The Eleventh International Mountain Day Observation at Utah Valley University

The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University, (UVU), hosted on December 2nd, 2020 the observation of International Mountain Day (IMD) at UVU. UIMF members observed IMD for the eleventh time and dedicated it to the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN). The main theme for IMD 2020 was Mountain Biodiversity.

For the second time the UIMF hosted IMD as the UVU Chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). UNA-USA is one of the oldest and prominent NGOs in the United States which promotes the cause of the UN through its 20,000 members and 200 chapters nationwide. As a contribution to IMD2020, UNA-USA posted a toolkit about IMD observation on their web-site. As a new development in comparison with the previous IMD observation, Samuel Elzinga, President of UIMF and UNA-USA Chapter at UVU invited representatives of UNA-USA to contribute to the event at UVU. As a result, both sides decided that Mr. Dustin Liu, Youth Observer to the UN of the UNA-USA, could make a meaningful contribution because of his most recent presentation on the topic of biodiversity at the United Nations. UNA-USA also posted a toolkit about IMD observation at their web-site, like they did that last year. 

The event on December 2nd was sponsored also by the Mountain Partnership, a subunit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (FAO-UN) and a coordinator of the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda globally, UVU Office for Global Engagement, Orem Rotary Club, as well as the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) and the Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce, two Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).


Dallas Karren moderates the International Mountain Day observation at UVU

The IMD observation began at noon on December 2nd, 2020 and was held virtually via Zoom and live streamed on the UIMF Facebook page due to the COVID-19 crisis and respective regulations. I initiated the event and provided the Welcoming Remarks by giving background information and laying out the event agenda. Jeff Hibbard, a UIMF member,  then introduced the first speaker, Sam Elzinga, President of UIMF by reading his short bio before inviting Sam to the podium.

Samuel Elzinga, President of UIMF speaks during IMD 2020 at UVU

Sam spoke on his past involvements in IMD and the progress he has seen during his time as a member of the UIMF. He further commended the success and rigor that students and mountain communities alike have shown during those years and especially during the challenges presented by COVID. Sam then explained to the audience the background of the UIMF and our goals within the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and highlighted our achievements.

Yana AnderSen, UVU Rotaract President introduces Dr. Butler

Yana Anderson, UVU Rotaract President, introduced Dr. Rusty Butler, the main UN Representative from the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, who unfortunately was unable to join the event in time due to technical difficulties. Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, a Professor at UVU and UIMF mentor, filled his spot and spoke regarding the vital role that Dr. Butler has played in promoting SMD and mountain communities. Dr. Abdrisaev further highlighted Dr. Butlers’ involvement as an SMD advocate for over two decades with various organizations, including the UIMF, as well as events such as the UVU-IMD observations and annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Byan Alghanmi, UIMF member introduces Anna Mahalak, Youth Engagement Manager at UNA-USA

Anna Mahalak, Youth Engagement Manager for UNA-USA was introduced by Byan Alghanmi, a UIMF member. Anna spoke on behalf of Dustin Liu, UNA-USA Youth Observer, who had an emergency situation and was not able to speak in person.

Anna Mahalak, Youth Engagement Manager for UNA-USA speaks at the IMD2020 at UVU

Anna spoke about the work that the UNA-USA does and their 20,000 nationwide members across 200 chapters. She provided the background of UNA-USA, such as explaining that UNA-USA is the oldest NGO in the United States, and is older than the United Nations itself.

Mr. Dustin Liu, Youth Observer at the UN for UNA-USA

Anna shared a prerecorded video message from Mr. Liu who spoke enthusiastically about his role as Youth Observer and the importance of involvement in the community, Sustainable Development advocacy, and how humans are very interconnected to the environment.

Video about biodiversity prepared by Dustin Liu and presented at the UN

            The final speaker was Mr. Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary President, who was introduced by Ethan Elzinga, Vice President of events for the UVU National Security Society. Mr. Robinson has served the local and international community through the Orem Rotary for nearly 30 years.

Ethan Elzinga, Vice President of events for the UVU National Security Society introduces Mr. Dean Robinson, President of the Orem Rotary.

Rotary International has over 35,000 chapters around the globe in nearly every country. The organization’s goals are to promote peace, save mothers and children, provide access to clean water, education, fight disease, sanitation and hygiene, and growing local economies. He spoke on the various service and humanitarian efforts the Rotary is involved in and the importance of organizations such as the Orem Rotary.

Mr. Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary President speaks during the event

Dean explained to the audience how Rotary International has been keystone in the eradication of polio, and has virtually eradicated it globally except in two middle-eastern countries; Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ultimate goal is to completely remove polio from these two countries, thus fully eradicating polio. However, several challenges such as regional politics present obstacles that the Rotary is working to overcome. Mr. Robinson emphasized an important role which students could play by being involved in Rotaract and that UVU Rotaract, led by Yana Andersen, is at our disposal if we are interested to be involved in any capacity or activities of the Rotary International.

After the conclusion of Mr. Robinson, it was my turn to tell the audience about the annual tradition of the UIMF to bestow upon all contributors to SMD advocacy during 2020, including students, specially designed FAO-UN certificates. After that I turned the podium over to Sarah Michaelis, a member of the UIMF, to perform a ceremonial certificate presentation.

Sarah Michaelis, a member of the UIMF, performs a ceremonial certificate presentation

            This year, the certificates had to be delivered electronically to the recipients due to COVID. However, Sarah Michaelis acknowledged the efforts of SMD contributors by reading their names.

A copy of the certificate, presented to Anna Mahalak

Following acknowledgment of SMD contributors by Sarah, I provided the Closing Remarks by expressing appreciation to all the participants of the IMD observation, the students that made the event possible through their dedication and efforts using the unique Student Engaged Learning (SEL) model at UVU, and those in attendance via the live stream on the UIMF Facebook page. This was an opportunity for me on behalf of the UIMF to extend an open invitation to anyone in the audience and students in particular to participate in advocacy efforts of SMD and mountain communities in 2021.

The UIMF has been proud to observe IMD every year since 2010 through a student engaged learning (SEL) model and is the only academic institution globally to do so. The SEL model allows students to gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of mountain communities as a group with faculty serving them as a mentor. Through SEL they organized, planned, and hosted the event. It was very important to note that through SEL, UIMF members during IMDs raised awareness about sustainable development for mountain communities, who are among the most vulnerable to modern challenges such as climate change and food insecurity, and are among the poorest and most neglected regions in the world.

Participants of the IMD 2020 observation at UVU

            Students contributed to the event through SEL by selecting assignments in the created task list: 1) Samuel Elzinga, UIMF President, played an integral role in advertising IMD, setting up the event live stream, and was the first speaker at the event; 2) Dylan Genes, Foriegn Affairs Club, President, coordinated speaker participation at the event; 3) Ethan Elzinga, in addition to introducing speaker Dean Robinson, prepared souvenirs for the speakers; 4) Yana Anderson, designed the brochure and prepared the Zoom channel for the IMD observation, in addition to introducing Dr. Rusty Butler as one of the speakers; 5) Sarah Michaelis, designed and electronically published the poster for the event in addition to acknowledging contributors to SMD during the event; 6) Megan Davis prepared the list of contributors to SMD during 2020 and the FAO-UN Certificates for them; 7) Kimberly Mackay, Vice President of Logistics, UVU National Security Society, drafted and submitted information about the event to the campus-wide announcement system “UVU Need to Know.”

Mr. Dallas Karren, UIMF Vice President




Brochure *** Poster


Task List




Jeff Hibbard-The 11th Annual International Mountain Day Observation at UVU


Sam-Elzinga Resilience through celebration IMD-2020


Sarah Michaelis-My contribution to the International Mountain Day observation at UVU


Ethan Elzinga- Maintaining a Message IMD 2020


Dylan Genes-11th Annual IMD 2020 – Bringing communities together


Yana Andersen-UVU Rotaract Participates in International Mountain Day Celebration at Utah Valley University


Kimberly Mackay-International Mountain Day 2020


Mitchell Hansen-Mountain regions and sustainable development


Diogo Dasilva-11th International Mountain Day Celebration at UVU


Byan Alghanmi-11th Annual International Mountain Day at Utah Valley University