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 

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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

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William Gum-Casey-The Value of Model UN

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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

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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.”  

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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

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

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Abdulrahman Alghanmi-UIMF members meeting with Congressman Ben McAdams

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

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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

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VIDEO OF THE ROUND TABLE

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POWER POINTS

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Ms. Geri Gamber             Ms. Nicholina Womack

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TASK LIST

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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

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Nathan Wagstaff – Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Brandon Pedler-Learning about sustainable development issues in rural Utah

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Vanessa McCann-Economic Development in Utah 

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Mariah Todd-Helping with the Sustainable Development in Utah Roundtable

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

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MacKenzie Williams-Sustainable Development in Rural Utah Roundtable

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Shea Sawyer -Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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Miles Gevas-UVU Roundtable on Sustainable Development in Rural Utah

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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

 

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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Taylon Thomas    Sariah Gomez

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Eilen Castellano    Drew Tschirki

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Vanessa McCann      Kelly Hatch

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Hannah-Bieker    Joel Frost

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Michael Hinatsu – 1     Sam Elzinga

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William Gum    Michael Hinatsu -2

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Brandon Pedler    Dalila Munoz

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Parker Dolton-1    Parker Dolton-2 

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Parker Dolton-3    Leslie Sixtos-Cruz

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Eilen Castellano            Brianna John

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Kamille Gerrard      Abdulrahman Alghanmi-1

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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

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STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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Leslie Sixtos-Cruz Russian Diplomacy in the Modern World

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

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Victoria Bindrup-Ambassador Polyanskiy About Russian Policy Priorities

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Caleb Stowell-Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy about Russian Foreign Policy

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Austin Meline – Russian Diplomacy at UVU

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Samantha Tiburcio-Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy speaks at UVU

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

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

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

 

 

SMD club contributes to the Environmental Ethics Symposium at UVU

On Friday, March 29, 2019, two of us had the opportunity to represent the Sustainable Mountain Development club (SMD) at the Environmental Ethics Symposium, hosted by Utah Valley University (UVU). The annual symposium addresses different environmental and sustainability issues each year, drawing a variety of speakers, from the professional field, cultural leadership, and student activists. This year, we were tapped to speak during the student section, because of the efforts made by SMD and the UIMF, at addressing air quality on campus. We spoke  on the recent trip made by UIMF members to the High-Level Political Forum in NYC to present the Wasatch Valley, and areas like it worldwide, as unique and in need of specific attention when facing sustainability issues. We went on to explain the effectiveness of the recent student transit program instituted at UVU. Which is ultimately preventing the production of roughly 3,500 lbs of carbon pollution a day since its start in August 2018.

The Sustainable Mountain Development Club is incredibly proud of it’s student led engaged learning model, and how it has helped its members become active in issues such as air quality. Through this model members of the club submitted both a written and oral statement to the United Nations. This past July in New York, members of our club presented the  oral statement to the High Level Political Forum of the United Nations, highlighting the efforts of UVU to engage students in addressing the sustainability issues faced by the Wasatch Front, focusing specifically air quality.

Last year members of the SMD club also focused their efforts on raising awareness for the coming transit passes, and through campusing and tabling, we encouraged students to become comfortable with the public transportation system. We are confident that one crucial aspect of creating sustainably clean air is simply reducing the number of vehicles on Utah roads.

More recently, SMD has focused on studying the effects of the transit passes given to students and faculty in August 2018. Currently, on of us work for campus parking enforcement, and  noticed a significant difference in the number of empty parking stalls in the fall 2018 semester, as opposed to fall 2017.  We were  curious about this because the student body as a whole had increased between those semesters by more than 2000 students. UVU parking services currently does an empty stall count at the peak time of day (10am) during the three busiest days of the week (Tue, Wed, & Thu). This count includes every single student parking lot on campus and is conducted by hand for the benefit of the university in order to know better how to accommodate student parking needs, these numbers were made available to us. We then compiled this data from both 2017 and 2018 to calculate an averaged daily empty stall count for each month of the fall semester from both years. What we found was very encouraging for the effectiveness of the transit passes. Each month are as follows. August: 2017 – 204, 2018 – 407. September: 2017 – 242, 2018 – 727. October: 2017 – 599, 2018 – 1,150. November: 2017 – 717, 2018 – 1,358. December: 2017 – 805, 2018 – 1,524. We can see clearly that while there was an increase of over 2000 students attending the university, there was an increase of an average of 114% more open stalls, and as much as 200% increase in September. These open stalls reflect students using alternative means of transportation, be that carpooling, bicycles, or the transit system. That being said, the school has not seen a decrease in students parking on campus in many years, and attributes the current numbers to the transit pass program.

Because the data available to us is limited, our estimations for pollution reduction is reflective of that limitation. We decided, in order to be as accurate as possible, to only calculate the pollution prevented for the students we were confident were choosing alternative transportation over personal vehicles. With this data we determined that every day, at least 500 more students were using alternative means of transportation. When we pair that number with an average drive time of 3-5 miles (given location of the majority of student housing) and the EPA’s carbon emissions calculator for each mile driven, we find that when those 500 additional students choose alternative transportation, primarily using the student transit pass, they are preventing the production of over 3,500 lbs of carbon pollution a day. That means that in just it’s first three months since implementation, the transit pass program has prevented the production of roughly 320,000 lbs of carbon pollution on UVU campus alone.

Looking forward, UVU is expected to continue to grow, with a conservatively averaged increase of about 6% in past years, which is not expected to subside in the near future. If we extend that number as far as 2025, we can expect a student body nearing the 50,000 mark. If percentages of transit pass users remain consistent, the carbon pollution prevented by the transit pass program at UVU alone, could reach as high as 1.5 million pounds per year.

We believe that to create a sustainable campus, we will need large scale active student involvement. We encourage UVU to increase educational efforts to inform and engage the student body at large in these issues.

Kyler Pigott, President, SMD Club at UVU and Jamie Glaser, member, SMD Club at UVU 

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Power Point Presentation

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UNA-USA About UIMF’S Advocacy at CSW63

On April 2, 2019, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) published an article about the advocacy of mountain women and girls by the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU), at the 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), held in New York on March 18-20, 2019.

The article, written by UIMF member and UVU’s UNA-USA Liaison Megan Davis, describes UIMF’s preparations for CSW63 since September 2018 conducted under UVU’s student engaged learning (SEL) model, which gives students the primary responsibility to solve problems by working together as a group, with faculty serving as mentors.

As examples of such preparation, the article highlighted a written statement prepared by students under SEL, and advocating for mountain women, was sponsored by the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, and published as official document E/CN.6/2019/NGO/64 by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on November 19, 2018. Additionally, UIMF held at CSW63 a parallel event titled “Student Engaged Learning to Empower Mountain Women and Girls” at the Church Center for the UN on March 19, 2019.

Additionally, the article highlights how UIMF at CSW63 also for the first time worked closely with Rotary International, UN Academic Impact (UNAI), and UNA-USA to advocate for global mountain women.

For more information, see: https://unausa.org/uvu-advocates-for-mountain-women-at-csw63/

By Hazim Alshanbari, UVU student

UIMF members participate in the panel with UN Under Secretary General Alison Smale

The poster signed by Under Secretary General Alison Smale: ” To UIMF, Good luck with advocacy of SDGs and mountain targets. “ 

On Friday, March 29, 2019 I was able to participate in a panel with Under Secretary General for Global Communications, United Nations (UN), Ms. Alison Smale. The Under-Secretary General (USG) was in Utah to discuss the upcoming UN civil society conference with members of the state legislature, the city of Salt Lake, and Utah Valley University (UVU). Sitting on this panel was a great honor considering she is the highest-ranking member of the UN to ever visit Utah. The other panelists were Andrew Jensen, and Lauren Johnson, who both sit with me on the youth subcommittee with me of the conference.

USG Mrs Alison Smale speaks before the audience at UVU

When Dr. Baldomero Lago CIO/Focal Point for UVU at the United Nations, introduced USG to the audience, he mentioned many highlights in the career of Ms. Smale, like her tenure as the editor for the New York Times in Berlin, and her graduate study at Stanford. The USG made a short presentation about her thoughts on Utah, the role of the conference this coming August, and how youth are stakeholders that should demand a serious position in the conference. Utah is a state filled with young people, and Ms. Smale emphasized the importance of registering and participating in the conference.

As the president of the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of clubs at Utah Valley University, I focused my questions to the UN official on youth engagement and creating a lasting impact at the Civil Society Conference this August. As Madame Under-Secretary Smale noted, youth are an integral part of the 2030 agenda at the UN, and as such, should play an integral role at the Civil Society Conference. As a club and organization that highlights youth in promoting the 2030 agenda and sustainable mountain development at the UN, UIMF is playing an active role in the conference planning and development of youth-centered activities, which is exactly what Madame Under-Secretary Smale is hoping for the conference.

Another key question asked by Andrew Jensen dealt with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, which is the theme of the UN Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City in August.  SDG 11 is centered on sustainable communities, and as noted in the panel, sustainable and thriving communities incorporate many other SDGs, such as quality education, gender equality, clean water, and hunger. Understanding how SDG 11 incorporates itself into the other 16 SDGs will be key for the conference in August.

Dr. Cameron Martin presents a token of UVU’s appreciation to USG

During the event, Dr. Cameron Martin, UVU Vice President – University Relations presented Ms. Alison Smale a commemorative token of UVU’s appreciation for participating on the panel as well as conducting meetings at the state legislature and Salt Lake City and County offices. The event also provided an opportunity for faculty and students to interact with USG and my peers at UIMF, such as Megan Davis, Michael Hinatsu, Hailee Hodgson, and Laila Mitchell, were able to talk to Mrs. Alison Smale and inform about their activities with SDGs implementations and in particular with the advocacy of the mountain women during the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women. USG was very impressed by the achievements of the UIMF as one of the example of youth promotion at UVU and Utah in general.

UIMF members with USG, Mrs. Alison Smale

Overall, the panel was a big success. Not only did we draw large crowds for the panel, but we were able to have a substantive conversation with one of the highest-ranking official in the United Nations. Youth excitement for the conference is growing, and it gives me hope that we will be able to make a large and continuing impact at the conference. I am looking forward to seeing all of our hard work continue to pay off.

Samuel Elzinga, President, UIMF

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MEDIA ABOUT USG VISIT TO UTAH

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19-03-29-DESERET NEWS-Photos: Salt Lake City preparing to welcome the world this summer

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19-03-30-DESERET NEWS: Here’s why this United Nations conference will be held in Utah instead of New York for the first time ever

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UIMF MEMBERS REFLECTIVE ESSAYS:

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Michael Hinatsu-UIMF Joins UN USG Ms. Alison Smale for Panel on the Role of Civil Society

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Megan Davis-The Importance and Power of Civil Society Discussion with Ms. Alison Smale, USG, United Nations

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Austin Meline-The Importance and Power of Civil Society Discussion with Ms. Alison Smale, USG, UN

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Victoria Bindrup-Meeting Under Secretary General Alison Smale

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Shea Sawyer The Importance and Power of Civil Society Discussion

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Brianna John UN Under Secretary General, Ms. Alison Smale speaks at UVU

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A Coalition of UVU Clubs