia

As the session concluded, the discussion returned to the original question regarding Martin Luther King’s possible influence in Russia. While the guests were unsure of his direct influence, one theme that stood out was humanity’s need to learn from history, as to not repeat mistakes of the past.

Boltyanskaya explained that when Stalin died, it was several years later before Russians began to understand the extent of his crimes. Ms. Boltyanskaya said, “When you know something, you have equipment to avoid mistakes.”  She stressed the great need to increase internet access to Russians, in order to dispel anti-democracy propaganda.

This week Americans remember Martin Luther King’s legacy, as to not take for granted the sacrifices made during the United States’ own civil rights movement, nor be complacent about civil rights that have yet to be gained. Although Russians may not be able to pinpoint specifics, Martin Luther King’s contribution to American democracy can be felt worldwide, as the United States stands as a beacon of democracy. Lessons learned from Russian civil rights activists, Alex Semyonov and Natella Boltyanskaya should also inspire Americans, as the campaign for greater human rights around the world becomes an increasingly global effort.

 Megan Raines, Political Science Student at UVU

Skype Session with Russia as a Part of the MLK Commemoration

Today I had the pleasure of attending a Skype session with Alex Semyonov, President of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, and Natella Boltyanski, Correspondent of Voice of America in Moscow. The topic of our discussion was the parallels between the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and the Human Rights movement in Russia.

Alex and Natella began by speaking to us about a project that’s very near and dear to them, one in which they’re producing 15 minute long documentaries about the history of Russia, in which both Alex and Natella hope to show Russians that they can avoid repeating the mistakes made in the past by educating themselves on the factual history of Russia, as opposed to the sterilized view of Russian history many Russians grew up learning. The documentaries are currently in Russian, but will be available in English as of February 2015. Natella detailed some of the past advocates of Civil Rights in Russia, and how the Russian government tried to silence their critics by sending them into exile.

One of the individuals that attended the Skype sessions asked Alex and Natella about the various forms of art and expression that has been used by the Russian dissidents during their struggle for Civil Rights, and how they combated the Russian government’s propaganda. Natella and Alex explained that art as a vehicle for free speech is still under threat today, and gave an example of a famous work that was destroyed by Nationalists who viewed the art as being dangerous or unpatriotic.

I asked Alex and Natella about the Russian law which prohibits the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in Russia, I specifically asked about their opinions on the law, and what impact the law will have on civil rights in Russia. Natella stated that she hated the law, and felt it had no place in society. That the government had no right to tell anyone who they can or should love. She gave several examples of homophobia, including a story of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s reaction to being informed that a member of his cabinet was gay. President Yeltsin stated that he couldn’t have that man representing him or the Russian government, because the government is a reflection of the Russian people, and should reflect the best attributes of their citizens. Natella also gave an example of an official conducting an investigation on school teachers, and exposing 4 or 5 teachers as gay, and getting them fired. Alex explained that in Russia, the government view homosexuality as a mental defect, and thus, homosexuals aren’t allowed to have driver’s licenses due to their mental defect. Both of them painted a grim picture for homosexuals in Russia.

At the end of the Skype session Natella asked those in attendance if we knew of any Americans who had played a role in the fight for human rights in Russia. Nobody in attendance was able to answer that question, so it will be interesting to look into that topic, and prepare myself in case I get another opportunity to speak with Natella or Alex again.

Jason Linde, UVU Student

Notes from Skype Session with Alex Semyonov, President of Andrei Sakharov Foundation And Natella Boltyanski, Correspondent of Echo of Moscow.

Events in Russia, according to Natella Boltyanski are repeating history. Boltyanski is a correspondent for Echo of Moscow, a broadcast radio station that still provides free speech information to Russia and former Soviet countries, and can be found on the internet as well. She began talking about the parallels between current events and events of the past, during the Cold War and said there are currently violations of human rights and activists are being imprisoned just as they were during the seventies. She mentioned Natan Sharansky; a Soviet born Jewish/Israeli human rights activist who was charged with spying and imprisoned for thirteen years, and other past and present activists who have been imprisoned. She talked about the responsibility of individuals to share information, if you know something; you must pass that information on. She talked about restrictions that are being placed on speech and said there were words she was saying, things that she spoke about on Voice of America that she was not supposed to say on Russian radio.

She spoke of the Russia/Ukraine conflict that began when Ukraine began moving farther from Russia and closer to the European Union. She mentioned actions by the Russian government reflect Cold War politics.

A question about the part that art has played in Russian human rights and how art effected the human rights movement and how artists also became dissidents in past human rights movements.

The question about the denial of gay rights and a move toward denial of basic rights including banning transgendered individuals and homosexuals drivers licenses. Boltyanski said that the government document classified those conditions as mental disorders that made driving a car dangerous.

It was startling to realize there was not anyone in the audience who could mention and former Soviet dissidents. The poet and author Joseph Brodsky was mentioned by Boltyanski, as well as Andrei Sakharov. She asked the audience if they could name any other dissidents other than those she spoke of. It was difficult for me to come up with any names, and it became very clear why a class in Russian/Soviet history and the history of human rights in Russia is very important. I grew up during the height of the Cold War, and American History was as much propaganda as I was told Russians were being taught. I knew of some of the artists, Brodsky, Rostropovich, and Solzhenitsyn. In 1987, after Brodsky won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I went to a local library to check out his books because I had a love of Russian authors and books, and the library had nothing at all by Brodsky. I was furious, Brodsky had just won the Nobel. That was, and still is indicative of the lack of information Americans have about the history of Russia and the Soviet Union and the fight for human rights that has taken place.

Deena Ainge, UVU Student, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club

VOA Video Series “Parallels” About Human Rights and Democracy Building in Russia (In Russian and English Version is Coming)

Utah Valley University Contributes to the IMD 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters

14-12-10-From Rowan-Invitation to IMD 2014 at the United Nations

LINK TO THE International Mountain Day AGENDA:

14-12-10-From-MP-IMD 2014 – AGENDA

Official Statement of Dr. Butler, focal point for the Mountain Partnership at UVU during the IMD 2014 at the United Nations




DECEMBER 12, 2014

 Dear colleagues,

 Happy International Mountain Day! It is an honor for me to be a part of the 2014 International Mountain Day celebrations at the United Nations headquarters. I express my thanks to FAO–UN, the Mountain Partnership and other organizers of this splendid celebration of the mountains.

 During a recent international conference call to discuss a potential joint mountain-related project in Central Asia, one of the callers made an interesting observation. He had done research on climate-change issues linked to changes in glaciers in a remote part of eastern Nepal. He was last there in the 1990s, and his expectations of change in the area were narrow and to a degree preconceived. However, what he found when he returned recently took him aback.

 Indeed, glacial lakes had appeared as per his expectations but that is not what surprised him. What he found was an entirely new demographic: the migration patterns were very noticeable; cell phone usage was nearly universal and had altered the economy; a new resource, a native, natural aphrodisiac selling for significant amounts of money, had transformed the economic base; and other direct non-climate related changes were observable.

 His experience was a striking confirmation to me that the issues of sustainable mountain development and the UN post-2015 agenda cannot be approached in a disjointed fashion: There must be a holistic effort where all the pieces, be they economic, climate, agriculture, education, forest, water, bio-diversity or health related, or any other issues, have to be put on the table and treated as a whole, not in isolation. And, the overall approach must also be altered.

 To date, for the most part our current generation has carried the water on mountain issues. We in Utah and surrounding mountain state in the U.S. have deliberately engaged the next generation. In the attached paper you will see the keen interest and leadership that university students are taking specifically on sustainable mountain development as members of the Mountain Partnership. Not content with higher education efforts alone, they instituted a state-wide essay contest and organization of clubs among high school students, and are now reaching into the elementary schools.

 Also, mountain proponents must become more pro-active and energetic in diplomatic ways to bring the mountain agenda to the attention of not just UN and other international leaders, but also to community and regional decision makers. We are strong believers in local action as a way to sway leaders at higher levels. As important as the head on our body is, it IS controlled by the neck! Our local and regional efforts are the necks. Our students and faculty, as well as others in the state have gone to city, county and state leaders with messages about sustainable development issues. This is also happening in Wyoming and Colorado where we work with like-minded friends.

 On July 24, 1847, nearly 170 years ago, an advance band of settlers in wagons came through the rugged Rocky Mountains into a high, desolate desert valley where Salt Lake City now stands. This was the first wave of Mormon Pioneers who had been expelled from their homes in Illinois and Missouri states. There were no Wal-Mart, Target or Costco stores; they were self-reliant and had to build an entire civilization from nothing but will power and survival instincts. Crop, dairy and livestock production were the first things they worked on, simultaneously with dams, reservoirs and canals to bring water from the mountains for irrigation.

 They did their work intelligently and in a sustainable manner, planning for their descendants and future generations. As one of those descendants I grew up on a working farm in the high mountain desert and know first-hand the importance of sustainability and growth. Today, Utah is the nation’s leading diversified economy, ranked in the top 5, if not number 1 by Forbes magazine in several categories including best place to do business, entrepreneurism, diversified job creation and economic opportunity. We now share the secrets of our success as enthusiastic, working partners with the world.

“Utah Valley University and Mountain Initiatives” LINK:


FAO-UN and the Mountain Partnership IMD 2014 in New York:


Mountain Partnership LINK

The Fifth International Mountain Day Celebration at Utah Valley University

5th Annual International Mountain Day Celebration

at Utah Valley University

Hosted by

Utah Valley University Library, LI120

December 5, 2014

Orem, UT


10:00 am Opening Remarks by Joseph McCain, President, Utah International Mountain

Forum (2013-2014), Utah Valley University with further introduction of Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate Vice President, International Affairs and Diplomacy, focal point for

Mountain Partnership, Utah Valley University

10:10 am Greetings by Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate Vice President, International

Affairs and Diplomacy, focal point for Mountain Partnership, Utah

Valley University and reading letters with greetings from the Mountain

Partnership Members:

The Mountain Institute;
City of Orem;
Gruppman International Music Institute;

Video greetings from Conrad Anker, prominent mountain climber and author
10:29 am Dane Ross, Vice President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club,
Utah Valley University presents Certificate to Dr. Butler

10:30 am Remarks by Jesler Molina, President of Utah International Mountain Forum

(UIMF) with further introduction of Colten Sponseller, Vice President of UIMF

10:35 am Remarks by Colten Sponseller, Vice President of UIMF with presentation of a video-documentary about UIMF and contributors to the video:

Jesler Molina
Linda Munoz
Kami Winder
Jesse Gray
Jordan Giles
Joseph McCain
Christopher Wiltsie
10:40 am Video documentary about UIMF

10:50 am Dane Ross, Vice President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club,

Utah Valley University, presents Certificates to Colten Sponseller and video contributors

11:00 am Remarks by Christine Biehle with further introduction of Dr. Keith Snedegar,

Chair of the organizing Committee for Annual Utah High School Essay Contest

11:05 am Remarks by Dr. Keith Snedegar about project with further introduction of three

winners of the fourth Contest on March 28, 2014

11:15am Readings by Essay Contest Winners:

Melody Hatcher, Salem Hills High School
Maranda Fisher, Copper Hills High School
Brayten Torsak, Provo High School
11:45 am Dane Ross, Vice President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club,

Utah Valley University presents Certificates to Dr. Snedegar and contest winners

11:50 am Remarks by James Nielsen, Vice President, Foreign Affairs Club, UVU

with further introduction of Linda Munoz, Vice President of UIMF

11:55am Inauguration by Linda Munoz of the Organizing Committee of the Women of the

Mountains Conference with inviting to podium and short introduction:


Linda Munoz, Chair
Jesler Molina
Hailey Young
Tamara Hammond

Paola Rondon, Chair
Salifou Fofana
Djiba Soumaoro
Lisa Shepherd
Hailey Eggleston
Kami Winward

Sam Siebach, chair
Christine Behle, member
Jordan Giles, member
Carlos Alarco, member
Logistics group


Cultural Program

Dean Torsak, member
Kamille Gerrard, member
12:30 pm Chris Wiltsie, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club,

Utah Valley University presents Certificates to the members of the organizing


12:30 pm-

1:00pm Refreshments

1:00 pm Remarks by Toni Medina, President, Foreign Affairs Club, UVU with further introduction of Dr. Michael L. Minch; Professor, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Utah Valley University

1:10 pm Presentation of the Sustainable Mountain Development and Conflict Transformation Global Database

Dr. Michael L. Minch; Professor, Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Utah Valley University

1:30 pm Q&A with Toni Medina as moderator

1:45 pm Chris Wiltsie, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development Club,

Utah Valley University presents Certificate to Dr. Minch

2:00 pm Remarks by Colten Sponseller, Vice President of UIMF with further introduction

of Dr. Daniel Fairbanks; Dean, College of Science & Health, Utah Valley


2:10pm Presentation: Quinoa: From the Andes the World’s Most Nutritious Food

Dr. Daniel Fairbanks; Dean, College of Science & Health, Utah Valley University

2:35 pm Q&A with Colten Sponseller as moderator

2:50 pm Chris Wiltsie presents Certificate to Dr. Fairbanks

3:00 pm Remarks by Jesler Molina, President of UIMF with further introduction of Dr. Jeff Torlina Associate Professor of Sociology, Utah Valley University

3:10pm Panel of Regional Scholars on Family Farming

Don Earl Albrecht; Director of Western Rural Development Center, Utah State University

Dr. Carol Ward; Associate Professor of Sociology, Brigham Young University

Dr. Jeff Torlina; Associate Professor of Sociology, Utah Valley University

4:10 pm Q&A with Dr. Torlina as moderator

4:30 pm Chris Wiltsie presents Certificates to participants of the panel

4:40 pm Remarks by Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Advisor, UIMF, with summary of the results of IMD 2014 celebrations and plans for 2015

4:50 pm Chris Wiltsie presents certificate to other contributors of the IMD 2014

Greetings from: Dr. Butler


Greetings from: The Mountain Institute

14-12-04-2-Letter to UVU for IMD 2014-AT

Greetings from: Orem City

14-12-04-3-UVU Letter

Greetings from: Gruppman International Music Institute


Video greetings from Conrad Anker, prominent mountain climber”

Video: Utah International Mountain Forum and the United Nations Sustainable Mountain Development Agenda”