Category Archives: 2015

My experience with the International Women of the Mountains Conference

Carlos is currently the Coordinator for Global Academic Programs at the Office for Global Engagement at Utah Valley University. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Digital Media from Utah Valley University and a Master’s of Education from the University of Missouri. He is a Global Citizen having lived in Latin America, Australia and the United States. He likes being involved in Social Justice causes and travelling the world.

From an early age, I have been exposed to people and cultures from around the world, due to living in a multicultural part of Sydney, Australia. I was born in Latin-America and travelled a lot as a child with my parents where I was able to experience life with relatives abroad. Growing up in a different land to that of my parents, my personal culture became a mixture of the two, Latin-American and Australian. By the time I was an adult I was a seasoned traveller with a great appreciation for the cultures of the world. When I moved to the United States most of the studies I had done in Australia were not recognized so I had to go back to school. I enrolled into, what was known as, Utah Valley State College as a non-traditional student. To this day I am grateful to UVU’s open enrolment policy as it provided me with the opportunity to better myself. I finished my Undergraduate Degree in Digital Media and then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Information Science and Learning Technologies. I have always believed that education is key to a life of unlimited potential and I am a strong advocate for the belief that education should be freely available to all regardless of gender, age or location.

In 2005, working as a Technology Teaching Assistant at Utah Valley State College, I learned that the school had access to video conferencing equipment. That same year I was able to get permission to use the equipment and organized a series of international video lectures with Universities that I had built a relationship with in my travels abroad. These were the days before Skype or Google Hangouts, so high-quality videoconferencing required expensive equipment that not all institutions could afford. This also meant working with the IT departments of the other institutions to configure protocols that would ensure a stable connection. The first of these videoconferencing lectures was organized between James Cook University in Australia and Utah Valley State College here in Utah. These lectures were presented live with attendees on both sides. One of the first lectures was from Australia. Dr Jamie Seymour, a leading expert on jellyfish, presented on a particularly deadly jellyfish that inhabits the tropic oceans of Australia. Mr. Mike Wisland from the Digital Media Department gave his presentation on the Beatles song, Strawberry Fields Forever. These presentations were enjoyed by audiences on both sides. There were also other video conferences with the Czech Republic, Spain, Brazil and a session with the U.S. Department of State. Technology has made it possible to connect people, share ideas, and mutually learn. This is the goal of the internationalization of education.

The experience with the video conferences taught me first hand, about the power of connecting people to share ideas and learn from each other. The idea of bringing people together appealed to me, and still does. It was through this interest that a few years later, I became acquainted with Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, the former Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States. As faculty at UVU, he brought his considerable wealth of knowledge and diplomatic experience to the university, in building stronger ties between the mountain communities, his native country, the Rocky Mountain region and especially Utah through the United Nations sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda. Through this friendship, I began using my technical experience to help promote events that he would organize with his students. Eventually I was given the responsibility of managing the Women of the Mountains’ website (, which contained a vast amount of information about the international Women of the Mountains Conferences, hosted by Utah Valley University as major contribution to the promotion of SMD in State of Utah and North America.  I was responsible for adding content and making updates to the website as events were organized. I also became involved with the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU that became the main force for SMD advocacy. Here student engagement was promoted through organizing events, hosting dignitaries, and sharing experience with a wider community on a state, regional and global levels. My Andean heritage also played a part in my interest, as many of my ancestors came from the mountain regions of South America.

My first experience with the International Women of the Mountains Conference was at the 2nd Conference, which was held in 2011.  Here I volunteered with providing technical support to presenters, volunteers and attendees of the conference. The conference was held at the main campus of Utah Valley University so I was able to interact with many of the guest speakers, some of which came from overseas, and learn more about the work that they did to promote sustainable development in various mountain regions. It was the first time I had been directly involved in an international conference. After the Women of the Mountains Conference I began to help with the United Nations International Mountain Day celebrations at UVU campus. In 2003 the United Nations General Assembly declared December 11 as the International Mountain Day, and celebrations have been held at UVU since 2010.

My involvement with the International Women of the Mountains Conference and the Utah International Mountain Forum led to being part of a delegation from Utah Valley University sent to the United Nations headquarters in New York City in December, 2013. Due to the work of Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, and his personal ties to many diplomats at the United Nations, the University was able to secure seats to observe the 6th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These seats were provided by the Permanent Mission of Hungary to the U.N. Attending this meeting was an incredible experience for us, as we witnessed first-hand how the delegates of each nation worked to add details to what would become the SDGs and the roadmap for global community development until 2030. We were there for three days and after each session was over we were able to meet and interact with some of the delegates from the different nations, and this was exciting. This trip has been one of the highlights of my life and I hope to repeat it in the future.

The 4th International Women of the Mountains Conference, held under the umbrella of the United Nations Mountain Partnership, took place at Utah Valley University in October 2015. My involvement in the conference was as the organizing committee’s liaison to the University of Utah. The committee was primarily made up of students as well as partners, all under the guidance of Dr. Abdrisaev and other faculty.  A few weeks prior to the conference I arranged for the student organizing committee the presentation at the University of Utah to invite students there to join organizing committee and to contribute to the conference at UVU. As a tradition, I was also tasked with updating the Women of the Mountains website and added information needed by attendees. This was also the first conference where social media was used to help promote the conference and its goals in support of the SDG#5 on gender. During the conference, I also gave a presentation about the importance of Social Media in the promotion of grassroots efforts and how it could be used to reach more people with little to no cost compared to traditional methods of promotion. The presentation also showed how visits to the websites had significantly increase since social media was introduced as a promotional tool. I had the opportunity to meet many amazing people who are passionate about gender and environmental issues. It was also a pleasure to meet officers from global NGOs like Ms. Mia Rowan from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN). Working directly with partners like her helps promote our work to a wider audience.

That same year I organized an International Mountain Day Celebration at the University of Utah. This was held on 4th of December, 2015 in the Gould Auditorium which is located in the Marriott Library. I was supported by Kamaile Harris, who works with the Pacific Heritage Academy as well as she became the Salt Lake City Liaison for the UIMF. I was, at the time, the University of Utah Liaison and had built relationships with many important organizations such as: the Marriott Library, the Office of Sustainability, the Bennion Center, the Hinckley Institute and local Non-Profits. We promoted the event via social media as well as through internal channels at the University, there was even promotion through local radio station KRCL. The event started with a song by students of the Pacific Heritage Academy which was a great way to begin the event. The evening continued with students, from the University of Utah, who spoke about the issues relating to community and sustainability in the local mountain region. The main speaker of the event as Jason Singer Smith, who is a prominent mountain climber and author. The event was well received by audience and participants and brought to the attention of the community the importance of mountain issues.

I enjoy my continued relationship with the members of the organizing committee of the Women of the Mountains conference and the Utah International Mountain Forum. To further my education in SMD, I took courses from the University of the Highlands and Islands in the United Kingdom as well as the University of Utah. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many great people over the years and had experiences that I could not have had it not been for my involvement with these organizations. The opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself and help improve the lives of people locally and around the world is something that has no price and will cherish for all of days.


Carlos Alarco – UIMF


Student Engagement in Promotion of Women in Leadership

Students at Utah Valley University (UVU), members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, successfully hosted the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference on October 7-9, 2015. It was the first time when UIMF was able to host such a high level event under the umbrella of the United Nations-related Mountain Partnership. I was honored to be a member of the student organizing committee and to contribute to the joint efforts as a co-moderator of the session on Women and Leadership.

I have been a part of the UIMF since two summers ago (August 2014) when I found out about the coalition of clubs through a class I took through Professor Baktybek Abdrisaev. So far being a part of UIMF has exceeded my expectations. Professor Abdrisaev has made an incredible program to help students get involved with promoting sustainable development in mountainous regions. As an extracurricular project, UIMF allowed me to be involved in different activities which raised an awareness among students in sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations and how they could be part of that and improve their skills and experiences in international affairs and be recognized by the international community as well. All of that is very important for us after graduating UVU when we will decide how to continue our professional careers.

I contributed, for example, to the celebration of the International Mountain Day on December 11, 2014 by designing the poster which finalized the outcomes of the gathering and what UIMF did during 2014 to promote SMD in the State of Utah and in North America. Next spring I have been able to help UIMF to organize an essay contest in Utah high schools on topics of SMD agenda. I have gone around to different high schools in promoting an essay contest for the students. Part of UIMF’s mission is to increase awareness of the problems going on worldwide pertaining to sustainable development. The essay contest accomplishes this goal as well as helping students to learn essential academic skills and having the possibility to be published in respected journals upon getting into the top three. In addition, they could grew up further as future leaders in promotion of SMD agenda.

I have met with several ambassadors accredited to the United Nations and United States who visited UVU. UIMF established an important tradition to arrange special meetings with those dignitaries in order for its members to learn diplomatic skills, establish contacts and inform VIP guests about their own contribution to the United Nations agenda. I gained so many experiences from the interactions with foreign guests.

UVU has established a great relationships with the United Nations agencies and with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) in particular. FAO-UN is responsible for the implementation of the SMD agenda globally. As a result, UIMF has been able to pull in valuable foreign leaders to speak with the students about world issues. This has been a great networking and educational opportunity for myself and other students at UVU.


(L to R): Rosely Zamora and Christine Behle, co-moderators of the Women in Leadership Session.

These experences helped prepare me to work as a member of the organizing committee of the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference, when UIMF leaders started preparations for hosting the forum at the beginning of 2015. The conference agenda included hosting women leaders from Utah, North America and around the world to speak about gender issues, farming issues, women in leadership, and many other issues relating to promoting sustainable development among mountain communities. I personally was in charge of the Women in Leadership session as a co-moderator together with my student colleague, Rosely Zamora. We worked closely with other members of the organizing committee and under the leadership of Deann Torsak, executive secretary of the conference. A couple of faculty assisted our efforts as advisors when we experienced certain questions or challenges in achieving our task.

Together Rosely and I were able to assemble a session which included presentations from several influential women such as Victoria Baird, co-director of U.N. Women in Utah; Dr. Susan Madsen, a leading scholar in Utah on Women in leadership issues; Morgan Cotti, Associate instructor at Hinckley Institute of Politics at University of Utah; Melissa Sevy, Founder and Executive Director of the NGO from Utah Musana; and Jeanetta Williams, President of the Salt Lake chapter of NAACP.


Victoria Baird, co-director of U.N. Women in Utah Speaks Before the Conference Audience

I personally felt very proud of the Women in Leadership session since UVU’s numbers are down on how many women graduate from the university. Having strong women leaders are the types of role models that UVU students need to have. These women were very impressive and motivating that women, too, can change the world.

It was both a pleasure and honor for both of us to moderate such an important session and to learn from distinguished presenters how important to have more women as leaders in order to provide sustainable development for mountain communities worldwide. As part of our responsibilities we asked questions from presenters, addressed the audience to if they had questions for our distinguished guests. At the end we also summarized major recommendations from the participants in order to submit to the conference secretariat for the final document of the conference.

UMIF has really helped me have a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise. I’m grateful to have been a part of the organization and to learn so many important lessons and experiences both from activities with focus on promotion of SMD agenda of the United Nations and from my colleagues-students as part of mutual education of the UVU model of student engaged learning.

Christine Behle, co-moderator of the Women in Leadership Session.

They Also Serve, Who Stand and Wait

The Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference was good for Utah Valley University, and I am personally glad that I got to help be a part of its student organizing committee. Though taxing at the conference presented lots of useful information and positively showed off the region we live in to many people from around the world.

As part of the Women of the Mountains Conference, I got to be there to help to provide logistics to my student colleague Molly Hone with a play written by Professor Nancy Rushforth from UVU titled: “In Her Own Hand: The Letters of Mary Hallock Foote.” It was a story about life in the western part of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century narrated from excerpts from letters of Mary Foote, well-known 19th-century artist, and novelist. Dr. Rushforth was helped with storytelling by her colleague, Dr. Kim Abunuara, Associate Professor from UVU.

My role was fairly minimal, as most of the setup was taken care of by Molly Hone. But as John Milton said: “They also serve, who stand and wait.” Still, I arrived a good hour before the event got underway and provided backup by checking the preparedness of al equipment in the room. I was also privileged to meet many of the great people involved, as well as shake hands with dignitaries from around the world and their escorts-UVU students.


(R to L): Dr. Nancy Rushforth and Dr. Kim Abunuara performing a play UVU.

The play provided the audience information on a woman named Mary Foote, who was an early settler here in the Rocky Mountains, and whose life in many ways exemplified that of the average woman in that time and place. At the same time, she also served as a bit of an early feminist, practicing birth control methods illegally and desiring some degree of independence (see the Comstock laws for more information). She was a fantastic artist and is famous for having illustrated The Scarlett Letter, a classic in American literature and something of an early feminist novel itself.


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Interview.” In The Scarlett Letter .., 87. Third ed. Boston, Massachusetts: James R Osgood and Company, 1874. Illustration by Mary Foote

I think that it’s interesting to see how far equality for women has come since then. Mary Foote in her day had to do a little sneaking around just to avoid having more children (she used an early form of the modern condom). Something that today is not only legal but relatively cheap. (As a side note I find it funny that conservative elements in our country once banned all forms of birth control without a struggle, and now they have to fight tooth and nail to avoid paying for contraceptives. I guess history makes fools of us all.)

Through it, all Mary Foote continually wrote back and forth with her good friend Helena who remained back east. The play was mainly a dramatic reading of the two friends letters back and forth, wherein we in the audience got to see theory struggles, their hopes, and their dreams.


Yankila Sherpa, from Nepal, Mia Rowan, representative of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the conference after the show

I had a chance to interact and introduce myself to many dignitaries including from the United Nations and the United States Department of State in addition to prominent women from Nepal, India, Pakistan and many other nations, who made a long trip to Utah.

All in all the Conference was a good experience for me, and I’m certain a good experience for the university as a whole. The distinguished guests seemed to appreciate what they saw, as well as the place where it showcased.

Joseph Orr, UVU student, member of the organizing committee of the Women of the Mountains Conference

How I Moderated the Climate Change Session During the Women of the Mountains Conference

The Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) was one of the best and the most valuable experiences I have ever had in the process of development of my career and the field I want to perform. The conference was hosted for the first time by Utah Valley University (UVU) students with a leading role of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU on October 7-9, 2015. It was a big challenge which I was afraid to take when some of my peers asked me during summer 2015 whether I am interested to be a member of the student team and to host the event under the auspice of the United Nations. The conference represented the experiential learning model, when we, students were provided the opportunities to develop valuable professional skills and experiences by hosting on our such a big international event and our teachers served as advisors and monitored from the distance how we were taking care of all aspects of the conference.

When at the beginning I agreed to be a moderator of the panel about climate change impact on families and mountain communities, everything was so inconclusive, and I didn’t feel that I was ready to accomplish the requested goal and take care of the panel. I believed that’s what my panel co-moderator exactly felt. I worked along with Henintsoa (Hensu) Rakotoarisaona from Madagascar, my student colleague from the UVU College of Science and Health. Our senior colleague, Deann Torsak, the executive secretary of the WOMC provided us a lot of help by advising how the panel works and what we needed to do as moderators on all stages of the conference. We were in touch with her on a weekly basis by e-mail and getting together on certain days to report about progress with our panel and what still needs to be done. Also, we were in need to do research and read special literature about climate change and gender issues provided to us by our advisors. Hensu also proved herself as hardworking and professionally strong and together with her we were able to assemble a list of speakers to our panel. Also, we were fortunate to have Dr. Daniel Horns, Associate Dean of the UVU College of Science and Health as one of the advisors for our panel. His knowledge and experiences related to the climate change and its impact on mountain families and communities were very impressive and helpful for us. He helped us in all stages of the conference from the preparations until its final days and even after the end of the gathering when we worked on the adoption of the final document of the conference.

I was always aware of the topics the conference was focusing on, but never realized there were a lot of things we could do to support the sustainable development goals under the United Nations Umbrella. Once I started to get more involved and when we start to find speakers that were able to talk about climate change, I felt we were in the right way. The opportunity of being able to expand my knowledge in these issues and also to share information about my country, Colombia with my peers was one of the most important parts of my activities as well.


(R to L): Daniela Moncada, Ron A. Harris Professor of Geology, Brigham Young University, Dr. Horns, Associate Dean, College of Science and Health, UVU, and Michael Bunds Associate Professor and Department Chair, Structural Geology and Tectonics, UVU discuss participation at the conference

One of the first things I did was to send a call for papers for the conference to faculty in different universities in Utah, neighboring states, some other institutions and NGOs active in climate change. After that, I focused on getting a list of possible speakers. I have to admit that I had thoughts of failure; I wonder how professors and some important people I was trying to reach through email will pay attention to me or would take the time to read my emails since I was sending it from my personal email. I think that was the primary challenge of the conference since was the first time to be held by students. A week passed, and I was not getting any response from any email I sent. I started to feel lost and out of motivation looking at my colleagues that were reaching speakers, not only two but more than 4 and some of them internationally.


Daniela Moncada Prepares Dr. Steven Emerman, Associate Professor-Hydrology, UVU for Presentations at the Conference


I remember mentioned to our advisors about the situation, but they always encouraged us to keep trying, do not give up and work hard and I was not an exception to that. It helped me to be persistent and to push hard until at least I get a response. Well at the beginning my motivation increased and decreased, I got responses but mostly rejecting the opportunity to be speakers. Even though I continued to make additional efforts and by the end I was able to contact some potential speakers that were finally included in the agenda.

Once we were at the conference, I was able to develop skills in moderating the conference and to interact with presenters, to be able to analyze their papers, summarize recommendations and then to provide them to the secretariat of the conference, which worked on preparing the draft of the final document of the conference.

One of the reasons I decided to study Political Science was the fact to be able in the future to work with the United Nations. I have to say that at the end of the conference I felt myself a little bit sad because we made some mistakes and missed some speakers in our panel, but I understood that was something beyond our control. I can say it was one of the greatest experiences I had to have and I am grateful to had the opportunity of being part of the organizing committee, being among so many interesting people from around the world. The final result highlighted by successful hosting the conference by our team, encouraged me to keep working hard and believe that no matter the challenges or obstacles I can face, that can not stop me. I had also never imagined how many talented people I was able to meet, working under the umbrella of the United Nations was one of my dreams and goals I wanted to achieve.

I am looking forward to more conferences and to keep working on promoting the sustainable mountain development and to contribute to the mitigation of the climate change impact on our communities, and bringing awareness about those issues not only in Utah but back home in Colombia and the rest of the world.


Daniela Moncada, Climate Change, Natural Hazards and Gender Panel Moderator, Women of the Mountains Conference


Moderating Education Panel during the Women of the Mountains Conference

Serving on the student organizing committee and as a Moderator at the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) was a great experience. WOMC was gathered under the umbrella of the United Nations Mountain Partnership on October 7-9, 2015. It was hosted for the first time by students at Utah Valley University (UVU) and by Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU in particular. I was able to learn many new things, meet new people, and gain skills that could only be learned through hands-on and engaging learning.


Diana Chaman Salas from Peru presents her paper during Education Panel

As a member of the organizing committee I saw much of the groundwork put into the conference. The events leading up to the conference taught me about networking and meeting new people. I was able to invite different individuals to present at the conference, as well as see how those people help to serve the people in their communities. I was also able to raise some funds for the conference. These communication skills will be a benefit to me in the future as I pursue further education and in meeting career goals.

When the conference finally arrived, I was able to play a part as a moderator on the panel for education of women and children. It was the first time I had ever moderated, but I will admit it was a lot of work. Setting up the room, making sure I had presenter bios, having electronic equipment for presenters to use, and speaking in front of a room was a challenge. However, I gained organizational skills, as well as administrative skills. I allotted time for each presenter and advised them on when it would be their turn to present and when their time was nearing its end. I felt quite intimidated talking to professors, and others-that certainly had more knowledge and experience than me, and I was able to get very good feedback as well as a deeper understanding for each of their views.


Noorani Barkat from Pakistan at the Habitat for Humanity site

Noorani Barkat from Pakistan, who presented at Education panel, helped me to understand that it doesn’t matter if you are just one individual, you can still influence and bless many lives in your community. She has helped her community in Pakistan by raising funds for building schools, serving as liaison to families who have women who would like to enter higher education, providing career counseling for women in her community, and serving the community in small and simple ways. She is a great example of strength and courage, and one who pursues dreams for a great and pure motive, to bless the lives of those in her home country. She certainly taught me and others about using your education to positively influence the lives of others.

It was also worth to mentioning how Noorani was able to come to UVU and contribute to the conference. When she submitted the abstract of her presentation to the conference, the student organizing committee took into account her dedication to the helping others and service to mountain communities in multiple ways and decided to help her to come to Orem, UT from Texas, where she is finishing her graduate studies at Texas A&M. Tony Medina, VP for logistics and Protocol of the organizing committee donated his SkyMiles points to cover her air travel and Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the conference accommodated her in her own home. As a result, it helped build one more tie with similar minded peers in one of the remote areas of South Asia.

The emphasis on the panel was obviously the importance of educating women and children. Each presenter could describe different reasons for why these things are important, but I felt an overall urgency for a few specific reasons. One of them is to help the community. Each presenter, though their opinions differed, emphasized that the more educated women and children are, the better off their communities. They are better able to use resources, gain independence, teach and learn from one another, and thrive-not just survive.

The other reason I saw the urgency for women’s education are the events that are occurring in the world. The world is progressing rapidly, and if our women and children are not being educated, those societies will fall behind the others. One of the last things I actually realized myself while listening to presentations is that the more educated women are the better they are able to help their children and families. Whether women use their education in an actual career or in the rearing of children, the knowledge they have gained will bless the lives of others as they nurture and raise knowledgeable children who will enter the society to serve and help others.

The overall conference was fantastic. The skills and experiences I was able to have will serve me far into the future. I am grateful I was able to participate in many ways and for the people I was able to meet.


Georgina Wolfgramm, member of the organizing committee of the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference            

Handling Protocol for the Women of the Mountains Conference

When I first decided to work with the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference (WOMC), I never could have anticipated the amazing opportunity and experience that waited for me. I had recently transferred back to Utah Valley University (UVU), and while walking to class one afternoon, I saw a poster advertising the opportunity to work with the organizing committee to help prepare and host the conference at UVU campus on October 7-9, 2015. The preparations had been going on for the past year, so I joined the team a bit later than most. However, the four months leading up to the conference that I helped were some of the most crucial.

I first spoke with Tony Medina, the VP of Logistics and Protocol, and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, the Advisor for the conference, who suggested, based on my interests in working with the US State Department, that I help with the protocol of the conference. I was tasked to be the Head of Protocol and to supervise the work of twelve students, responsible for particular VIP guests from the United States and abroad; an assignment I am very grateful for and humbled they would trust me with.

It became my responsibility to follow up on invitations that had already been sent, as well as to prepare and send additional invitations to federal officials and foreign diplomats, accredited to the United Nations, to the United States, and experts from overseas. Here, I must also express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, who has established a great tradition of bringing Ambassadors of different countries to the United Nations and to the United States in order to make presentations before UVU faculty and students regarding their nations. He is also the focal point (coordinator) for the Mountain Partnership (MP) under the F.A.O-U.N. at UVU: he coordinates programs with a focus on the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations since 2006 when UVU joined the MP.

Dr. Butler, and his deputy Amy Barnett, contributed to the WOMC by covering trips for some of the VIP guests and by providing us (students) with opportunities to do the rest of the job: to host the VIP guests from the moment of their arrival to Salt Lake City airport until their departure back home after the end of the conference.

I first worked with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Turkmenistan to the United States, H.E., Dr. Meret Orazov, who sent a quick response that he would be able to attend and would be willing to present at the conference. Ambassador Orazov has participated in the WOMCs since 2007. It was a great experience to work with the envoy from Turkmenistan and listen to his presentation on his country and the initiatives they are currently undertaking to further sustainable development for women and children. Ambassador Orazov was very supportive of all of the student’s efforts and initiatives.

I also contacted Ms. Mihaela Stamate, assistant to the chief of the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations to invite Ambassador Simona-Mirela Miculescu, to attend the conference. Romania has been working hard at the United Nations to further the SMD agenda, particularly for women and children, and has even coordinated the efforts of several mountain nations in order to get mountain indicators to be included among sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations during general discussions in 2013-2014.

When Mihaela informed me that Ambassador Miculescu finished her tenure and went back to Romania, I was able to prepare and send an invitation letter from the organizing committee to the newly appointed Romanian envoy to the United Nations, His Excellency Dr. Ion Jinga and his wife Daniella Jinga. Ambassador Jinga excitedly accepted the invitation. The Romanian envoy was a cheerful person, encouraging students and contributing to the success of the conference both during the gathering and after the conference. The Ambassador emphasized the commitment of Romania to the promotion of gender equality in his excellent presentation during conference and in his Op-Ed, published in the Huffington Post (see:


Parker Nielsen with Ambassador of Romania, H.E. Dr. Ion Jinga

I also worked with embassies of several other mountain countries accredited to the United Nations including Lesotho, Argentina, Nepal, Bhutan, and Azerbaijan to invite their top envoys to attend the conference. Of all the additional embassies I contacted, only Ambassador Kelebone Maope of Lesotho responded and let me know that he regrettably wouldn’t be able to attend as did Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States, H.E. Elin Suleymanov. The others never responded to our invitations or our attempts at following up. It was a great experience developing contacts and working with embassies and international dignitaries regardless of whether or not all of the invited guests responded.

Special attention was given to providing protocol and logistics to the representative of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS) based in Rome, Italy which was one of the main institutions providing support to our conference. The Secretariat decided to send to UVU Mia Rowan, a communication specialist at the MPS, as their representative. Mia had the responsibility to conduct several meetings with the MP members, present on the current projects the MP is undertaking, and oversee the plenary session where the final draft document to be presented to the United Nations had to be discussed. She worked hard to help the students accomplish these important tasks and ensured the conference was a success. It was a special pleasure for me to work so close with her and learn many lessons in networking, presenting, and protocol which I will use in my future professional life.


(L to R) Mia Rowan and Parker Nielsen

I gained important experience from my interaction with another very important organization: UNWomen. During the second Women of the Mountains Conference in 2011 the head of the UNWomen, the Honorable Michelle Bachelet, sent to participants of the conference a letter with greetings. This time, students hoped to get UNWomen’s participation at the conference and share with them the success of promoting the United Nations gender agenda in North America as the future leaders in the implementation of the just adopted post-2015-agenda of the United Nations. The organizing committee had sent several invitations to the UNWomen one year prior the event, offering even to cover the expenses of the UNWomen representative if the office decided to send someone to the conference.

I worked very hard to get representation from UNWomen to the conference, but ultimately gave up after several months. I finally heard the day before the conference that they would not be able to provide representation. I know that the UNWomen were busy with courting China to co-host the “Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action,” one week prior our conference. Probably due to that reason they didn’t send us any letter with official greetings as well. We were, however, able to get participation from the UNWomen chapter in Utah. We hope that for future conferences representatives from UNWomen in New York will be able to contribute to the success of the conference.

Additionally, I worked with several high level dignitaries from the United States including Irene Marr, the Senior Policy Advisor for Europe and Central Asia in the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office for Global Women’s Issues, and had the pleasure of introducing her prior to her presentation during the conference. She was incredibly helpful and participated in almost every panel and every session of the conference. She informed us of how her office and the State Department make all efforts to ensure that women’s issues are addressed at the highest level possible. As I have intentions to work for the State Department, I had the opportunity to ask her questions about how best to prepare myself and what working for the State Department is like. She was very encouraging and helpful. I am grateful to have met her and for all her help with the conference.


(L to R ): Yankila Sherpa, from Nepal, Parker Nielsen, and Irene Marr, State Department

In addition to working with international VIP-guests and ambassadors, I had the opportunity to work with other international dignitaries by sending them official invitations to the conference, helping prepare travel plans and itineraries, and most importantly working with US embassies in their areas to help get visas approved in order for them to attend. I coordinated efforts of our team to arrange trips to Orem, UT for Diana Lucia Chaman Salas, from Peru, Yunita Kopjanski from Indonesia, Bernice Frimpong Ankrah from Ghana, Gulshan Tynystanova and Mira Attokurova from Kyrgyzstan, Manzura Makhkamova from Tajikistan, and Yankila Sherpa from Nepal among others. Yankila is the former Minister of Tourism of Nepal and works hard to further sustainability and development for women and children in her country.

After working with visa issues, international guests, dignitaries, and US representatives I worked to put together a team of students that would be responsible for protocol during the conference. Students volunteered to help pick up people from the airport, escort our guests, and be on hand to help with any of the various issues that come up during a conference of this size. Working with the student’s various interests and availability, I paired each student with a guest and prepared a packet that included itineraries, hotel information, conference schedules, and the appropriate protocol for greeting and working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

I paired Matt Murdoch and his wife Emily with Ambassador Jinga and His wife. Matt and Emily did an excellent job accompanying them and received the highest praise from the Ambassador for his efforts. Johnny Warren agreed to work with Irene Marr from the State Department and went above and beyond what was asked of him. Samantha Hawkins and Andrew Brown worked together with Yankila Sherpa from Nepal, picking her up at the airport and making sure that her every need was met. Trevor Williams escorted Mia Rowan from the MPS and worked hard to help her accomplish all her goals and tasks she had planned during the conference. Christian Jensen worked with Yunita Kopjanski from Indonesia and received high praise for helping Yunita with everything she needed during the conference.

Andre Jones, Ryan Belliston and Andrei Pylnikov accompanied Gulshan Tynystanova and Mira Attokurova from Kyrgyzstan. Andre Jones, who speaks Russian and Andrei Pylnikov, who is from Russia helped translate for Gulshan and Mira during the conference. Ryan demonstrated an excellent flexibility as he switched from helping one VIP-guest to another. Jason Linde accompanied Ambassador of Turkmenistan, H.E. Dr. Meret Orazov and made sure that the Ambassador’s stay in Utah was pleasant all while maintaining school, work, and family life. Michael Scott Montrose provided protocol to Vicki Fenwick-Judy from the Mountain Institute. Michael met every need of Vicki and the conference. When met with an issue, he approached it head on and worked to make sure it was taken care of.

Finally, Vinicius “Vinny” Pacheco accompanied Alexey Semyonov, the President of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation. Alexey had limited time so after giving his presentation, he had to leave to attend to matters with work. Vinicius still worked tirelessly to help in every way with the conference. He was on call for everything I or anyone else needed at any given time and went above and beyond to make sure it was taken care of. Travis Webb, Drew Swainston and Chase Marstella had been asked to provide protocol to people who weren’t able to make it, however in the end, they all still worked very hard to help in every way possible during the conference. Each and everyone deserves the highest praise possible for their efforts.

The conference was a great success due to the efforts of many students and faculty that made it possible. A special role was played by Dr. David Connelly, Chair of the History and Political Science Department, who always ensures that students in the department have the opportunities and resources they need to succeed globally in their chosen fields. The department provided a special office to the organizing committee with all equipment and logistics necessary for the conference. Students continue to use it as a headquarters for the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU.

Dr. Connelly provided funds to cover certain expenses during the conference, helped to raise additional financial resources when it was necessary, and in addition made an almost unlimited in-kind contribution from the department including: printing, copying agendas, materials and sending them where it was necessary. Dr. Connelly has supported the SMD promotion since the time he arrived at UVU, and has his own interest as a scholar in sustainability, and rural development.

Kimberly Williamson, Dr. Connelly’s administrative assistant, was also instrumental in the success of the conference. Her contributions include: printing and preparing all the necessary documents, providing support and help to students on the organizing committee for all the scheduling, contacting, reimbursing and, parking. She advised our students how to make the reservations for our VIP guests and coordinated travel to and from the airport for the guests that didn’t have rides. Additionally, she helped with reimbursements for all of our VIP guests and our students who traveled to and from the airport to pick them up. And, all of this was done in addition to handling the department’s regular routine and scheduled activities for which she is responsible.


Thank you letter from Ambassador of Romania

to the United Nations, Dr. Ion Jinga


Baktybek Abdrisaev, a lecturer at UVU and former Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan, provided opportunities for students to participate in events on the international level and to work hard to make sure they are recognized for their efforts. He refers to them not as students, but as colleagues and trusts them with high levels responsibility. He works hard to teach his students and ensures they are prepared for the future. Tony Medina, the VP of Logistics and Protocol, demonstrated to us many new skills which we all admire. He worked nonstop during the entire conference, as well as the time leading up to the conference. He prepared everything from the rooms we would need, to the food we would eat and so much more all while going to class and dealing with normal family responsibilities. His friendly and encouraging attitude draws people to him, and he in turn helps them to accomplish great things.

Deann Torsak, the Executive Secretary of the conference, is an amazing force capable of accomplishing impossible feats. She was able to manage every aspect of the conference from the panels, to the scheduling, to contacting and working with everyone involved all while attending class and dealing with family life. I learned many things from the conference and met many wonderful people. It was a difficult and stressful experience, but one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I have ever had. Thanks to my involvement in the conference and its activities, I am a better person and I am more prepared to face the challenges of the world.

The Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference isn’t the last step. There is much more to be done and much more work that must happen in order to promote the sustainable development of mountainous regions. Women and children around the world suffer for many reasons, but by working together across international borders, solutions can be found. That was the purpose of the conference and thanks to everyone involved, we have taken a large step in the right direction.


Parker Nielsen, Head of Protocol, 2015 WOMC organizing committee

Great Lessons of the Women of the Mountains Conference


My association with Women of the Mountains conference (WOMC) began a few years ago when I took a class from Professor Baktybek Abdrisaev POLS2250 “Globalization and Sustainable Mountain Development.” As part of this class we were responsible for writing a research paper dealing with sustainable mountain development. I wrote a paper titled “Sustainable Mountain Development: State Rights vs. Federal Rights,” which was included in the first volume of the journal “Youth and the Mountains,” published by the History and Political Science Department of Utah Valley University in 2013 (See: ). Such a paper opened my eyes to not only the issues that the state of Utah was facing, but issues of other nations and peoples as well.

Sadly, I took this class my final semester at Utah Valley University (UVU) and I was then off to graduate school. During this time while I was not a part of the WOMC organization I continued to learn about the issues facing others, especially those in developing, mountainous nations. In addition, I had multiple opportunities to improve my writing skills. This would serve me well, for soon after I graduated from the University of Utah with a Masters in International Affairs and Global Enterprise I began working at the Center for Constitutional Studies at UVU.

It was here that I was able to once more get involved in the WOMC organization when I agreed to join student organizing committee led by the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. My primary duties were helping to secure funding for the upcoming event by writing proposals for a number of grants. This experience was new to me. I have written countless papers, but none such like this. It was a great opportunity to be taught and learn a new skill in applying for grants and learning how that system works.


(L to R ) I am with Tony Medina, VP for Logistics and Protocol during the WOMC

Through writing the grants I was able to see the importance of the WOMC organization in a light I had not known before; as grass-roots forum, focused on the promotion of the United Nations gender and sustainable mountain development agendas, gathered by UVU students, faculty and local communities in the State of Utah with support from many like-minded institutions in the Rocky Mountain region. I was able to see and present to the committees handling grants about the role the WOMC plays not only in the international community, but in our local community as well. That the faces and languages may vary, but the issues that most face are the same.

It was a great opportunity and my activities were part of the joint efforts of several students at organizing committee who focused on raising funds for the conference, including Jenny Starley, who was responsible for media and fundraising and Kamaile Harris, who was able successfully organize silent auction at Salt Lake City to raise funds benefitting the conference.

My task was to look for funds which will allow WOMC to cover trips for six women-entrepreneurs from different mountain nations (two from Africa, two from Asia and two from Latin America) and I approached primarily funding institutions in the state of Utah and at UVU as well. I know that my other colleagues applied for several grants before but experienced some setbacks….Still we remember famous saying of Winston Churchill “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” I was full of enthusiasm to try again, prepared grant proposals and submitted to GEL Seed Grant, which is handled by the Office of Engaged Learning at UVU and ELLA Grant which is handled by College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UVU.

While our proposal for GEL Seed Grant was rejected, I am grateful that my efforts in writing the ELLA grant were able to help fund such a great event, when UVU students hosted for the first time major international conference under the umbrella of the United Nations-affiliated Mountain Partnership. I was glad that ELLA committee recognized all hard work done by UVU students and made the following decision: “The ELLA committee finds that support for this project is warranted due to the important experience the student participants gain in planning the Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) and contributing to developing a protocol for future meetings of the conference, one which serves an important academic community with a humanitarian mission and in which UVU plays an increasingly important role internationally. The money requested is to pay the expense of bringing one of six women entrepreneur participants to the conference. Given that the…. conference planning has generated a significant portion of its funding from a variety of sources far exceeding what is requested, and given that the student participants’ efforts in planning the conference would be diminished by losing one of the conference luminaries, the committee recommends funding of the full amount requested.”

As part of my responsibility I also helped to organize the presentation from Pauline Zvonkovic, Senior Management Analyst at United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. She made two special presentations about writing grants and shared her experiences in helping fund various projects and initiatives for local communities in the number of states of the Rocky Mountains region.


Judge Griffith ( C ) with UVU Students at the Center for Constitutional Studies.

In addition to writing grants I was also able to act as liaison between the Center for Constitutional Studies and the WOMC organization. WOMC invited Susan Griffith, wife of Judge Griffith, federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to make a keynote presentation about her life and ability to balance family, own role as mother and grandmother with official duties of being a wife of a high level official of the United States. Knowing that Susan Griffith will be accompanied by her husband during the WOMC, I helped to organize at the Center for Constitutional Studies at UVU a sit down with Judge Griffith and his wife Susan Griffith.  The meeting served as an opportunity for the UVU students, who received special scholarship named as Wood Assistants to not only learn more about Constitutional law and the appellate process but a look at what takes place behind the closed doors of the judicial system.  Judge Griffith spoke of the desire for that the Washington, DC appellate court has to not become partisan, but the need to stay focused on what the law is and not what public opinion wants. In how this is necessary for a judicial system to remain relevant and useful in a free society. In addition, Judge Griffith shared some practical experiences and recommendations with students and was very open and candid about the amount of time and research an appellate court judge must do for each case and the necessity of having a united court rather than a divided court.

Along with the insights of the judicial system we were also treated to hearing from him and his wife Susan on the struggles and benefits of raising a family when one spouse has such a demanding and stressful career. Their insights showed that it takes a team to be successful in life and that in a family each member are equally important to the success of that family.

This Conference was such a great success because of the amazing work done by so many students who were able to work as one strong and united team. It also gave me the opportunity to work closely with my wife, Molly Hone, who has such a passion for the topics that where discussed during this conference. This conference showed me that there is still much that needs to be done in order to continue to improve the lives of others, but that by working together we can make it happen.

Thomas Hone, member of the organizing Committee, 2015 WOMC

Hosting Guest from Nepal during Women of the Mountains Conference

nepalYankila Sherpa from Nepal during her presentation at the conference

My Story

I had the privilege to participate in the fourth international Women of the Mountains conference that was held at UVU on October 7-9, 2015. During the conference many speakers provided insight on the current situation of the women living in the mountainous regions of their respective countries.

I was honored to be able to accompany and help one such speaker named Yankila Sherpa. She is from Nepal and is a great example of the fortitude and resilience of the women that live in that rugged part of the world. She was a State Minister of tourism and currently she is President of the company Snow Leopard Trek. When I first met her she wanted to do a quick run through of her speech before her actual presentation. We found a room and set to work on making sure that her power point would work, and that there would be no hiccups when the time came to present her information. By the time she finished with her brief run-through it was already time for the other speakers to begin. After listening to several interesting presentations we headed off to the library where Yankila would give her presentation.

We parted ways for a while as I went upstairs to set up her power point and ensure that there would be no problems. Then we met up again and went up to the presentation room. Yankila was the second to present and it went well. I enjoyed learning about the situation of the women in Nepal and about the organizations that were involved in helping them. The only downside was that the conference was a bit behind schedule therefore Yankila was not able to go through everything that she had prepared beforehand. I could tell that she was a bit upset at not being able to finish it because she kept reminding me that she had not been able to do so, and that she wished that they wouldn’t have rushed her through it.

nepal2Yankila Sherpa and I during lunch

We watched the other presenters and then headed down for lunch. It was delicious and a great treat to see everyone that had participated in the conference there in one place. I learned a lot that day, but what I think I enjoyed most about the whole experience was that I was able to start a new friendship with a great person from another part of the world. Before parting ways she gave me a poster of Mt. Everest, and a necklace made in Nepal for my mother. Yankila was so sweet to me and I will never forget her. I hope that I have the chance to see her again wherever that meeting may be.

Aaron Smith, UVU student, member of the organizing committee of the conference

It was a true honor to host the Women of the Mountains Conference

To be a part of the student organizing committee for the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference (WOMC) was a wonderful opportunity for me in order to learn something new and exciting. This summer I started a new job that was close to Utah Valley University (UVU) and when I heard that the conference was being held within a couple of months, I headed over to the office of the organizing committee to see if I could volunteer and help out a little bit ( emphasis on the little). I really didn’t think that I would have much time to help out before the conference.

As soon as I stepped into the offices though, I was asked to coordinate all the cultural events for the conference. Deann Torsak (the executive secretary) gave me the information about the couple events already planned, and I thought “Okay, I can do this. It’ll just be a few calls and emails, right?” Wrong. What ensued over the next 6 weeks were dozens of emails, calls, text messages, numerous visits back to the office of the organizing committee of the WOMC, and hours of coordinating the performers and events.


Mary Foote, 19th century artist   And novelist                

as2 Dr. Kim Abunuara, and Dr. Nancy Rushfort, UVU

                                                    Professors during play

The first day of the conference dawned bright and early (a little too early in my opinion) and I quickly realized that while the hours of preparation were worth the effort, we had a long way to go. I was thrilled and at the same time scared to death that first cultural event on Tuesday evening: a play written by Dr. Nancy Rushforth from UVU, which celebrated achievements of Mary Foote, well-known 19th century artist and novelist. Mary Forte described life in early Western mining towns in the United States. The performance consisted of excerpts from Foote’s letters, accompanied by a narrative explanation of the sequence of events and was performed by Dr. Nancy Rushforth and her colleague Dr. Kim Abunuara, Associate Professor from UVU.


Christina and Nate Keller, members of the Kellers family music group,

perform during the conference

One of the first things I learned on the job was that being flexible was a requirement. A couple of times during the conference we had to make last minute changes to the performances, or changes in venues, and what amazed me each and every time was the performers themselves. For example, the Keller siblings, Nate and Christina, who performed during lunch on October 7, 2015 were two of the nicest and most understanding people. We asked them to change how long they would play for and they immediately said yes. The Kellers regularly contribute to the activities of the WOMCs, and had previously recorded several music numbers as part of the UVU video greetings to the participants of the landmark United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012 (Rio+20). (see: Similarly, the UVU “Cultural Envoy” dance group was asked to move to a different stage less than half an hour before performing, and they not only worked with us, but we’re happy to make the last minute changes.

Each and every time I thought I was going to fall apart and let down my fellow committee members, they were immediately there for me. They were ready to help answer questions I didn’t know, and more importantly, help me to solve problems and the little issues that came up.

Organizing the cultural events required a significant amount of logistical work, and problems naturally came up, such as how to get a piano to the top floor of the classroom building for the Gruppman International Music Institute (GIMI) demonstration? I was almost ready to tell them that we couldn’t make it happen, when Tony Medina, Vice President for Logistics and Protocol of the WOMC organizing committee had the brilliant idea of using an electric keyboard. This demonstration was especially important as it was not only the musical performance during dinner on Thursday, but showed how Igor and Vesna Gruppman, two world-known and extraordinary musicians used on-line technologies, like Skype to teach play music kids in Provo, UT from Rotterdam, Netherlands, where both of them currently live and work. The Gruppman’s work with students all over the world because of their unique teaching technique, was an important contribution to the conference agenda.


Vesna Gruppman teaches student play violin during Skype session

It would have been difficult to say the least, to have been able to pull off the cultural events without the teamwork of other committee members. Never having had so much responsibility in planning a conference or event, I was terrified going into it. I thought for sure I couldn’t be trusted with that of the conference. I have never been more relieved to discover that not only could I be trusted with the responsibility, but I loved the experience. It was so much fun to be a part of the student organizing committee of the conference. Being one of 6 girls in my family, the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference hits home. I want every woman to be raised with the same message that I was: I can do or be anything! Regardless of sex or race! This conference promotes that ideal and so much more and I am honored to have been a part of it.

Molly Hone, UVU Student

Tony Medina: Inspiring Experience of the Women of the Mountains Conference


bek12015 WOMC Team during Social Party after the Conference

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” George Patton

I had seen this quote many times throughout my time in the military. However, it wasn’t until the end of the Women of the Mountains conference (WOMC) that I truly understood it. The year and a half that I have been working with the WOMC2015 has been a learning experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The people I have had the opportunity to work with have been inspiring and true leaders for all to emulate. Following the conference, on October 10, 2015, I wrote an email to those intimately involved in the planning and organizing of the conference. I would like to share that with you now:


I am with Kimberly Williamson, 2015 WOMC Secretariat Advisor and Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the 2015 WOMC

“Hi guys,

I just wanted to send a quick email out now that this headache is behind us.  I hope you all are out celebrating, sleeping, or getting drunk; I know I would be doing one then the other if it weren’t for work 😉

I just wanted you all to know how much I appreciate every single one of you and all of your efforts over the past months.  When I first came on board over logistics and protocol, it seemed like an easy job, writing letters, ordering food, reserving rooms, etc.  It was a scary moment when I realized just how much I had bitten off and had to chew.

Deann (Torsak-Executive Secretary of the Conference), thank you so much for taking over for Hailey (Eggleston, who left UVU due to family reasons during summer 2015).  I had just accepted the fact that I would be doing her job as well when she quit working with us.  When you came on, I kept thinking I need to do that, and the next day it would be done already.  You have done a fantastic job and I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting partner in crime (we still need to steal that couch btw).  The example you have set for your kids and the other students around you is one we should all hope to live up to.  I can’t tell you exactly how much I have relied on you the past year because I don’t think the words exist.  Just know that it is a lot, and I look forward to working with you for a long time to come!

Jenny (Starley, PR and Fundraising), you are amazing, for lack of a better word.  Your experience, professionalism, and leadership took us to a whole new level and propelled us to places I had never dreamed of going.  Every time you prepared a document or a packet or a press release, it blew me away!  It was always professional-level and of the highest quality and standard.  If it is any representation of your professional life outside of our conference, your boss owes you a big raise (or their job, for that matter)!  Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication.  We all sincerely appreciate it!

Kamaile (Harris, Liaison at Salt Lake City and Business fair Coordinator), you are the sister I never had.  When Jenny first brought you on board, I would read your name and see your attachments and I always imagined you as this very stiff and rigid typical liberal (I can admit this now :)) But, once we first met you up at the capital, your personality clicked and everything made sense.  You are THE kindest and gentlest person I have ever known, and the size of your heart is only surpassed by your willingness to use it to help others.  Your connections, ideas, and dedication made this whole thing happen.  From the bottom of my heart, Mahalo (I hope I used that right :)).

Yanko (Dzhukev, Social Media Liaison), you have done an amazing job bringing us into the 21st century.  Your dedication and tenacity is, what I believe, what really caught the eye of the world and directed it on us.  This organization owes you a huge debt of gratitude for your long hours and willingness to get the job done regardless of the hardship it would put on yourself.  And, the fact that when you were 20, 000 miles away and could have just forgotten about us and yet kept doing your job screams volumes of your character and personality.  I am honored to call you my friend.

Parker (Nielsen, Head of Protocol), although you came on a little later than the rest, you represented us all to the world with integrity, professionalism, and dedication.  When it came time to start arranging the dignitaries and VIP attendance, I really thought I was going to die from being overwhelmed.  Your personal experience and personality are invaluable to the organization, and these past few days would not have happened had you not been tackling such a huge aspect of this whole thing.  It had to be like herding cats, and between students and international dignitaries, you probably need that drink more than most.  Thank you for all you did, do, and will continue to do, and I know eventually you will get to where you want to go and represent the United States to another country in a phenomenal way.

Carlos (Alarco, Liaison at the University of Utah), you were the man behind the curtain this whole time, just like the Wizard.  Whenever anybody needed something with the website, posters, or program in general, you always came through and rescued us from the brink of insanity, and brought us back to Kansas (to continue the reference lol).  Although I have only known you for a short while, I know that UVU lost an incredible asset when you transferred to the University of Utah. Please know that we all sincerely appreciate all that you have done for us over the past months.

Bek (Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Faculty Advisor), that piece of glass in your office now, is only a symbol of the amount of admiration and respect I carry for you.  You have become more than just a mentor or professor to Stacy and I.  You are a treasured friend with whom I owe an innumerably large debt of gratitude for your dedication to pushing and propelling students far beyond what they thought possible.  You once told me you would be with us through to the very successful end.  I think we reached that now.  All I can put into words is спасибо.

I just want you all to know that through my time in the military, I worked with some great and amazing people.  But, working with you folks over the past year has been the single greatest honor I have had.  In the military, you work with people who are more or less there because of contractual obligations.  You all sacrificed so much and gave even more for a reward that may not reach you for years to come.  And even when things looked the worst you all kept pushing forward.  To me, that is the epitome of leadership and dedication, and you all exemplify it beyond any other group of people I know.  I want you all to know how personally grateful I am to have met and worked with you.  You all have made me a better person and taught me things about myself that I never knew existed.  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.  You are all amazing.

Take a break and relax for a while, and we will hit the ground running in a little bit.  There is still work to be done, and I know if we put our heads together there is no limit we can’t reach.

With warm regards and the utmost respect,


The wonderful people I have been able to surround myself with during this amazing experience have truly opened my eyes to the leadership potential that exists outside of the military. I once thought that the military taught me everything I needed to know about leadership. However, now I know that the military only taught me what leadership is. I have since learned how to lead from the wonderful examples of the organizing committee.

Lastly, I want to say one last thank you to someone who has supported me more than they realize. My wife, Stacy has been a huge support to me throughout this experience. She has lent a hand many times when I needed help, and always supported my late nights and long days. To her, all I can say is thank you.


Tony Medina, Vice President for Logistics and Protocol of the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference