Category Archives: 2019

UVU Students and Study Abroad in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

 Delegation members promote UVU in Moscow

Two faculty and six students from Utah Valley University are promoting  the sustainable mountain development agenda and activities through UVU partners in the Russian Federation and Kyrgyzstan. They  are hosted by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) in Moscow, Russian Federation, and the Kyrgyz National State Agency Kabar in Bishkek , the Kyrgyz Republic.  The UVU study abroad group will visit both sites during July 23 – August 13 2019

UVU delegation at Red Square in Moscow

Delegation includes the following individuals: 1). Dr. Lynn England, Director, Peace and Justice Program at UVU; 2). Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Lecturer, History and Political Science department at UVU; 3). Victoria Ann Bindrup; 4). Hayley Michelle Conant; 5). Sarah May Michaelis; 6). Hannah Elizabeth Peay; 7). Graham Nicholas Taggart; 8). Steven Barrett Thompson,

Barrett Thompson and Sarah Michaels at the Exhibition of National Economy Achievements (ВДНХ) 

Samuel Elzinga, President, Utah International Mountain Forum


UVU Rotaract contributes to the Positive Peace Building in Utah

On June 26th, 2019, I had the opportunity on behalf of the Utah Valley University Rotaract to attend the Positive Peace Building conference held by Utah’s Positive Peace Action Group. Attending this conference were representatives from 18 different Utah Rotary clubs ranging from Cache County’s Logan Rotary Club to the Rotary Club of St. George. Many of these clubs were able to attend in person, others were able to join the conversation via video conference capabilities. The purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness of the Positive Peace movement as well as gain additional support among the many Rotary clubs from Utah.

Jose Velasco, Midvale Rotaract Club Adviser speaks before the participants of the meeting 

Positive peace, an action group existing within the rotary organization, is designed to help bring lasting peace to countries all over the world. Within Rotary International there are a variety of different action groups, all designed to help focus on certain areas that help to support people across the globe. As Rotary International has pushed to be able to aid people in all walks of life, they have strived to teach a system of peace that will be one created from the ground up, supported by the people of the individual countries that these efforts are being led in.

Positive peace is a special definition of the word peace that helps to give a more significant meaning. Positive peace stands in contrast to negative peace. Negative peace is simply the existence of peace due to lack of conflict. The peace comes and goes with no system to support it. However, positive peace is the active decision making of everyday members of society to chose to live in harmony with those around them. Positive peace seeks to grow and attain a level of consistency within a community, society, and eventually hold firm across the world.

Kyle Warren during the meeting

A variety of Utah Rotary Clubs have given endless hours in pursuit of positive peace. Many of these efforts have been to help the people of the South American nation of Columbia. Working with local Rotary clubs from Columbia, the positive peace movement has focused on educating Columbian Youth on the effects of positive peace as well as their role in the pursuit of Global peace. The efforts to teach positive peace have not been conducted merely by members of the Utah Rotary. Instead, it is the Columbian Rotary leaders that have led the charge in their own country to help their youth come to a better understanding of how to lead their nation into a time of peace. Brayden Fairbourn, President of the Midvale Rotaract, spoke extensively on the history of violence within Columbia and how the efforts of the Positive Peace Action Group have played out in the nation thus far.

Peace is a significant subject on the minds of Governments and world leaders from countries all over the world. This can be seen in the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable development goals that have been agreed upon in recent years as critical areas of focus for members of the United Nations. Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UVU Rotaract adviser spoke on this briefly towards the end of the meeting.

During the conversation about peace, emphasis was placed on educating the rotary clubs on this positive peace movement so that they could also become involved and grow this important effort. Clubs were encouraged to have their members go to and complete the one-hour Positive Peace Academy training. In doing this, local Rotary clubs will be able to contribute to the Positive Peace Building in Utah and help to support this important global endeavor.

Event participants agreed to hold a report meeting during March 2020 to feature the initiatives and projects that the Utah Rotary Clubs created.

Kyle Warren, President, UVU Rotaract

UIMF to Advocate for Mountain Women at the 68th UN Civil Society Conference

On May 15, 2019, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), received approval from the United Nations (UN) to host three workshops during the 2019 UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah which will be held on August 26-28, 2019.

The workshops will highlight how UVU’s successful student engaged learning model empowers all learners, including non-traditional students, to advocate for mountain women and girls under the UN 2030 Development Agenda, as well as to address issues of sustainable development within their own communities.

The first workshop is titled “Implementation of Mountain Targets through Student Engaged Learning in North American and Globally” and it will feature presentations by Dr. Ross E. Butler, main representative at the UN of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, an NGO in general consultative status with ECOSOC; Mr. Kurmanbek Diykanbaev, special representative of the President to the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic; and Dr. Sara Ulloa, Chair of the Department of languages at Utah Valley University.

The speakers will highlight how Utah Valley University developed a co-curricular student engaged learning model to advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Mountain Development Agenda since 2007 and implementation of mountain targets since 2016 in the state of Utah and such mountain countries as Kyrgyzstan and Peru.


Dr. Butler 

    Mr. Dyikanbaev 

    Dr. Ulloa

The second workshop is titled “Utah International Mountain Forum Leaders on promoting mountain targets through student engaged learning since 2011.” It will feature presentations by John McClure, who was the first President of UIMF during 2011-2012; Tony Medina, who served the UIMF in several capacities during his tenure with the organizations (2014-2016), including, VP of Protocol and Logistics, and President; and Jesler Molina who was the President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) during 2013-2015. The speakers of UIMF throughout the years will discuss the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 by UIMF in interaction with mountain targets during 2011-2015.


Mr. McClure     

Mr. Medina 

Mr. Molina

The third workshop is titled “Student Engaged Learning to Advocate for Mountain Women and Targets at UN ECOSOC forums,” and wiil feature presentations by William Gum, Megan Davis, myself, as members of UIMF delegation to the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019.


Mr. Hinatsu     

Mr. Gum Causey

The UN civil Society Conference will provide UIMF members a great opportunity not only to advocate for the mountain targets,  women and communities, but to include a relevant language in the final document of the forum.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President

Path to the State Department and UN Internships Goes through UIMF


On April 23, 2019 I received an email communication from the US Department of State confirming that I had been selected as an Intern in the extremely competitive State Department Internship program for Fall 2019. This program receives thousands of applications per semester, and many are disappointed when they are not selected. I had previously applied for the Summer 2019 program but had not been selected. With my new application for the Fall 2018, I focused far more attention on my activities with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) and this was a major factor in landing the internship.

(L to R): Brandon Pedler, Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN, Ambassador Jan Kickert, Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham, Associate Professor at UVU and William Gum-Casey, UVU student 

When I started with UIMF about a year ago, I did not know that it would be one of the defining moves of my career as a student, and what experiences it would enable me to have. I thought of it simply as another club on campus, and something to add to the resumé with little to no work. UIMF advocates the United Nations Sustainable mountain development agenda in the State of Utah and North America since 2011. These thoughts were quickly dispelled as I found myself attending and contributing to the agendas and activities of high-level political forums of the United Nations and panels with distinguished diplomats such as Director of Outreach in the UN Department of Public Information, Mr.Maher Nasser,   Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the UN, Ambassador Mahmadaminov, Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN, Ambassador Jan Kickert, and Consul General of Azerbaijan, Mr. Nasimi Aghayev among others. I have written several write-ups and papers, one of which is pending publication in the 2019 edition of the Youth in the Mountain Journal on Sustainable Development in Afghanistan.

All of these things were of great interest to the State Department. A short time after, I received a call from both of the bureaus to which I had applied. Both mentioned that they were very interested in the work that I had done with UIMF in helping to host and evaluate the visits of foreign dignitaries. One bureau offered me a conditional internship during the interview, and the other only a few short hours later after they had finished their other interviews. Now that I have received the official offer from the Internship Office, I can begin to prepare to work in the US Mission to the UN in New York City. I am also proud to continue a tradition for UIMF to help several other members to intern at an international level: in October-December, 2013, UIMF President Joseph McCain  was an intern at the Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the UN and in January April 2016, Yanko Dzhukev  was the first UVU intern at FAO-UN in Rome, Italy and then during May-August, 2016, Yanko Dzhukev became the first UVU intern at the United Nations Secretariat, within the Office of Legal Affairs at the UN headquarters in New York.

I am especially grateful to the UIMF and Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF mentor for the club, and for the opportunities they have made available, and doors that they have opened for me. This would not have been possible without my fellow UIMF students, and the great faculty at Utah Valley University.

Brandon Pedler, President German Club at UVU

Utah Valley University students at the Model United Nations Conference in San Francisco

From April 12th to April 15th, 2019 students from Utah Valley University took part in the Sixty-Ninth Annual Session of the Model United Nations Conference of the Far West in San Francisco. This major Model UN conference is historic for taking place in the same city as the original UN headquarters. The theme for the sixty-ninth session was: A Common Humanity: Back to the Basics of the UN Charter. The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.

(L to R): William Gum-Casey, Anthony Franks, Brandon Pedler, Andrew Jensen, Raegan Mackay, Rebecca Bindrabin, Angela Landa, and Regan Warner with certificates Achievement in Diplomacy for both Austria and Costa Rica

Utah Valley sent eight students to the conference to represent the countries of Austria and Costa Rica on a myriad of committees. Costa Rica had been represented by Rebecca Bindraban (GA), Angela Landa (UNHCR), Regan Warner (UNEA), and Raegan Mackay (Third Committee. Austria was represented by Andrew Jensen (GA), William Gum (Third Committee), Anthony Franks (UNEA), and me (UNHCR).  These included the General Assembly, Third Committee, UN Environment Assembly, and UN High Commissioner on Refugees. I personally represented Austria on the UNHCR. It was related to number of reasons: first, to my interest to German-speaking peoples in Europe having spent several years there as an LDS Missionary and continuing education with a German Minor, and second, to the opportunity which my peers and I were able to host the  Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN, Ambassador Jan Kickert at UVU on 21 February, 2019.  Ambassador Kickert provided us with some great insights about the foreign policy priorities of his nation in the areas of our interest during the MUN conference in SF.  There were also three additional committees at the conference that could not be attended by our group. However, on all the committees that UVU could be present at, they worked hard and diligently to represent not only their countries, but the University well and accurately.

The first day consisted of arriving, checking in and the opening plenary session, followed by our first committee meetings until late in the evening. Most of this time was taken up by the setting of the agenda of three assigned topics per committee. After the setting of the agenda, most began with speaking on the first topic, with unmoderated caucuses of varying lengths through the evening to start working on resolutions. These key pieces of writing are the core of any Model UN experience, and are the culmination of hours of debating, compromising, writing and decision-making. They address issues of real-world importance, and most are submitted to the actual UN who sometimes finds solutions from the ideas of the students.

The second day was somewhat shorter. Committee sessions reconvened in the morning, with most working hard for the several hours that they had. Many of the committees passed their first resolutions on this second day, while others still labored on the first, with several not completing their topic even by the day’s end. The conference ended early on Saturday to allow student delegates the opportunity to relax and to explore San Francisco.

Sunday was the most grueling of all the days. Committee Sessions began at nine in the morning and continued on until eleven at night. This day was where most of the work began to pay off. All committees finished and passed their first resolutions and did much of the work on the second ones. Debates moved quickly and smoothly as many of the committees began to find the key voices and leaders within each group. Countries represented by UVU students were showing up as sponsors on several resolutions in several committees, which is something looked upon favorably by MUN scorers.

By the last day, most committees had passed their last resolution with very little time to spare, and many passed multiple resolutions on the same topic. Many of them had discussed, drafted, and passed a resolution all within seven hours with absolute frenetic activity. None of the topics for discussion was left behind at this conference, with some of the committees working quickly enough that they had to be assigned additional topics by the Secretariat.

At the awards banquet later that night, UVU won several awards including two awards for Achievement in Diplomacy for both Austria and Costa Rica. The conference overall was a great success and all the students involved have returned to Utah with a better understanding and appreciation of the work that occurs at the United Nations. It provided for me also much better knowledge and experience before my coming internship during the fall of this year at the political section of the Permanent Mission of the United States to the UN, with specific focus on the UN Security Council.

Brandon Pedler, President, German Club at UVU 



Rebecca Bindraban-A comparison of my UN experience and my MUN Experience


William Gum-Casey-The Value of Model UN



SMD Club volunteered at Lawn Mower Exchange

On Saturday, April 27 2019, Damon Ashcroft and I had the opportunity to volunteer as representatives of the Sustainable Mountain Development club at Utah Counties Lawn Mower Exchange. Over 300 citizens of Utah County came to Utah Valley University (UVU) to exchange their gas powered lawn mower or weed wacker for a significant (roughly 60%) discount on a new electric tool. The event was organized by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)    and hosted by UVU, through the coordinated efforts of the Sustainability Committee. The exchange took the coordinated efforts of not only the sustainability committee, but UVU’s facilities and parking departments, as well as provided volunteer opportunities for students and members of the community.

Volunteers during the Utah Counties Lawn Mower Exchange

This event was crucial because the average gas-powered lawn mower produces as much carbon pollution in one hour of use as an average 2011 model sedan produces driving the distance of 80-100 miles. This means that once each of the new electric motors have been used for one hour, they will have prevented the pollution of roughly 20,500 lbs of carbon pollution. This is a crucial step forward in the efforts to create a more sustainable Utah County, especially considering the unique air quality issues faced in the mountainous area. Events like these are also important because many of the culprits to poor air quality are unregulatable things, like lawn mowers, and thus require individual action in order to reduce their impact on the areas air quality and sustainability as a whole.

 Kyler Pigott, President, SMD club at UVU


Congressman Ben McAdams (D-UT) recognizes UIMF for mountain women advocacy at CSW63

UIMF members with Congressman Ben McAdams

 On April 23, 2019, members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), met with Congressman Ben McAdams, who presented UIMF with an official copy of the Congressional Record for the 116th Congress that highlights UIMF’s advocacy at the 63rd session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) for mountain women, nontraditional students, UVU’s student engaged learning model (SEL), and sustainable mountain development (SMD). Congressman McAdams, who met with UIMF as part of his trip to UVU to meet with newly-instated UVU President Mrs. Astrid Tuminez, currently serves as Representative for Utah’s 4th congressional district.

During the event, Congressman McAdams, who thanked the entire thirteen-member delegation for their efforts to promote UVU and the State of Utah as examples of successful student engagement in the advocacy of timely and important issues. The Congressman also congratulated UIMF on its history of advocacy at the UN level for gender equality and sustainable development.

While not every member of UIMF’s CSW63 delegation were able to attend, UIMF was well-represented by Abdulrahman Alghanmi, Viktoriia Bahrii, Hannah Bieker, Megan Davis, UIMF President Samuel Elzinga, William Gum-Causey, Hailee Hodgson, Ezra Pugliano, and myself, who during the meeting each informed the Congressman about UIMF’s mission, their role in UIMF’s CSW63 advocacy campaign, and different aspects of how UIMF advocates for mountain women and SMD in Utah and elsewhere.

From left: Viktoriia Bahrii, Hannah Bieker, and Congressman McAdams discuss UIMF at CSW63

For example, Samuel Elzinga spoke about UIMF and UVU’s unique distinction as one of only a few academic institutions worldwide that regularly advocate at the UN level. Additionally, Hannah Bieker, who was instrumental in ensuring Congressman McAdams’ promotion of UIMF in the Congressional Record, spoke about her role in the delegation as Rotaractor, Viktoriia Bahrii spoke about her attendance of other CSW63 side and parallel events related to gender, William Gum-Causey spoke on lessons learned about the UN system and about how CSW63’s final document is produced, and I was able to inform the Congressman about my personal role as the leader of the delegation, including about coordinating via SEL all UIMF preparations for CSW63 since September 2018. Ms. Amy Barnett, Coordinator of Global Engagement for UVU’s Office of Global Engagement, also attended and informed the Congressman about the Office of Global Engagement’s work to bring high-level diplomats and others to UVU to discuss sustainable development, as well as its work to allow students to participate in UN-level events.

Michael Hinatsu speaks with Congressman McAdams during the meeting.

Overall, the meeting was a great chance for UIMF to further showcase how UVU’s SEL model successfully allows students, especially nontraditional ones, to gain professional advancement and promote sustainable development in their communities. It was also a great opportunity to further advocate for mountain women and education as a tool to empower them. As UIMF and UVU prepare for the upcoming UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 26-28, 2019, as well as for further mountain women advocacy at CSW64 in 2020, meetings such as these will be important in building local, regional, and global coalitions to both empowering students to amplify their voices at the UN, but also to ensure that mountain women and SMD will be in the focus of the UN 2030 Development agenda.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President


Congressman Ben McAdams extention of remarks “Recognizing Utah  Valley University  Students for Advocacy on  Behalf of Women in Mountain Communities at the 63ed Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.”  




Megan Davis Congressman Ben McAdams Recognizes Efforts of UIMF to Advocate Mountain Women at CSW63


Sam Elzinga-UIMF Members are Commended for their work at CSW63


Abdulrahman Alghanmi-UIMF members meeting with Congressman Ben McAdams


Ezra Pugliano-Congressman McAdams highlighted UIMF efforts to advocate mountain women at the UN


UIMF Becomes an Ally to Rural Utah

Since beginning my involvement in Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University,   I have wanted to host event relevant to one of my passions; advocating for rural communities. Finally, through collaboration within the coalition within the club and in rural communities, I was able to host an event to educate students and urban community members about the complexities facing rural Utah. I am grateful to my many peers at UIMF who helped to create the event, which through student engaged learning model.  Members of the coalition were able to gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of mountain communities as a group with faculty member Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev serving them as a mentor. According to the engaged learning model, my student colleagues divided responsibilities through a task list depending on their interest. They dealt with protocol, logistics, helping to me to handle agenda, among many other tasks. For example, Joel Frost, President of Foreign Affairs Club was assigned to help me with moderating the panel, Hailee Hodgson, UIMF member, was able to cover photography and multimedia for the event.

Students in attendance at ‘Sustainable Development in Rural Utah: Roundtable” on April 19th, 2019

             The event, Sustainable Development in Rural Utah: Roundtable, took place on April 19, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the campus of Utah Valley University in the Fulton Library. Attendees including students, faculty, and community members. Event speakers included; Ms. Geri Gamber, Executive Director of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments/ Southeastern Utah Economic Development District (SEUALG/SUEDD); The Honorable Mrs. Christine Watkins, Utah Representative of District 69; Ms. Nicholina Womack, CEO of FutureINDesign; Mr. Tony Martines, Carbon County Commissioner; and The Honorable Michael Kourianos. Speakers primarily came from Carbon and Emery counties in Utah, both fully rural counties in the state.

My intended focus for this event was to bring the issues facing rural communities directly to the urban population. I have found through my personal, academic, and professional ventures that many in urban Utah are unaware of the complexities facing those in rural Utah, and also the importance of those whom reside there. Coming from a rural part of Utah I can affirmatively declare the important of rural communities, but many do not share such a background or appreciation for rural areas.

The Honorable Representative Christine Watkins speaking at the event.

             Each of the speakers took it upon themselves to address a specific, yet important area of development in rural Utah. Ms. Geri Gamber spoke to rural Utah as a whole and the many facets of daily life for government agencies, elected officials, and citizens of the area. Representative Watkins spoke to the difficulties and benefits of passing legislation concerning rural Utah. Ms. Womack addressed bringing business and education to rural Utah. Commissioner Martines educated on the current state of development in Carbon County. Mayor Kourianos discussed what it takes to “sell” a rural county, and obtaining funding to reach desired goals and outcomes.

Speakers were able to captivate the attention of the primarily urban audience by effectively bringing rural Utah to them via presentations, meaningful stories, and statistics. Even having lived in rural Utah and working for government officials who represented rural parts of the state I was able to learn and be moved by each of the speakers. I was reinvigorated with a sense of purpose to help those in rural communities – but never to feel like they needed saving, rural people are strong and proud, they just only need to be heard and given more opportunity to succeed.

Many students in the audience such as MIchael Hinatsu, Nathan Wagstaff,   Brandon Pedler,  Vanessa McCann and Parker Dolton were able to reflect on their thoughts as they pertained to the content of the event.

Speakers (from left to right) Mrs. Geri Gamber, the Honorable Representative Christine Watkins, and the Honorable Mayor Michael Kourianos receiving gifts from Vice President Lacee Meyer.

            ‘Saving’ rural areas was a topic brought up specifically by Ms. Womack, but addressed by all of the speakers. Being from a rural area, I myself even fall into the ideological trap of being a ‘savior’ to those in rural areas. Rural people are not uneducated, or lacking the will or drive to succeed and sustain their communities – rather they are stifled by other interests. I have realized from this event it is not my job to be a savior, rather to be an ally, and listen rather preach to my friends that still reside within rural parts of the state. I think this is an important lesson many can implement not only when referring to rural areas and populations, but to marginalized peoples in general.

(From left to right) President of the Foreign Affairs Club Joel Frost, Mrs. Geri Gamber, the Honorable Representative Christine Watkins, Vice President of UIMF Lacee Meyer, the Honorable Mayor Michael Kourianos, Ms. Nicholina Womack, and the Honorable Commissioner Tony Martines posing together with gifts.

            As the Vice President of UIMF, it is my hope that in the coming year I will be able to continue to advocate for rural Utah and other rural part of the United States. I know many within the infrastructure of UIMF feel the same way. I am excited about the pathways that this first event has opened up and I am beyond honored to have played a part in its creation. Furthermore, I am proud to be a student of Utah Valley University (UVU), and institution that values student engagement and empowers students like myself to pursue their academic and professional goals – without the support of faculty at UVU this event would not have been possible. Like UVU, UIMF is excited to engage, empower, and include rural Utah in upcoming events and discussions as it pertains to sustainable development in mountainous regions.

Lacee Meyer, Vice President, UIMF






Ms. Geri Gamber             Ms. Nicholina Womack






MIchael Hinatsu-Reflections on UIMF’s Panel Discussion on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah


Nathan Wagstaff – Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah


Brandon Pedler-Learning about sustainable development issues in rural Utah


Vanessa McCann-Economic Development in Utah 


Mariah Todd-Helping with the Sustainable Development in Utah Roundtable


Parker Dolton-Taking part at the roundtable Sustainable Development in Rural Utah


MacKenzie Williams-Sustainable Development in Rural Utah Roundtable


Shea Sawyer -Sustainable Development in Rural Utah


Miles Gevas-UVU Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah


Brianna John-Round table on economic development in rural areas in Utah_

UIMF hosted Mr. Richard Jordan as a follow up to CSW63 and HLPF2018

April 8-11, 2019 the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU)  hosted Richard Jordan, a civil society activist, involved with the United Nations during 40 years, for a series of events and classes that could shape the future of UVU student involvement with the UN, and create educational and learning opportunities for years. Richard Jordan met with UVU students in 2018 when the UIMF members participated at the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in July 2018 at the UN headquarters in New York City, and the connection formed resulted in this multi-day event for UVU students and faculty. The visit of Mr. Jordan was a result of the student engaged learning model, when UIMF members gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of mountain communities as a group with a faculty serving them as a mentor. The Foreign Affairs Club was asked by UIMF to be the main host of the dignitary and to prepare an itinerary for the multi-day event. As such, members of the FA club, including myself, applied and received an ELLA grant through the UVU College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Responsibilities for the event were divided among students through a task list designed to work out all stages of the visit, including travel and accommodation reservations, and arranging agenda.

UVU faculty and students during lunch with Mr. Richard Jordan

We scheduled the main presentation of Mr. Jordan on April 8, 2019, which he titled, ““UN Turns 75: Still About We The Peoples??”. Before the presentation, we included in the agenda and worked out all details of having a lunch honoring a dignitary on behalf of the office of UVU Global Engagement. We learned how to raise additional funds for the event and get a support from the UVU administration. Lunch provided a great opportunity for students and members of UIMF like Taylon Thomas,  to interact with Mr. Jordan.  After lunch Mr. Jordan addressed UVU students and faculty about the history and status of the United Nations and NGO involvement. The discussion was an oral history of the UN and NGO planning for environmental projects that have allowed for the topic of mountain cultures to be discussed at the UN platform. As a conclusion to his discussion Mr. Jordan had several slides that contained suggestions for how the UVU engaged learning model could be utilized to help the UVU student body have personal experience with the UN and NGO councils. The session finished with a lively Q&A session. Such students as Drew TschirkiVanessa McCannKelly Hatch,  Brandon Pedler,  Parker Doltonto name a few, responded very gratefully to Mr. Jordan, and many personally thanked him for traveling to our school to share his life experiences with us.

Joel Frost introduces Mr. Richard Jordan to the UVU audience before the presentation

Over the next several days Mr. Jordan was constantly engaged with UVU students in a classroom setting, each time adapting his content to the curriculum taught in each class, and to the students involved. Mr. Jordan taught in the following classes:

Mr. Richard Jordan meets with students during class POLS2200

Mr. Jordan even participated in a discussion to high school students at East High School in Salt Lake City, UT on April 11, 2019, where more than 40 high school students from History and Government classes gathered for a basic overview of UN and NGO cooperation in international relations. In classic Richard Jordan style, even the high school students were left with suggestions for how to become more involved with the global UN community. The meeting was organized by one of our peer, Sariah Gomez.

Mr. Richard Jordan during lunch at Orem Rotary 

On Wednesday, April 10th, 2019, through Hannah-Bieker  and Hailee Hodgson, UVU Rotaractors and UIMF members, we were able to arrange a lunch at the Orem Rotary for Mr. Jordan to address the members of Orem Rotary Club about his role as Chairman of the 60th DPI/NGO conference in New York and the upcoming 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference. Mr. Jordan discussed Rotary’s historical involvement with many NGOs and with civil society conferences in the past. Mr. Jordan concluded the meeting with many suggestions for opportunities for the Rotary Club to become more actively involved in this historic event that will be hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah in August 2019.

Mr. Richard Jordan meets at UVU Library

A behind the scenes highlight of the trip, and possibly the biggest development for student involvement going forward, was Mr. Jordan’s meeting with the director and staff of the UVU Library to further discuss plans for Mr. Jordan to donate his extensive UN resource library to UVU.

Mr. Richard Jordan during lunch hosted by UIMF

Also on Tuesday, April 9th, the UIMF President Sam Elzinga hosted a lunch event with several students, such as William GumMichael Hinatsu   among themfaculty and Mr. Jordan. The lunch event also resulted in many suggestions from Mr. Jordan to the UIMF for present and future plans of involvement in the international community. Mr. Jordan challenged the UIMF to continue with the UVU engaged learning model to continue participating in discussions about sustainability at the UN-level meetings.

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Michael Hinatsu, VP of UIMF and Mr. Richard Jordan during dinner

Mr. Jordan was continually giving of his time to any person who would ask it of him, and was accompanied by someone from UVU almost his entire stay at UVU, including meals in which he was invited to dine with a student or faculty at UVU. Michael Hinatsu, Jag Martin and myself were all students who dined with Mr. Jordan. In each dining occasion, Mr. Jordan was continually teaching and sharing of his experiences over the past 40 years in the halls of the UN, and encouraging student involvement with the upcoming conference.

Mr. Richard Jordan at the UVU Roots of Knowledge display

One common theme that Mr. Jordan spoke about with his different audiences was the impression made by the UVU Roots of Knowledge display at the UVU Library. He personifies his appreciation for our history of knowledge in the way he embraced every teaching opportunity that was put in his path throughout his prolonged stay. As a futurist, Richard is constantly using his concept of “The Arc of History” to determine what the UN at 75 will look like and it is coinciding so greatly with the Roots of Knowledge ideas.

This was an incredible experience for the Foreign Affairs club and myself as part of UIMF in hosting a civil society dignitary with incredible experience of working at the UN through the student engaged learning model. We were able to prove one more time to ourselves first and to the rest of the world second, that developed at UVU model is able to successfully involve students in UN activities.

Joel Frost, President, Foreign Affairs club at Utah Valley University




Taylon Thomas    Sariah Gomez


Eilen Castellano    Drew Tschirki


Vanessa McCann      Kelly Hatch


Hannah-Bieker    Joel Frost


Michael Hinatsu – 1     Sam Elzinga


William Gum    Michael Hinatsu -2


Brandon Pedler    Dalila Munoz


Parker Dolton-1    Parker Dolton-2 


Parker Dolton-3    Leslie Sixtos-Cruz


Eilen Castellano            Brianna John


Kamille Gerrard      Abdulrahman Alghanmi-1


Abdulrahman Alghanmi-2

UIMF Discusses Mountain Women Advocacy with DPR of Russia to the UN, Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy

On Friday, April 5, 2019, the Utah Valley University (UVU) office of Global Engagement (GE) hosted Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative (DPR) of the Russian Federation to the United Nations (UN).  As part of student engaged learning activities under UVUN initiative, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) was invited by the GE office to took part in a presentation of mbassador Polyanskkiy and to hold a meeting with the Russian diplomat to highlight UIMF’s advocacy for mountain women and girls, in harmony with the UN 2030 Development agenda and the mountain targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UVUN initiative is a partnership between UVU and United Nations Department of Public Information established in November 2017 when UVU became a member of the  United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) program.

Prior to the presentation, as another element of the student engaged learning initiative, UIMF members joined with UVU faculty and other distinguished guests for a luncheon with Ambassador  Polyanskiy and his wife, during which the participants were given the opportunity to personally meet Russian diplomat and speak with him. As Vice President of UIMF, I was honored during this time to meet Ambassador  Polyanskiy and briefly describe the mission of UIMF and our advocacy for mountain women and girls.

Ambassador Polyanskiy during presentation before the faculty and students at UVU

Ambassador Polyanskiy’s presentation following the luncheon, titled “Russian Diplomacy in the Modern World,” consisted primarily of a question-and-answer period between himself and the audience. During the discussion that occurred, Ambassador Polyanskiy answered questions on a number of topics, such as the social, economic, and political issues surrounding the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the War in Donbass, as well as questions concerning Russian-Venezuelan relations, particularly in regards to the presidential crisis between President Maduro and acting President Guaidó. Mr. Polyanskiy also discussed the Russian Federation’s implementation of the UN 2030 Development agenda and its response to the SDGs. During the presentation, Ambassador  Polyanskiy urged the audience to seek many sources of news media and information in general, as well as to constantly seek to gain knowledge and be aware of global issues.

UIMF members discuss mountain targets with Ambassador Polyanskiy

Afterward, Ambassador  Polyanskiy met with members of UIMF, where I was privileged to moderate a discussion about how UIMF successfully uses UVU’s student engaged learning model to advocate at the UN level for the empowerment of mountain women and girls worldwide. My colleagues Viktoriia Bahrii, Hannah Bieker, Megan Davis, Samuel Elzinga, and William Gum-Causey, along with Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF mentor, spoke on our advocacy efforts during events like the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development and the 63rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women this past March. We also described how UIMF builds partnerships with local, regional, national, and international organizations and groups, such as Rotary International, United Nations Association of the United States (UNA-USA)  and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, to further contribute to the education and gender aspects of the UN 2030 Development Agenda, and discussed with Russian diplomat  how best to work with the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN to advocate for such issues at future UN forums on sustainable development. Present also during this meeting was Dr. Lynn England, Director of UVU Peace and Justice Studies, and students preparing for a study abroad to Russia and Kyrgyzstan, who received advice from Ambassador Polyanskiy on their coming study abroad.

Both during Ambassador Polyanskiy’s presentation and the subsequent meeting, UIMF members and I were grateful to meet and hear from Ambassador Polyanskiy, in particular to learn about his and the Russian Federation’s perspective regarding current international politics issues, as well how civil society organizations such as UIMF can most effectively advocate for mountain women and girls at all levels. The advice give by Russian diplomat  was well-taken and helped us personally to think of ways to better advance UIMF’s mission regarding advocacy of mountain women and girls.

Group photo of UIMF members after the meeting with Ambassador Polyanskiy 

Ambassador Polyanskiy’s visit to UVU was made possible thanks to the UVU’s Office of Global Engagement, including Dr. Baldomero Lago, UVU CIO/Vice-Rector of Global Engagement, and Ms. Amy Barnett, Coordinator of Global Engagement at UVU. The visit of Ambassador Polyanskiy continues the UVU tradition of bringing high-level diplomats and officials from United Nations to UVU to discuss and interact with student groups, like UIMF, aspects of the UN 2030 Development agenda and to highlight how UIMF contributes to UVU efforts to promote sustainable development. The visit was also an opportunity to inform Ambassador Polyanskiy about UVU preparations for the upcoming UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 26-28, 2019.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President




Joseph Lloyd-Russian Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy Speaks to UVU Students and Faculty


Sam Elzinga-Russian DPR Visits UVU, Discusses SDGs with Students


William Casey-Gum-Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia, Ambassador Polyanskiy lectured at UVU


Megan Davis-SEL with Mr. Dmitry Polyanskiy, the First DPR of Russia to the U.N., during his visit to UVU Campus


Brandon Pedler-DPR of the RF to the UN, Ambassador Polyanskiy presentation at UVU


Leslie Sixtos-Cruz Russian Diplomacy in the Modern World


Drew Tschirki – Deputy PR of the Russia to the UN, Ambassador Polyanskiy discusses global politics at UVU


Victoria Bindrup-Ambassador Polyanskiy About Russian Policy Priorities


Caleb Stowell-Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy about Russian Foreign Policy


Austin Meline – Russian Diplomacy at UVU


Samantha Tiburcio-Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy speaks at UVU


Vanessa McCann-First Deputy PR of the Russian Federation to the UN speaks at UVU


Parker Dolton-Learning from Ambassador Polyanskiy about Russian Foreign Policy Priorities


Brianna John UVU hosted Deputy PR of Russian Federation to the UN, Ambassador Dmitriy Polyanskiy