Category Archives: 2018

Rob Smith: Great lessons of student engaged learning at the United Nations

Rob Smith at the United Nations

The trip to the United Nations (UN) to participate at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women during March 19-21, 2018 was an incredible experience both for my peers and for me. We had the opportunity to go with our group from the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) and present at the UN. As a student, I have had opportunities to present, but being able to present at the United Nations was something I would have never imagined I would get the chance to do while being a student at UVU. Aside from being a member of the club, I am also the Student Body President at UVU. I had the privilege of presenting about UVU and more specifically, its Engaged Learning Model. The Engaged Learning Model that the university has is what has made it possible for our club to go to the UN and present. Many of the students from our group presented on research they have done specifically around sustainability and development in mountainous regions. I was honored to be able to present on how and why these students are able to get involved and work on projects like these. The Engaged Learning Model at UVU is geared around giving students opportunities outside of the classroom to engage in real world experiences. The model allows for us to not only be able to do the research that had been done, but to also take it and present to the local, regional, and even global audiences like in this case, through the UN to continue our initiatives.

Rob Smith (third from the left) during a side event presentation on March 19, 2018

Each day we presented, we gave a chance for people to ask us questions. On the day we presented at a parallel event on March 20, 2018, we were asked by people in the audience how they could take back what they learned from our presentation and implement it in their own way where they are from. It was amazing to see how the work we had done was something that other people wanted to be a part of and asked for help from the UIMF to make these implementations. It was a testament to the great students, faculty, and staff that are at UVU and have put so much time and effort into this project. It was a tremendous experience to represent both UVU as the Student Body President and as a member of the UIMF.

The first of day of our trip to the United Nations was very interesting and fascinating for me. First of all, it was my first time in New York City. It was amazing to see the energy of the city, especially around the UN Building. When we went into the UN Building, it was truly amazing to see the diversity within it. There were people from all around the world speaking many different languages and representing their own countries and people. It was a humbling experience for me to be able to be at the UN with all of these people. One of the things that I loved about it the most was that all of these people were here working for something good. Although we each come from different places and the needs of our countries and people are different, people are there to work towards a better life for others. They are striving to bring peace and bring forth initiatives like sustainable development that can make better not only their own country, but the entire world.

Rob Smith with his son Thomas and wife Kati at Madison Square Garden

My experience at the UN was also a great networking opportunity. I was able to get to connect with professors and staff members from UVU who I had never had the privilege of knowing. They were there to encourage me and give great feedback on my presentations as well as listen to me and hear my goals and aspirations and offer up advice that they have from their immense life and career experiences. They were also able to share some of their own experiences that gave me reasons to think about as I move forward with my goals. We also had the wonderful opportunity to meet with and talk with people from around the world. Ambassadors of different countries accredited at the UN, UN Staff, and many others were there. I had the chance to talk with a few of them and hear their stories and what they do. When I was able to talk with them, it opened my eyes to how many opportunities are out there from around the world. Opportunities like this, especially for a student, are so valuable. We learn so much when we get these opportunities to network with and learn from so many different people with such diverse backgrounds. It helps us open our eyes to the rest of the world and provides us with tremendous opportunities.

Rob Smith, Utah Valley University Student Body President

Congressman Chris Stewart Security Summit

Students and faculty at Utah Valley University had the incredible opportunity to attend Congressman Chris Stewart’s Security Summit on March 26, 2018. This event is an annual event where Representative Stewart invites national voices of security to Salt Lake City, Utah and allows each to address a wide variety of topics that range from national unity to security in areas like Tunisia. The topic of this year’s summit was the role of America in providing international security.

First to address the group of local and regional military leaders, citizens, students, and faculty was Byron York, an active author of articles in the Washington Examiner. Mr. York attempted to create a case for why the security and rule of law in the United States has been compromised by the collusion with Russia accusations and following investigation. He argued that submitting our nation’s highest official to this kind of scrutiny prevents law enforcement agencies and resources from doing their job. Following his presentation, he answered questions about the changes that could happen in the current administration following the changes in the National Security Officer, Secretary of State, and VA President.

Following to address the attendees was Jennie Johnson, a professor at Utah State University who spoke on importance of international diplomacy through the CIA and State Department. As a serving official in the CIA for over 30 years, Ms. Johnson addressed how the duty of the CIA remains to be to speak truth to power, providing credible evidence whether good or bad, to the senior policymakers in the United States. She argued that the role of the CIA is also to possess sufficient understanding of the enemies of the United States and to provide actionable intelligence that can then be used to prevent attacks on the United States. She then shifted into the State Department as well and explained the various categories of the State Department algorithm that provides insight into how other nations act. First, we must identify how the country sees itself and the United States. Next, you must understand the norms that the countries adhere to and the affect that these norms have on other states. Finally, you must create actionable intelligence that can be used to predict and prevent attacks against the United States. Finally, she argued that political theory summarizes that when one country strives to maintain hegemonic power, other countries will inevitably rise up against the hegemony. She posed the question of how U.S. policymakers will strive to maintain this standard.

Next to present was Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser MD, an accomplished surgeon who also represents the Muslim community on a national level. He argued that powers like Saudi Arabia that strive to represent change in the Islamic faith yet continue in totalitarian theocratic power represent a significant threat to United States security. He said that current U.S. policy is reminiscent of “whack-a-mole”, where the nation addresses problems as they come up. He claims that the United States must adjust to a preventative policy that will prevent jihadist terrorism before it happens. Other speakers in the conference included Representative Stewart’s Chief of Staff, who discussed China’s land grab, Iran’s global terrorist network, and intelligence community reform; the Ambassador to the United States for the Republic of Tunisia Faycal Gouia, who discussed the building of new democracy; and finally, Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina delivered a riveting message on national unity and how the only way that the United States can maintain national security is by remaining unified.

I believe this was a great opportunity for UVU students in the Sustainable Mountain Development Program to be able to better understand how national security issues can be solved for mountain communities. Unity with mountain regions and providing security for those areas will prevent the systematic and prevailing violence that seems to continually affect mountainous regions.

Andrew Jensen, member, Foreign Affairs club at Utah Valley University



Sam Elzinga -The Congressman Chris Stewart Security Summit an Intern’s Perspective


Day 3 for UIMF at CSW62: Matthew Rands – Student engaged learning through networking

Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student led clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), worked vigorously at the United Nations 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), in New York from March 19th to March 21st, 2018. During their three-day presence there, students learned valuable lessons in how to better frame their efforts in promoting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #5 on gender, with an emphasis on mountain women in order to secure placement of their major recommendations in the final CSW document.

Morning Briefing for NGOs during CSW62

From March 19-20, 2018, we were able to gain valuable learning experiences on UN advocacy processes through hosting a side and parallel event. We already expected major outcomes by studying procedures, regulations, and making practical preparations to both events for more than one year. But many new lessons came as we attended the daily Morning Briefing held by NGO CSW/NY for NGOs participating at the CSW62 at the UN headquarters on Wednesday, March 21st. NGO CSW62 Forum organized 440 parallel events during two weeks of activities of the CSW62 which included our parallel event on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.  During briefing, three individuals representing UNWomen and CSW62 NGO/NY informed the participants of around 100 people representing NGOs from around the world, including our group about major activities at CSW62 and negotiations about the content of the final document of the forum. Many of the NGOs were concerned about the negations for the final CSW document. Mrs. Lopa Banerjee from UNWomen spoke on how vital civil society is in helping the member states to pass legislation and assured that NGOs related to women would help influence the final document.

UIMF members during the Morning Briefing for CSW62 NGOs

In the Q&A portion of the meeting, our student members gained new experiences of how to address co-chairs of the briefing, to being pro-active and use the event to find answers on their important questions. The UIMF team made efforts for several months and were able convince the secretariat of CSWNGO to include in the Zero Draft (the final document) of CSW62 language concerning the importance of focusing more attention from international community on mountain women, and how student engaged learning initiative could contribute to those efforts as UVU demonstrated during more than 10 years by hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences in the State of Utah and overseas. As we checked the updated draft of the CSW document before the briefing, our proposed language was no longer included. The response was that member states had objections in listing groups based on geography in the final document. They would prefer to reference women across the world instead of specific groups. This tactic of avoiding lists does not discredit the importance of a group, but rather avoids unnecessary stress during negotiations in fear of excluding other groups. At the same time, our second question about the importance for CSW62 and the UN to pay attention to non-traditional students as an important group of contributors to the implementation of SDG#5 on gender attracted attention from many NGO members attending the meeting. They were interested in the idea that: any type of student from universities around the world, not only the youth can carve out a path in advocating for the implementation of the SDGs.

(Right to left) Matthew Rands, President, UIMF with Masako Hiramatsu, Business & Professional Women NGO, Japan and Tomoe Hayashi, Tokyo President, NPO Corporation National Federation BPW Japan during morning briefing

Both before and after the meeting, students of the UIMF greeted representatives of other NGOs and created connections. These contacts will come in handy as UIMF members look to create an even larger coalition in coming 63rd session of the Commissions on the Status of Women to prove how students play a vital role in advocating SDG #5 on gender equality.

From left to right: Mrs. Wendy Jyang, Derek Garfield, Matthew Rands, Mr. Richard Jordan, Dylan Genes

After the briefing, we explored one such new and important contact during a subsequent informal meeting with Mr. Richard Jordan, who has been involved in activities at the UN headquarters for 39 years. He was in addition to numerous activities included in his bio  one of the 5 original co-founding editors of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin as well as Director of UN Operations for the Royal Academy of Science Intl. Trust.

Derek Garfield, Dylan Genes and myself, as leaders of UIMF were able to find answers to many of our questions, learned how to overcome challenges that we faced this year in the future, and successfully insert desired language about mountain women in the final CSW document next year. Mr. Jordan advised for example to use as a reference the “Future We Want,” the final document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (RIO+20), which has one paragraph dedicated to the mountains. In addition, he suggested to use the High Level Political Forum 2018 (HLPF) to reach out to the different diplomatic missions and advocate through Student Engaged Learning the empowerment of rural women globally, especially women in mountainous areas. Mr. Jordan also mentioned strategies he personally used to acquire information and speak to Ambassadors when needed and offered students what he called a gold mine of information regarding UN processes, which he offered to be stored at UVU. This suggestion will help to both attract future students to advocate in their promotion of the SDGs and educate current UIMF members in the different routes available in advocating at the UN: one such option would be to make the UIMF an NGO with ECOSOC status, which would allow future students the opportunity to go the UN and have the tools to advocate more effectively on a global level.

As a student, I had the opportunity to see exactly how UVU’s engaged learning model works. It is a model that if replicated, will benefit countries that have adopted it in their universities. I believe that students are among the most energetic, motivated, and service oriented in the world. Students will be able to help promote the implementation of SDGs by participating directly in the advocacy process.

The Utah International Mountain Forum members will be much better prepared now with materials needed such as an E-course from the FAO-UN and publications and experiences shared by Mr. Jordan. In future events, students will be able to continue to promote through the UVU student engaged learning model the implementation of SDGs, particularly goal #5 regarding gender equality especially with focus on mountain women.

Matthew Rands, President, UIMF

Day 2 for UIMF at CSW62: Dylan Genes-Hosting a parallel event

 March 20th, 2018 at 8:30am, Utah Valley University (UVU) delegations hosted the parallel event “Education for Sustainable Development to Empower Rural and Mountain women” as part of the activities during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) at the Church Center of the United Nations (777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY, 10017). As part of the UVU program of engaged learning, the student delegation that participated in the United Nations (UN) trip put together the presentation to extend their message and highlight the importance of the UN target goals focused on Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) for mountain women. Using Utah as a model for SMD, students were able to share their research with other worldly individuals as well as other non-government organizations (NGO) giving the opportunity to learn first-hand how to communicate, network, and be a diplomat through engaged learning. We also learned that parallel events could be sponsored by any non-government organization. This time, our parallel event was co-sponsored by three NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN: The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), the Mountain Institute and the Utah-China Friendship Improvement Shared Hands and Development and Commerce (Utah-China F.I.S.H.& D.&C).

Dr. Butler, focal point for the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences at ECOSOC  speaks during parallel events at CSW62.

Due to the fact that we had 11 presenters in our parallel event, we decided to use the same script which was used a day before for the side event and ensured that as a result, our student team will have an opportunity to improve the performance and quality of presentations as well as deliver the same message from the UVU delegation to a different audience. Parallel events are usually hosted outside of the UN premises and could be attended by the public. At the beginning of the event Dr. Rusty Butler, focal point of the RANS to the ECOSOC had opening remarks greeting audience members and introducing me as a moderator of the event. Afterwards, I again introduced the same presenters as did the previous day even though the agenda of the parallel event that was printed on the flyer was a little bit different. We submitted the flyer of the poster a few months earlier when the final list of presenters was not yet identified. Amy Barnett replaced Dr. Lago, who at that time had another urgent meeting. Amy made a statement about benefits for students of new Associate Memberships of UVU under United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI). Moving forward, I Introduced Dr. Butler and Ms. Wendy Jyang to share their experiences of working with UVU students through student engaged learning to advocate for mountain women. Afterwards, the students demonstrated how their model works in practice by sharing with the audience examples of student engaged learning experiences. Derek Garfield, Vice-President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University ( spoke on how UIMF advocates mountain women by hosting the International Women of the Mountains Conferences since 2007. Monica English discussed results of her research on sexuality in Utah as well as peace-making in North Ireland. Amy Cope spoke about working with local communities on tsunami preparedness in Indonesia. Carol Bejar presented her water project in Senegal and Hannah Barlow talked about Tarahumara mountain women in Mexico. The last presenter in our group was Albert Pooley, president and founder of the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association, who talked about the importance of restoring traditions of fatherhood among Native American tribes. Afterwards I introduced Matt Rands, President of UIMF once more, who presented to the audience the recommendations of the delegation to the CSW62 final document.     Derek Garfield, VP of UIMF reports about UVU student engaged model   during parallel event   

As the moderator for the side and parallel event, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge of how to present myself and my colleagues in a professional and diplomatic way. Gaining confidence in our cause and providing a frame work for future endeavors that impacts mountain communities and women across the globe. Student engaged learning has provided the experience of such efforts to our entire student delegation and faculty members. I am so honored and proud to have the opportunity and the guidance made possible by the engaged learning program, as do faculty members and my very own peer group. Through participating in these UN events, my peers and I have had the pleasure and honor meeting likeminded individuals that have a passion for bettering the world with the shared knowledge of our organization.

Following the side event, UVU-UIMF student delegation, had the opportunity and honor to meet and speak briefly with the Ambassador Bakhtiyor Ibragimov at the Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the UN. Top envoy from Uzbekistan greeted us as old friends after his recent trip to Utah. We expressed our thanks to him for co-sponsoring a side event at CSW62.

Group photo with Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations, Ambassador Charles T. Mtwaagae. 

That evening, we also had the honor of being invited to the Permanent Mission of Botswana to the UN by Ambassador Charles T. Ntwaagae. During that meeting, we discussed many issues addressing women’s status not only here, but mainly in Botswana. The CSW being the main vehicle for implementing woman’s empowerment, is the spear head for the change of gender equality in Botswana, providing the needed resources of wealth and knowledge to achieve the same progress the United States has had in the realm of gender equality. We learned that much like traditionalists in the United States, Botswana has groups of traditionalists that are patriarchal. These groups have subjected women to men throughout history, resulting in the issue of addressing strong stereotypes and attitudes. Correcting imbalances in Botswana resulting from prejudice and traditions has proved challenging but beneficial. The Ambassador Ntwaagae made the point that considering Botswana’s population is 2.2 million, 52% of that number is women. This makes Botswana’s position unique in that the country recognizes the importance of raising the station of women in society and its potential to not only improve the lives of its women and children, but the country in general. In recognizing this, Botswana’s judiciary and law enforcement are extremely effective and accountable towards gender related violence, resulting in more security and safety for women and girls. Through initiatives led by women’s groups, Botswana has propelled its growth and change with the help of the UNWomen and CSW and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Due to UVU’s engaged learning program, we as students experienced what many other students do not. That being, hands on experience in the field and working with high level individuals to promote change under, not only UVU, but an organization as important as the UN. These interactions of engaged learning continue to provide its students with experience in their field well before they graduate and enter the job market. Thus, making students far more marketable and effective than they’d otherwise be. This aspect also affects the community in a great way and directly translates to the United Nations SDGs. The UIMF and its dedication to the advocacy of the mountain women and SMD, globally grows stronger and continues to be the focal point of our engaged learning process in the UIMF.

Dylan Genes, Vice President, Utah International Mountain Forum


18-03-19-PPT Presentation


Photos of the visit to CSW62


Day 1 for UIMF at CSW62: Derek Garfield- Hosting a side event

UVU delegation at the United Nations

On Monday, March 19, 2018, students, faculty, and administrators from Utah Valley University (UVU), including members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of clubs at UVU, met outside of the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City to register and collect grounds passes before participating in a side event during the UN 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Uzbekistan. Finally, our UIMF team understood in greater detail the importance of our work done during last several months when we were able to be engaged with these two missions which graciously agreed to sponsor a UVU-related side event after visiting the university through the Office of Global Engagement, discussing UIMF’s projects and work since its founding in 2011, and plans for a side event with students and faculty.

The side event conducted that day was titled “Advocating for rural and mountain women globally through student engaged learning” and was held within the UN building, conference room D. It was a great experience for our team and Dylan Genes, Vice-President of UVU’s Foreign Affairs club, in particular, who moderated the event and ensured that it proceeded within the allotted time frame, which enabled all participants to have time to present their work. We didn’t know until the last moment who would greet us on behalf of the diplomatic missions due to the busy schedule of both top envoys. As a result, Dr. Baldomero Lago, Vice-Rector for Global Engagement and Chief International Officer at UVU, opened the event and welcomed the delegation and visitors at the UN in attendance. After him, as presenters, we scheduled representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who have worked during last three years with UIMF in it’s mission to advocate for sustainable mountain development (SMD) and mountain women’s gender equity issues through the student engaged learning model. Distinguished members of partner NGOs who spoke included: Dr. Ross “Rusty” Butler, a focal point of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, an NGO with general consultative status in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); Ms. Wendy Jyang of the Utah-China F.I.S.H.D&C, an NGO in special consultative status in ECOSOC. Two other UIMF members who participated in the event divided responsibilities in the following way: Matthew Rands, President, was scheduled to speak first by presenting information on UIMF’s mission and work on Women of the Mountains conferences; while myself, as UIMF Vice-President, handled the presentation of all digital media on behalf of the entire delegation and presented proposed language for the delegation’s goal to adapt the NGO CSW Zero Draft Document. Matthew then introduced student researchers from UVU who participated in wide ranging research through engaged learning around the world to include: Rob Smith, UVU Student Body President, who spoke of the direct benefit of the engaged learning model for UVU students; Monica English, who researched gender identity issues in Utah and the involvement of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland; Amelia Cope, who researched Tsunami preparedness and education in Indonesia; Isak Larsen, who researched water sanitation and education in Senegal; Hannah Barlow, who studied rural mountain women and urban migration in Mexico.  The last presenter in our event was Mr. Albert Pooley, President and Founder of the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association, who spoke about challenges for rebuilding families among Native American tribes and how his association helps to teach them.

UVU presenters at the side event “Advocating for rural and mountain women globally through student engaged learning” on Monday, March 19, 2018 at 11:30am at the conference room D within the UN premises

Participation in the CSW62 side event demonstrated the effectiveness of the engaged learning model in two primary ways: one, that members of UIMF are able, as students, to prepare, organize, and execute an event which promoted student engagement in, and advocacy for, causes relating to rural and mountain women in addition to their extensive experiences at local and regional levels, as well as the UN level; second, that the showcased student projects themselves demonstrated how engaged learning can be used to implement the UN SDGs more successfully. UIMF feels that student engaged learning is an effective, powerful tool in implementing SDGs on a local, regional, and international level and will continue to push for its adoption into consensus documents, such as the NGO CSW Zero Draft document, as well as maintain it as a centerpiece of our advocacy program in management and specialized implementation of the SDGs.

UVU delegation visits the United Nations Department of Public Information

After concluding the side event, the delegation met with Mr. Felipe Queipo, Information Officer for the United Nations’ NGO Relations & Advocacy branch of the Department of Public Information (DPI), who has served as a liaison to UVU on behalf of his institution. UVU became an associate member of DPI in 2017 after submitting an application through the UVU Office of Global Engagement, which drew heavily from contributions made by UIMF to SDG advocacy and implementation, including the UN Secretary General’s report on sustainable mountain development A/71/256 which recognized UVU and UIMF student engaged learning in advocacy for mountain women through hosting the international Women of the Mountains conferences since 2007.  UVU’s official partnership with DPI will allow for increased participation of UVU students and our local community in UN and SDG focused education events and programs, further increasing the ability of UIMF to provide students access to engaged learning initiatives with increased support from the university for the 2030 agenda, which facilitates UIMF’s mission of advocacy. The meeting with DPI provided UIMF and students with a better understanding of the DPI and how they support NGOs in implementing and advocating SDGs.

Later that afternoon, the UVU delegation attended a meeting with the Director of the liaison office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN), Ms. Carla Mucavi. This was the first time in that UIMF members had such a high-level meeting with FAO leadership. The FAO provided invaluable assistance to UIMF in being featured in the 2016 Secretary General’s report on SMD, mentioned above. Director Mucavi explained the role of the FAO in monitoring the implementation of specific SDGs which include SDGs with mountain targets. UVU members and UIMF discussed their involvement, methodologies, and experience in executing SMD and improving outcomes for mountain women. All spoke of the important role that membership in the Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MP) played in providing assistance and collaborative effort in developing UIMF’s engaged learning program. The primary goals of this meeting were to increase student’s understanding of how to influence language of key consensus documents at the UN, as well as the 2019 Secretary General’s report on SMD, and the most effective channels within the FAO for students to find information which can help them gain access to greater partnership with the FAO by reaching out to the Department of Partnerships. The Director made special mention of and the FAO’s free e-courses for increasing comprehension of the SDG and their indicators which can be used by UVU students and faculty when conducting research.

It should be noted that the UVU Global Engagement office livestream from the events, as well as the UVU Media team, which has been documenting the efforts of the delegation at the UN, will provide valuable digital media and film resources which will enable UIMF to attract additional students into participating in their advocacy for mountain women around the world and demonstrate that student engaged learning is an effective way for them to contribute to their communities.

Reflecting back on the events of the trip, I feel that I have been overwhelmed by the amount of new information that I learned about UN. This experience has been invaluable to my experience at UVU as I prepare to graduate. My emphasis in World Politics now feels complete. The classes I have taken in International Law, International Relations, American Foreign Policy, etc., were critical foundational knowledge to prepare me for this engaged learning opportunity. Being at the UN for CSW was the opportunity of a lifetime and has helped better prepare me and increased my chances for successful future opportunities of international collaboration and work. It may seem self-evident, but I became acutely aware of the necessity of developing strong networking relationships with organizations and individuals who share and support your message if you hope to accomplish lasting impact on any level, especially in a cooperative environment like the UN. I learned that one must take the initiative in building these relationships and work to keep them alive by sharing information and resources with partners so that they can improve their effectiveness as well. These are basic concepts which most of us learn through our lives, but the importance of them is multiplied when attempting to work on an international scale. My understanding of the UN has deepened and my awareness of the role that civil society plays in international affairs was sharpened. I know better how I can make an impact globally even if I do not work in a government. I hope to share this knowledge with my fellow students upon returning to UVU and using my position as Vice-President of UIMF to advocate more effectively for SMD and equity for women of the mountains.

Derek Garfield, Vice President, UIMF

Day 0 for UIMF at CSW62: Preparations in New York

As members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), arrived to New York City for the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) on Sunday, March 18, 2018, we made final preparations for the visit to the United Nations. We started by studying the routes from our places of accommodation to the sites of our main activities included in the agenda of the visit like the locations of the UN Pass and ID office, Church Center of the United Nations, place for our parallel, and Café Olympia, place for our debriefing during the first day of official activities. Our side event at the United Nations is scheduled for Monday, March 19, 2018 at 11:30am and it presented a challenge for delegation members: due to the fact that the UN Pass and ID office opens at 9:00am, it will be necessary for us to calculate time arrive early enough to be the first in line to receive passes and then to start preparations for hosting a side event.

Near the UN Pass and ID office

rriving a day or two early, we were able to get situated in our hotels. Our member, who was responsible for logistics and protocol, missed his connecting flight from Oregon and for any case three of us were ready to start preparations for a backup plan: to replace him as moderator for the side events next day. Fortunately, he was able to find another flight and to come to our meeting right in time at 5:30pm. He didn’t have his luggage arrive yet and was wearing casual outfit, but his mood was very positive. Later in the afternoon, we met together at Grand Central Station, which was the closest metro station for couple of us to come from out hotels. Then, we began to walk through the route and checked a time and location at most important sites, such as: UN Pass and ID office, walk by the front entrance of the UN Headquarters, and locate the Café Olympia. We sat down then at Café Olympia to discuss the distribution of brochures, gifts for dignitaries, and folders prepared with documents regarding previous UIMF achievements. As well as make alternate plans, should more logistical problems arise. If one or more members would not make it to the side event, others would then take extra roles or delegate the needed task to other students. One by one each event for the next day was looked at and analyzed to see what still needs to be accomplished to ensure a smooth operation throughout the day.

Reviewing agenda for the visit at Cafe Olympia

As part of the non-traditional student approach, some members were able to bring family members to support them in promoting the SMD agenda. Families are a major factor in the wellbeing of women, particularly in mountainous regions. This provided the UIMF the opportunity be an example of including family members from mountain areas.

After achieving their goals of hosting a side event and parallel event, UIMF members discussed also how to build a conversation during the meeting at the liaison office of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) which was scheduled during the first day of the visit.  One of the main goals for them during the meeting was to express thanks to the staff of the office for including the language featuring UIMF contribution to the advocacy of the mountain women in the 2016 United Nations Secretary General’s report on sustainable mountain development.

After a year of planning and finalizing preparations for the side event and subsequent meetings, the Utah International Mountain Forum looks forward to a presenting the results of the 2015 Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC). and having a successful conference at CSW62

Matthew Rands, President UIMF


Photos of the Visit to CSW62


Raising funds to promote sustainable mountain development

On March 15. 2018, members of the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) club, had the opportunity to promote their goals for a campus initiative to decrease emissions in their area. This took place in a traditional setting, where, with permission from the club’s department at the Utah Valley University, they were able to set up a booth where they would be able to meet passing students and university staff.

Sam Elzinga, member, SMD club, during the initiative at UVU

A table was set up, fliers were designed and printed, and a large map of the UTA transit system was set up on an easel. Once everything was set up, those that participated were able to create a dialogue about the campus-wide initiatives and the air quality in the surrounding area. In addition to this, they were also able to talk about big-picture goals that could affect more than just those in the surrounding community.

This was an exciting chance, not only to debut their goals but also an opportunity to share ideas and engage in their goal to make a difference in their community. Such SMD club members as Sam Elzinga and myself took this opportunity to engage with passersby and were able to share their goal of clean air legislation. Goals were not only shared but the desire to be involved was expressed by those that stopped to learn more.

Members found that it was essential to inform the students of, not only the current goals but what SMD has been involved with in the past. Two additional posters that were used during the event showed past involvement with other organizations and events, such as the UN and the “Women of the Mountain” Conference. The latter has been hosted by the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU (, which included SMD.

The members were able to meet several students and share ideas with each other. They look forward to meeting more students in the coming months.

Damon Ashcraft, Vice President, Sustainable Mountain Development club

Diplomatic Conference at UVU honors student for promotion the United Nations mountain targets


Diplomatic conference agenda 

Monday, March 12th 2018 office of Global Engagement at Utah Valley University (UVU) held the Diplomatic Conference with the help of multiple clubs such as the Foreign Affairs Club and the UIMF, a coalition of clubs that work towards mountain development and sustainability. This conference included many important diplomats from multiple countries such as Spain, Romania, Peru, Vietnam, United Kingdom, Uganda and France, as well as important leaders in Utah state government such as the Mayor of Salt Lake City Jackie Biskupski.

The point of the conference was that these individuals could speak their part on the selected topic of international trade and what it means for their countries. Two separate panels were created to speak on the subject and answer any questions the participating audience may have. This offered insight to how not only the countries they represent view international trade, but how the rest of the world stands on the matter through their angle of vision. It was my pleasure to volunteer my time to personally assist the Deputy Consul General of Vietnam, Mr. Ngo Quang Anh and the Consul, Mr. Le Nam Trung. During the Networking and luncheon portion of the event, I learned a wealth of knowledge about diplomacy, trade, development and culture of Vietnam. Both Deputy Consul and Consul of Vietnam proved to be very intelligent in their fields and offered insight on how someone like myself can operate and engage with other diplomats in my career. I also found that my colleagues experience the same wealth of knowledge and experience in assisting their assigned diplomats.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO/Vice Rector for Global Engagement at Utah Valley University presents UVU 2018 Atlas Award to Jesler Molina for his contribution to the promotion of the UN mountain targets

Events like this one are extremely important to the students involved with the UIMF, particularly in providing experiencing with engaging with high-level individuals and seeing first hand diplomacy in action. Since Engaged Learning is UVU’s model for education, this provided a perfect avenue for UIMF students to get involved in such activities, before actually entering the job market. This provides its students with knowledge and experience in the field, before graduating, leaving them feeling confident and skilled when starting their careers. This was evident in Jesler Molina’s position. Jesler was President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), at UVU in 2014-2015. Focusing on the Promotion of sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations in the state of Utah. During the 6th session of the UN Open Working Group (OWG) on SDGs in New York on December 11, 2013. OWG on SDGs adopted 17 SDGs instead of Millennium Development Goals as main benchmarks for evaluating human progress worldwide. He also contributed research about mountain ranges in North America for the Report on SMD for North America, which was published by the Mountain Partnership under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for the landmark United Nations Conference on sustainable development RIO+20 in Brazil, June 20th-22nd, 2012. ( As the UIMF President during that time, Jesler was a chair of the organizing committee comprised from 73 students, UIMF members who hosted the fourth international Women of the Mountains conference in October 7th-19th, 2015 as student engaged learning initiative. UN Secretary General’s report on SMD A/71/256 from July 229, 2016 featured UIMF members and UVU for their contribution to the promotion of gender and SMD agendas of the UN and implementation of SDGs, the only academic institution from North America. (

During the luncheon of the Diplomatic Conference that was held March 12th , 2018, Jesler was awarded and recognized by the UVU office of Global Engagement for his efforts and progress within UVU’s engaged learning system and UIMF initiatives in providing said efforts and will go on to continue to promote programs that improve the lives of many globally. Although the UIMF was awarded as one of the best student clubs by UVUSA in 2012 (see:, the leader of the coalition of student clubs is honored by UVU for the first time. It happened thanks to the efforts of the Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO/Vice-Rector for Global Engagement at UVU who created new opportunities for UVU students at the United Nations through a partnership of UVU with this global institution as a new Associated Member of the United Nations Department of Public Information. High evaluation of Jesler Molina’s contribution in promotion of SMD agenda is a part of the vision of Dr. Lago to promote United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the State of Utah and North America through student engaged learning initiatives.

Since 2011 when UIMF was founded, it was already featured in the Outdoor journal in December 11, 2016 for contribution to the celebrations of the United Nations International Mountain Days and in the United Nations Secretary General’s Report on Sustainable Mountain Development, A/71/256 from July, 27, 2016 (See:

I can say with confidence that after experiencing the Conference and participating, as well as witnessing the painstaking effort Jesler provided, my generation of colleagues and I have learned and continue to learn with great pleasure of what it means to be involved and the importance of diplomacy. I appreciate so much the initiative of the UVU Global Engagement office to host this event for the second time and to provide us, students with invaluable experiences of interacting with foreign diplomats and trade counselors.

Dylan Genes, Vice President, Foreign Affairs Club at UVU

UVU Diplomatic Conference on International Trade Relations

The students of Utah Valley University had the opportunity to participate in the 2nd annual UVU diplomatic conference on international trade relations. This event is the only type of its kind at academic institutions in the United States, thus why it was an amazing opportunity for students, such as myself, at Utah Valley University. The Plenary session began with a statement by President Holland where he addressed the vision of engaged learning, and the goal that UVU has as an institution where learning is taken beyond the classroom.

During plenary session of the second Diplomatic Conference hosted by Utah Valley University 

Following President Holland, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, addressed the audience, explaining why Utah is a prime area for both domestic and foreign direct investment. Citing Utah as the 2nd most diverse economy, the 2nd highest birth rate, and the 9th fastest rate of in-migration in the United States; Lieutenant Governor Cox explained that the explosion of growth and strong Utah economy have put Utah as one of the top places to invest in the United States. He also explained that dual language immersion and the strong presence of missionaries that can speak a second language creates a strong culture in Utah where refugees and immigrants are welcomes and loved. The most important statistic according to Mr. Cox, is that Utah leads the nation in service preformed and charitable donations given. Mr. Cox explained that one of the reasons for Utah’s globalized economy is the high standards that the state has for the businesses that work inside the state boundaries. Mr. Cox explained that the government is not able to solve all problems, but that through service we can fill in those gaps.

The next person to address the congregation was the Regional Director for Global Relations in the State Department, Christina Hernandez. She addressed the 106 diplomatic missions with businesses in Utah, California, Nevada, and Arizona.  She explained that trade relationships and tourism are critical in the economy of Utah. Lastly, she cited exchange programs between other nations and Utah as a catalyst in building relationships with other countries.

The following speaker in the plenary session was Jackie Biskupski, the current mayor of Salt Lake City. Citing that she had just returned from the 2ND annual Women4Climate Summit C40 in Mexico, she addressed the importance of balancing economic growth with strong maintenance of enviromental sustainability. She states that the word “sustainability” means we are doing everything within lens of equality and fairness. She explained that true sustainability means that we do everything we can to fairly distribute of resources to everyone, everywhere, in an equal way. She also stated that the city of Salt Lake intends to continue to build the resiliency of natural resources in Utah to promote mountain sustainability. Addressing one of Salt Lake City’s biggest problems, Mayor Biskupski stated that Salt Lake City is dedicated to reduce emissions from typical sources of pollution.  Utah has been warming at twice the rate as the rest of the globe and continues to raise in temperature as more people move to Utah and thus increase the pollution and emissions. Salt Lake City intends to address these problems through a variety of city ordinances that target clean idling, maintaining fleets of 200 alternative energy cars, constructing 2 fire stations with net zero emissions, as well as acting and leading as stewards of resources in designing infrastructure and promoting positive sustainability practices within the state government. She then ended her presentation, citing that sustainability and economic growth are intertwined and connected.

Next to address in the Plenary Session was a representative of Utah’s World Trade Center, Suzette Alles. She began her presentation by citing that the state of Utah has been cited as a top preforming economy, the best economy overall, and best state for business in the United States. She also highlighted the purpose of the World Trade Center, to promote prosperity across the state by attracting investment and increasing exports outside the state. Citing the 95% of consumers that live outside the U.S. and the 1.5 billion in the growing global middle class, Ms. Alles addressed the importance of increasing Utah’s exports of primary metals, computers, chemicals, transportation equipment, and food to the rest of the world. She discussed how the WTC gives grants and invitations to attend trade shows in various locations to help local businesses foster international connections with a global economy. She finished her presentation by explained the WTC’s role in promoting foreign direct investment, which has yielded 500 international employers, 42,000 jobs, and 60% higher wages than the states average. She explained Utah’s valuable position as a state that builds bridges and expands global connections.

The final speaker in the Plenary Session was Meghan Stettler, the Director of Public Affairs and Communication for the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. She stated that the three policy initiatives of the Office of Energy Development are: policy and planning, industry assistance, a d education and outreach in K-12 programs and lessons. Citing the 20-billion-dollar industry of energy, the 50,000 high paying jobs, and the 10% of energy that comes from renewable resources Ms. Stettler explained that it is a top priority of the Governor’s office to develop renewable resources in the State of Utah.

The Plenary session was all about the importance of sustainability and economic growth in the state of Utah. I enjoyed the presentations about how those two ideas are inter-connected. I think that this summit was important because it highlighted the importance of sustainability and economic development in mountainous communities. I believe that the model of development in Utah can have far-reaching implications for all mountainous communities.

UVU Diplomatic Trade Conference: Breakout Sessions

After the initial plenary session, the delegates from different countries split into two different breakout sessions. The breakout session that I attended encompassed representatives from the countries of Spain, Romania, UK, Vietnam, and Ghana. The first question addressed to delegates was the concept of trade barriers in the global economies. The delegates from Romania and Spain strongly contested the idea of trade barriers that prevent a true free and open market. The representative of Spain was passionate in his rhetoric that protectionism and trade barriers is the root cause of the decline of many world economies. The representative of Vietnam was the next to speak, addressing the importance of the World Trade Organization in managing and combating protectionism and trade wars. The next to address the assembled delegation was the representative of Ghana who stated that trade barriers prevent multilateral trade agreements, upon which the land-locked nation of Ghana depends upon. He states that protectionism would disallow competitiveness in the African economy. Finally, the Consul General of Spain highlighted that the reason that Spain has survived many economic crises because 70% of business in the country is international business and does not on local economy resiliency. He argued that the United States will be the first loser if this country continues after policy of isolationism.

Break out session of the Diplomatic Conference

The next topic addressed was about sustainability and gender equality. The representative stated that Vietnam intends to look at the Utah model as a model for energy sustainability and principles of gender equality. Spain, owing to the lack of connectiveness to the rest of Europe, has designed a model of clean and renewable energies. The representative of Romania followed by explaining that energy is a national security issue, and that we should treat energy infrastructure development as a high priority of development. Various diplomats also addressed looking to Utah as a model of controlling and helping immigrant populations.

The final part of the breakout session addressed how we, as future American diplomats, can differ ourselves from past diplomats. The representative of the UK addressed the importance of digital diplomacy and how we can use social media to amplify our political message. The representative of Vietnam explained the need to travel as much as you can to experience life from every corner of the world and thus be able to respect people regardless of race, color, and gender. He explained that open-minded diplomatic thinking will lead to an open attitude. The representative of Ghana invited everyone to learn about other cultures and to interact who people that are different than you to go beyond what one sees on television. The representative of Spain explained that the best job in the world is serving your country. He argued that even if you do not agree with polices that your government holds, as a diplomat you have the right and responsibility to make moves to influence and change those attitudes. He also explained that diplomacy can help one to better understand the world around them. The representative of Romania explained that reaching compromise through negotiation is the art of diplomacy. He stated that our priority is to promote and provide peace. Diplomacy is about negotiation and loving your country. He stated that we should not be different from older American diplomats, but we must learn from them.  The representative of Peru explained that your perspective of life will change as career diplomat, and that as he has come to know people and understand different customs, it has served him in a great manner. Finally, the representative of Spain stated that we must always give diplomacy a chance, no matter what the world may say, diplomacy is always the right way to go.

Andrew Jensen, member, Sustainable Mountain Development Club at UVU



Marie-Chantal Niwenshuti – Engaged Learning experience during the UVU Diplomatic Conference


Dylan Genes-diplomatic conference at UVU honors student for promotion the UN mountain targets


Rebecca-Bindraban-Foreign Affairs club contributed to the Diplomatic Conference at UVU


Learning about International Women’s Day from UN official


Mrs. Gail Binley-Taylor Sainte meets UVU students

Students of the International Relations class at Utah Valley University had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by Mrs. Gail Binley-Taylor Sainte, who presented about the role of United Nations, and the role of genders as an integral part of the bureaucratic agency on Thursday, March 8, 2018. She also focused on specific programs at the United Nations that work to address humanitarian issues, civil rights issues, and ongoing unjust equality issues. Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte has rich background, serving as the Deputy Chief of Public Information of the diplomatic mission based in Ethiopia for several years. She also served as an information officer of NGO relations at the United Nations. Since her induction into the United Nations Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte has always been involved in many various staff activities: first as a staff representative, then eventually as part of the staff union. She has also served as the First Vice-President as well as Secretary in that organization. Finally, she has served on several staff-management bodies including the former Appointment and Promotion Committee, the General Service Classification Committee, and the Central Examination Board. In a recent development, Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte’s department elected her as the Focal Point for Women. In addition, she belongs to the mentoring program at the United Nations, serving alongside three mentees under my supervision, all of whom continue to do well in the system.

With a 30-year career as an information officer, Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte has developed her expertise in foreign policy always with a singular focus to empower women. She states that it is important to continue allowing women to speak in an unprecedented way in order to help continue the path towards equality between genders. She stated that a few of the main issues that women face are a lack of upward mobility, lack of career prospects for those who are in specialized jobs, the lack of more training opportunities, the inability to take advantage of all the work and life arrangements with ease and without fear of injury to reputation or career, lack of adequate childcare support for working mothers at all levels, lack of recognition for consistently good performance, and finally poor evaluations for which there is little recourse.

UN official with Andrew Jensen, member of the Sustainable Mountain Development club

Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte then explained a few of the best practices in promoting gender diversity within the United Nations: first, to promote practices that allow staff to see visible signs of diversity, whether that be through posters that the organization releases publicly or through information placed on the internet; second, videos that raise awareness and are distributed in key places around the Secretariat like the cafeteria or near the Credit Union, places where people can see visible signs of what is happening regarding gender issues; and lastly, brown-bag style lunches around gender issues that could be organized across divisions. Other ideas include panel discussions that could be held on major occasions like International Women’s Day or a major campaign that could be conducted to identify the department with the most gender-diverse environment, involving all the focal points and their respective managers working together to come up with the winning ideas. Another idea could be a Diversity Day at United Nations headquarters that would be designed and devoted to displaying all the achievements of equality to date.

All aforementioned ideas are aimed at communicating the importance of a gender-diverse environment. Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte stressed that this can be done if implementers of policy can see how they play a pivotal role in empowering women. Men and top managers need to see themselves as part of the change, additionally they must see it as beneficial to them as equal partners of qualified women working together to improve the quality of life within the workplace. Mrs. Binley-Taylor Sainte is a perfect example of the voice that needs to be heard.

It was a very good and important conversation with such a high level VIP-guest which took place thanks to a new Utah Valley University partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information.  I am looking forward to attending more this type of insightful presentations hosted by the UVU Global Engagement office.

Cory Levin, UVU Student


18-03-08-Daniel Pabst-Gender Equality Is Achievable


Leslie Sixtos-Cruz – Former UN Official Speaks on International Women’s Days


Erik Knighton-Discussing Gender Equality with Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte