Category Archives: 2017

Events in 2017

How I Campaigned for UVU Student Body Presidency

My journey toward being elected student body president at Utah Valley University (UVU) this past semester has been unique. As a non-traditional student, I have a wife and 10 month old little boy at home, but knew that a large majority of students here at UVU mirrored my situation and had little to no representation within UVUSA.

My current career goals are to get hired at a university with hopes that I will eventually end up in an administrative role, so when evaluating the job and networking  opportunity  that I would gain through being involved with student government, I decided this would be a good thing for my future and for my final year attending this university. When assessing the beginning stages of this campaign, I realized I was at a slight disadvantage. With a two-year LDS mission, getting married and having my first little boy, I hadn’t taken the time to become involved with UVUSA previously. I was involved with student leadership in high school and had a really good experience, I then got hired on as a UVU presidential intern with the Chief of Staff of the university for this past year and realized all of the opportunities available to students who wanted to be involved and got really excited about the aspect of running.

Campaigning with my family

I knew a few other candidates, as they were also interns and knew that they had been involved since their freshman year. I knew it would be a tough competition, but I was invested enough, I was okay with the challenge. I knew that I hadn’t been as involved previously like my opponents. I was surprised how much thought and planning went into posters and marketing, yet if I wanted to have a shot I needed a good ground game strategy. I knew that I most likely would not be getting the votes of those who were more involved and therefore, needed to reach out to students who normally didn’t vote.

When the election days came, I had shifts of friends and family at the ready to wear brightly colored shirts and encourage students to vote. I used many different tactics including coupons and cookies to encourage voting. I also tried to appeal to as many people personally as possible by noticing whether they were married with children or involved with the university in any aspect. I played basketball and danced for 15 years which allows me to relate with a wide variety of students. I also put in as much time as possible those three days.  With all of these different running strategies I believe by reaching out to students on a personal level, the word was spread that I really cared about my campaign and was willing to truly accomplish what I said I would.

One thing the international students brought up were the working conditions of being a student, yet not a citizen. They wanted me to be aware of the importance of having on campus jobs because they are unable to work at the places off campus. I want to keep that in mind as I serve throughout this next year. I want to make sure they have the resources they need to be successful and be able to support themselves while striving to get the best education possible, as well as know what direction to point them in when they have questions.

I am looking forward to this opportunity to help better my school, my community and the students and faculty of UVU this upcoming year.

 Rob Smith, President, Utah Valley University Student Body, and member, Utah International Mountain Forum 

Implementing Sustainable Development Goals Through Engaged Learning: Enactus UVU

Utah Valley University (UVU) students have so many opportunities for service and engagement even at the global level. And they can do that by sharing successful experiences in business and entrepreneurship in our mountainous state of Utah, one of the most successful in its economic development in the entire nation. One of these opportunities have taken us all the way around the world, to Africa, where we have been able to teach young girls how to start and open a new business, something otherwise unthinkable for these girls whose opportunities after finishing school are very limited.

The girls in Lusaka, Zambia, working on their business project assignments.

The area where we have been working with the girls is Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. While Zambia may be more developed that one may assume without any previous knowledge of the nation, the city they live in is a modern one. The problem is that there is a large gap of income inequality and there are many neighborhoods, which we would call slums in the US. This is precisely where the girls we teach live and in many cases, it is where they will live for the rest of their lives. Students have teamed up from all over the university, with diverse backgrounds in order to set up two businesses and prepare for two more. The ones currently set up already have promising results and exceeded profit expectations from the first day.

This team is called UVU Enactus, and it is part of a global non-profit organization created to move forward sustainable, social venture impact projects all around the globe. (See: UVU is just one of hundreds of schools around the globe. Another incentive for students is the ability to compete for scholarships and prizes every year at regional, national, and world competition. UVU’s Enactus branch has only been up and running for two years but the results have been promising. This one project, however, is not the only one of its kind here at UVU. There is also an initiative to help conserve Utah’s out of control water usage which has steadily been rising while the national average has been steadily declining. Another student has created a model that can be scaled to end world hunger, another project has been helping students in wheelchairs participate in their school’s track competitions. It has been because of the innovation which is at the heart of the school and in conjunction with the support of all staff and faculty.

Beau Bennett, Karina Banks, and Josman Cereceres at the 2017 Enactus USA competition after making it to the top 12 Universities in the Nation.

Enactus has created a partnership with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU, to team up and present on the sustainable mountain development (SMD) and large-scale impact projects taking into account successful experiences in those areas in the state of Utah. As a leader of the SMD club at UVU, I have made it a priority to participate not only in activism but in community building at a local and global level. By working with non-profit organizations in Utah and combining our networks, we are able to accomplish so much more than originally possible before us. The implementation of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) and three mountain targets among them have been an important priority for our team, which could have the lasting impact around the world and the mountain communities who are among the poorest ones. We, UVU students have proven that just because we are students, have jobs, and are supporting families, can still make a huge difference through service and entrepreneurial projects implemented around the world among the needy communities. Not even location or finances have been considered a barrier, because of the problem-solving attitude that the team has established. We know that our student body supports us, and that we have nothing to lose, but so much to gain. As we participated in the Enactus USA national exposition in Kansas City on the week of May 21st, 2017 we felt so grateful to take part in such amazing projects and were proud to compete with like-minded people and make it among top 12 teams in the nations.

UVU Enactus along with Enactus members from BYU- Hawaii, a school we collaborate and advise with, both schools made it to the top of the ranks among top schools in the nation.

It emboldened us and provided more energy and resolve to be prepared for our participation and contribution to the agenda of the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018. We would like to share with the UNWomen and participants of the CSW62 experiences in making difference in lives of girls in Lusaka and many other initiatives, which highlight how the engaged learning approach encourages students not only to get advanced in their educations, but also to contribute to the implementation of SDGs and mountain targets worldwide.

Josman Cereceres, President, SMD club, member, Enactus


UVU students learning NGO advocacy from UN official



Utah Valley University (UVU) sponsored a visit of guest lecturer Felipe Queipo, Information Officer for the United Nations’ NGO Relations & Advocacy branch of the Department of Public Information. Mr. Queipo was visiting Utah to meet with local Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and to help foster relationships between them and the UN. His activities at our school included a meeting with local NGOs and school organizations focused on NGO work, as well as a general lecture for students. Before the general lecture members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU during special meeting informed UN official about student’s engagement in the advocacy of the United Nations Sustainable Mountain Development agenda in the State of Utah and North America. The nature of his lecture then was centered around the evolution of the United Nations, their adoption of avenues to communicate directly with civil society, and how we, as students, can get involved.

Mr. Felipe Queipo before the student audience at UVU

Mr. Quiepo began his lecture by asking students for their knowledge, opinions and questions about the United Nations — he even joked, saying that he was anticipating the question, “Why is the UN so useless?” That moment, while humorous, became the focal point of Mr. Quiepo’s lecture, and the catalyst for some real revolutionary thinking.

He then went on to explain that what we commonly think of as the UN—monolithic and governmentally-run—is the General Assembly and Security Council. Delving into the deadlock faced by the Security Council, elaborating on its establishment, lack of faculties to change, and its member nations’ tumultuous back and forth over the last seventy odd years, Mr. Quiepo really got to the heart of the matter as to why public perception of the UN is one of incapability.

However, he explained, these were only organs of a much larger organization. UN official explained that new initiatives launched by other branches of the UN, including the Secretariat and ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), highlighted these exact issues and were predicated upon the idea that the best way to achieve results would be to extend beyond government interaction, to directly work with civil society. He stressed the importance of becoming active in your individual community, and using that momentum and the specialized skills of each individual and community to bring about real change around the world and how his particular department could be helpful to pursue those endeavors.

Overall, his speech was one of hope and encouragement—the perfect call to action for university students. Mr. Quiepo taught us that, no matter how small, positive forces in the world are important, and that each of our life experiences, though different, can all be positively utilized to facilitate change in the world. The encouragement, both on a personal level, and with the knowledge that the UN is increasing support and visibility for local NGOs, was truly inspiring.

David Schwartz, UVU student


Photos of the meeting with Mr. Felipe Queipo


Video of the UIMF members meeting with Mr. Felipe Queipo




Josman Cereceres: Engaded learning from Felipe Queipo in advocating mountain cause at the UN


Vitor Yunga: learning about humanitarian and NGO efforts at the United Nations from Felipe Queipo




Dr. Butler advocates for eradicating poverty in the mountains during ECOSOC session


On behalf of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) we would like to congratulate Dr. Rusty Butler, Main representative of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) for making a statement during the 2017 ECOSOC Integration Segment on May 8-10, 2017 at the United Nations.  The theme of this year’s Segment was “Making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies: what will it take?” RANS as a NGO with General Consultative Status under ECOSOC spoke on behalf of the Mountain Partnership (MP) about challenges of poverty among the mountain communities.

The statement outlines major efforts of the Mountain Partnership in eradication of poverty among the mountain communities globally and challenges which still need to be addressed.

RANS recommends joint actions of all relevant stakeholders and stresses the importance of innovative solutions and entrepreneurship for the diversification of livelihoods for local mountain communities to end poverty and hunger; mechanisms to compensate mountain people for the benefits of their actions, services, and resources provided to the lowlands; promotes the high value mountain products to help improve mountain incomes by tapping into the current demand for high quality, traditional, organic and sustainable produce. The statement also emphasizes the role of tourism in mountains, if developed sustainably, to bring benefits to the communities as well.

(R to L) Dr. Butler interacts with Mr. Felipe Queipo, Associate Information Office, Department of Public Information, United Nations

It is already the third statement at the United Nations made by Dr. Rusty Butler, and he again highlighted “… the important role which academic institutions [and Utah Valley University in particular] might play in eradicating poverty and promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Although he stressed that “since 2007, the curricular and extracurricular programs [at UVU] encourage traditional and non-traditional students to promote the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agenda through student experiential learning,” it is important for us to remember that it happened thanks to efforts of Dr. Butler who contributed to that process as a Vice President for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU during 1992-2016, among other faculty at UVU.

UIMF members appreciate his leadership in new capacity as main representative of RANS at the UN, which provides UVU students with great opportunities to promote the SMD UN agenda at the United Nations.

Full statement:

Yanko Dzhukev, VP of Global Affairs and Outreach, UIMF


UVU press release about RANS statement


Mountain Partnership about RANS statement





Promoting mountain countries during the Model UN conference


Promoting mountain countries during the Model UN conference

I recently attended the Model UN of the Far West Conference, which took place in San Francisco on April 21-25, 2017. The UN Charter was created in San Francisco, so the location of this conference is significant. I attended this conference with my Model UN class, and we all had the opportunity to represent the member state Kyrgyzstan.

(L to R): Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham, UVU team advisor, Alec Sorenson, Taylor Mansfield, Steven Johnson and Jon Downs

Why Kyrgyzstan? It was not a random but rather conscious choice: our school, Utah Valley University and State of Utah together with Kyrgyzstan have promoted the sustainable mountain development agenda of the United Nations since 2006, and many of our students are involved in those activities. During the preparations to the MUN conference we decided to also advocate for the cause of the small mountain nations to which Kyrgyzstan belongs as well as State of Utah. As we know from our activities at UVU that mountain people are among the most vulnerable to such traditional challenges as poverty and underdevelopment, and almost forgotten by international institutions.  Therefore, we thought that it was an opportunity for us to raise an awareness among other participants of the conference about mountain cause. While at this conference, I had the opportunity to interact with other students, and learn more about their countries, and why they hold the beliefs that they do.

This was my first time at a Model UN conference, so I didn’t fully know what to expect. This was really a learning experience for me. We began every day at nine am, and some nights worked until eleven pm. Every committee began by doing a roll call to establish quorum, and it was important that every student show up, so we knew what the majority was. I had worked in the General Assembly committee, which had about seventy to eighty different countries in it.

My country, Kyrgyzstan, was located in the Central Asia region; we didn’t really have a lot of allies at this conference. Being from such a small country, a lot of people didn’t really even know where our country was located. Luckily, on the first day, I was able to meet up with one of the countries located in our region, Turkmenistan. From day one, I was able to form a great relationship with Turkmenistan, and we ended up sponsoring, and working on a resolution  together. Another ally that was focused on was Russia. Unfortunately, during this conference I wasn’t able to work with Russia a lot of the time.

It was really interesting to see just how well certain countries played their parts. They made sure to remind the delegates, the things were to remain civil, as the real UN is very diplomatic. I think that my committee struggled a lot with controlling their emotions, and being able to compromise. Some delegates had a harder time being diplomatic with other delegates that they knew their countries didn’t agree with. The chairs continued to make sure that everyone was acting respectfully to each other though. I agree that a lot of the time, it was hard to compromise with other delegates. Most countries don’t see eye to eye on issues, and things were especially hard when it came time to create, merge, and vote on resolutions.

Creating resolutions was one of the most important parts the conference. Luckily, leading up the conference, my class worked a lot not only on our policy statements, but on resolution writing. I feel that it made it so much easier to work with other delegates and be able to come to a compromise when we could all agree on specific wording, and the things that we really wanted to see in our resolutions. A lot of the preamble clauses and operative clauses were meant to target specific issues that our countries were facing.

In this specific conference, we were all given three topics to study and focus on. For the General Assembly, our topics were The Threat of Cyber Security in an Age of Cybercrime, Addressing Global Conflict and Security in the Context of Climate Change, and Ensuring Human Security in Conflict and Post Conflict Countries. In our committee, we were able to finish resolutions for two topics, which were Climate change, and Cybercrime. I put a lot of focus into the topic of Climate change. Climate change is a big issue in Kyrgyzstan, as their glaciers are melting, like in many other mountain nations and they have seen water shortages in part due to flawed infrastructure. Fortunately, I found a bloc that was interested in focusing on the same idea of water conservation and preservation. From there we merged with another bloc and created a resolution that we could all agree on. In the end, after a few amendments, the bill the Kyrgyzstan sponsored was one of the three bills to be passed in our committee. As a result, we were presented with Achievement Certificate for successfully presenting interests of Kyrgyzstan as one of the small mountain nations.

This allowed us to share with other conference participants our knowledge and experiences about Kyrgyzstan, starting even from the spelling of the name of the country. In addition, we also shared with them projects and initiatives which UVU students undertake with Kyrgyzstan to exchange between two mountain communities examples of economic, social, cultural and educational development.

Taylor Mansfield with Achievement Certificate for the promotion of mountainous Kyrgyzstan during the MUN conference 

In conclusion, I think that attending this conference was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet different people, from schools across the West Coast. I enjoyed being able to learn from them and be able to compromise on certain issues. This is something that I would definitely consider attending again, and I won’t forget all that I have learned from it.

Taylor Mansfield, UVU student


United Nations Mountain Partnership about MUNFW conference




Steven Johnston: gaining professional experiences during the Model UN Conference


Jon Downs: My MUNFW experience


The Re-charter of UVU Rotaract Club


The Re-charter of UVU Rotaract Club/ Utah International Mountain Forum

 On April 29, 2017 the UVU campus hosted the Central Wasatch Rotaract Leadership training as part of the UVU Rotaract club Re-charter, a Rotary International effort to establish College level clubs in communities and Universities.  This month seven years ago, the Orem Rotary Club sponsored the Utah Valley University Rotaract club. It was a wonderful coincidence that around the same time this year a group of dedicated individuals got together and worked once again to re-establish the club on campus.

Rotary International is a global community of committed professionals working together to serve others and advance peace. More than 1.2 million members in over 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide volunteer in communities at home and abroad. The Utah Rotary District 5420 is made up of 48 Rotary clubs. Rotary clubs sponsor University and Community based Rotaract service clubs for young men and women ages 18 to 30 who are dedicated to community and international service. Its membership totals over184,000 in more than 8,000 clubs worldwide. Individual Rotary clubs sponsor Rotaract clubs and offer guidance and support, making the Rotaract clubs true “partners in service” and key members of the family of Rotary.

District Governor Shaun Michel at UVU

VIP’s of Utah Rotary District 5420 who shared their “Rotary Moments” listing years of local and international service transmitting the ideals of Rotary of “Service Above Self” included: District Governor Shaun Michel, PDG Tom Powell (instrumental in the establishment of other Rotaract clubs in the Utah District), PDG Dean Jackson, PDG Wally Brown the( “father of Rotaract” in Utah), PDG Penny Atkinson (The first woman District Governor in Utah), PDG Jerry Summerhays, DGE Bev Christy, Orem Rotary Club President Bruce Early, Incoming Utah Rotary District Youth Chair Miriam Barth, Jose Velasco Midvalley Rotaract Advisor and Midvale Rotary President, Stephanie Velasco, District Rotaract Representative and Martha Velasco, District Rotaract Chair. Also present to support the Re-charter were Salt Lake Rotaract President Colby Judd, BYU Rotaract Advisor Chantel Sloan, Midvalley Rotaract VP Ana Montes and Dixie University Rotaract Past President Jayme Pickett. They conveyed to those present how their involvement in Rotary has shaped their lives and helped them contribute to the Objectives of Rotary.

PDG Tom Powell speaks before the audience

The morning culminated with learning about Rotary; a motivational presentation that was especially designed for the Rotaractors and Rotarians; and engaging with an international Rotaract Club partner who presented a need in their community via a skype session experience with the Rotaract Clubs of Bosnia and later Piedras Negras, Mexico. The local Rotaract clubs present will support the development of the service project abroad using funds that will be matched by the international Rotaract partner and may be focused on Rotary’s six community service priorities: peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.

Group photo after signing a charter

The UVU Rotaract Club Advisor ,Baktybek Abdrisaev , Senior Lecturer of History and Political Science and former Ambassador to the United States and Canada from 1997 to 2005, brings to this effort his global experience and expertise that supports the ideals of a Rotaractor: to volunteer locally and internationally, network and build vocational knowledge, develop leadership skills, establish a worldwide network of service-minded people, gain fellowships that last a lifetime, change lives, make peace and have fun!

Five founding members of the club have been raised or trained in the Rotary experience of “Service Above Self” participating in international projects and leadership development in Utah Rotary District 5420. Joining them are 15 students who will journey with them in becoming the tenth Rotaract club in the Rotary District and joining the ranks of the active Rotaract Clubs at Utah State University, Dixie University, Westminster College, Salt Lake Community (University of Utah), Midvalley, Roosevelt , Ogden, BYU and Southern Utah University.

Martha Velasco, Past President and Utah District 5420 Rotaract Chair


Invitation for event at UVU


UVU event program


Photos from the event




Wyatt Thompson: student learning how to be Rotarian


Aldon Trimble: global networking opportunities through UVU Rotaract Club


Jocelyn Lujan: time to joint Rotaract at UVU



UVU Students Experience with the WorldQuest Trivia Competition


On April 14, 2017, my colleagues and I got an incredible opportunity to participate in the WorldQuest Trivia Competition, hosted at the Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Seven students, including Pierre Chesnais, John Cummings, Anthony Franks, Ruben Garces, Yelyzaveta Pashehenko, Tenika Ray, and me, represented the Department of History and Political Science at Utah Valley University in this competition.  Each of the team members excelled in various subjects and topics.

Wolverine Dream Team during competition

Thanks to Professor Hong Pang’s organization and guidance, we could participate in such a fun and engaging event hosted by the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy. Representatives from various organizations and institutions, including those from global corporations, communities and social organizations as well as students from universities/colleges (such as University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Weber State University, Westminster College, and our Utah Valley University), attended this event and competed with each other on world knowledge.  . The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the current global issues we are facing and faced in the past.

The competition is to test the knowledge of the participants on the following topics:

         Global Megacities

         Women in Technology

         Peace & Conflict

         EU (European Union)

         Combating Infectious Diseases

         Current Events

Wolverine Dream Team with Professor Hong Pang

Personally I learned a lot from this Trivia Competition.  For example, global megacities are severely overpopulated and have created numerous problems to the communities. These problems includes water crisis, infrastructures crisis, unemployment, under-education, land pollution, land and waste management.  These problems are becoming serious issues to the people who live in the megacities. Each megacity contains at least 10 million people. This number is bigger than that of some small countries in Europe and Asia. The second round of questions about Women in Tech provided me eye-opening information that many successful companies exclusively rely on the women power. The third round of questions is about Peace and Conflict, another challenging topic. But our team began to roar with a stronger performance this round. We did even better in the fourth round on European Union because we had Pierre Chesnais, who comes from France and successfully nailed 8 out of 10 questions.

While we had a plain performance in the first 3 rounds getting the score of 14 out of 30, our team had a comeback in the later rounds, such as those on Current Events, Peace and Conflict, European Union, and Current Events. Although we failed to win any prize, our team tried our very best, had a lot of fun working together, and learned a lot about the world.

It was an enlightening opportunity for us to broaden our horizon of knowledge. Our engaged learning evening ended with a lot of laughter and good memories. Thanks to Professor Hong Pang and my colleagues, I have gained a good memory and experiential learning in my own way.

Munkhbat Batmunkh, member of Wolverine Dream Team


Tenika Ray: Experiential Learning Through  WorldQuest Trivia


Anthony Franks: WorldQuest Trivia Night


Ruben Garces: my participation in WorldTrivia contest


2015 Youth and the Mountains Journal








The annual Utah Valley University journal Youth and the Mountain publishes undergraduate students research papers dedicated to the sustainable mountain development (SMD) agenda of the United Nations with the ultimate goal to raise awareness in SMD in the state of Utah and the rest of North America.

The 2015 issue of the journal was published with some delay to reflect substantial progress during the year in SMD advocacy through the student engaged learning model at UVU and the efforts of the members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU in particular. As a highlight in the implementation of that model, UIMF members successfully hosted the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (WOMC) under the umbrella of the United Nations Mountain Partnership (MP) on October 7-9  2015, which provided students a great opportunity to combine their education with hands-on activities at the level of the UN with faculty serving in the role of advisors.

Due to that, the 2015 issue broadened the focus of the journal on student research by including documents presenting results of the student engaged learning and the final document of the 2015 WOMC in particular. It was adopted by conference participants through the efforts of the student secretariat and represents an example of how the students combined engaged learning with practical contribution to the implementation of the UN Post-2015 agenda. Another document included in the volume is the draft submission to the MP about the UVU students and faculty contribution to SMD advocacy during 2014-2016 for the UN Secretary General’s Report on SMD. It described the UIMF efforts through engaged learning to promote mountain targets among the proposed SDGs both at the UN Open Working Groups on SDGs, and by hosting Permanent Representatives of more than 18 nations to the UN at UVU during 2013-2015. In addition, it highlighted students’ contribution to MP global campaign to include mountain issues in the agenda of the COP21 climate talks in Paris, in December 2015. Finally, the document highlighted the regional approach by UVU in SMD advocacy.

The 2015 issue contains UVU student essays that cover water waste in the arid environment of Utah and Lake Powell; efforts of NGOs such as Days for Girls from the State of Washington  to promote and improve women’s hygiene worldwide; community-based aspects of the Utah model of SMD started with the first Mormon settlers; a report from a UIMF member about rebuilding his primary school in Nepal following the devastating earthquake in 2015; and papers about different aspects of the international applicability of SMD. Since many students at UVU are non-traditional ones, journal encourages them to submit papers about their professional experiences related to the contribution to the Utah model of SMD: one of the papers from that category tells a story of the single mother who raises ten children alone and how local and federal regulations with focus on mandated parental accountability could increase sustainable nurturing and living for families like hers. Another paper analyses the role of family farming in the State of Utah based on the experiences of the student author.

In addition, the 2015 issue includes the papers of the winners from the annual Utah High School Essay Contest, which was hosted by UVU students in March 2015 to promote gender issues as a contribution to the agenda of the WOMC. Articles written by high school students highlight future leaders in SMD promotion in Utah and North America.

Please find enclosed a link to the 2015 issue of the Youth and the Mountains Journal:;


Yanko Dzhukev, VP of Global Affairs and Outreach, UIMF

UIMF Advocates Mountain Women at CSW61



The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) participated at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) of the United Nation in New York on 20-23 March 2017. During CSW61, four UIMF leaders, UVU students and myself included, shared with participants and hosts of this major United Nations (UN) gender event their contribution to the gender and the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) agendas of the United Nations in the State of Utah and North America.

Regan Warner, Christian Jensen, Tony Medina, and Munkhbat Batmunkh during CSW61 at the United Nations

The UIMF was represented at CSW61 by Tony Medina, outgoing President of UIMF, Christian Jensen, current President of UIMF, Regan Warner, Vice-President of Sustainable Mountain Development Club and Munkhbat Batmunkh, Vice President of UIMF. Each of them, like the majority of the UIMF members, are non-traditional students and combine education with the need to work full or part time jobs and take care of a family. At the same time, the UIMF members also contribute a lot of their time, energy, and passion to encourage local communities in Utah and North America to advocate for the mountain cause and help the mountain communities, women and families in particular in many developing nations worldwide who are overlooked and forgotten today by the international community.

As a major initiative, UVU has been hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences (WOMCs) since 2007. Since then, WOMCs have become major grass-roots forums in North America to promote gender and SMD agendas of the UN. Thanks to the UVU emphasis on student engaged learning, WOMCs provide the students a great opportunity to combine their education with hands-on activities at the level of the United Nations, while faculty provides them with guidance only when students need it. As another important contribution of student to the gender and SMD advocacy, students raised funds on local level to host WOMCs and any other initiatives to promote mountain cause.

Tony Medina was particularly proud to report that UIMF under his leadership hosted the fourth international Women of the Mountains Conference under the umbrella of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on 7-9 of October 2015. The 2016 United Nations Secretary General’s Report on SMD featured UIMF for the first time and student contributions to the promotion of the mountain targets among the UN SDGs and SDG#5 on gender in particular. Christian Jensen and Munkhbat Batmunkh were part of the 2015 UIMF team, who achieved such a success.

As a next step in student engagement at the United Nations level, UIMF aimed to gain similar recognition from the CSW and UN Women as well. The students worked very hard to achieve such a goal.

This was the second visit for Tony Medina to the CSW and the first for the rest of the group.  Our delegation was not able to be included in the official agenda of this UN forum, but Christian Jensen as the new UIMF President and Regan Warner as one of his deputies learned how to advance their goal during the next year’s visit. UIMF members have built strong partnership ties with several NGOs accredited under the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. For example, their registration for participation at CSW61 and recommendation to participants was provided by Dr. Rusty Butler, the main representative at the United Nations of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS), a NGO with Consultative Status under ECOSOC. Similarly, thanks to Mrs. Wendy Jyang, President of Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands and Development and Commerce, a NGO from Utah, Munkhbat Batmunkh on behalf of UIMF was able to make a presentation via Skype in an event hosted by her NGO for the CSW61 participants at the One UN Hotel on March 14, 2017. In addition, Mrs. Wendy Jyang and her colleagues presented to participants of the event a power point and brochure about UIMF activities in gender and SMD advocacy.

UIMF members also attended a parallel event hosted by several NGOs from Utah which allowed students to witness the importance of working together at the UN in order to promote mutual goals and interests and in particular the model of SMD in Utah as one of the most successful in the United States.

Regan Warner speaks to Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations, Mrs. Katalina Annamaria Bogyay.

During the visit, students also gained experience and knowledge about how it was important for them to strengthen their ties with Permanent Missions of several mountain countries at the United Nations. As a follow up for the previous visits of Permanent Representatives of those countries to Utah and UVU, Munkhbat Batmunkh contacted diplomatic missions and secured meetings as part of UIMF agenda. This provided for the UIMF a good basis for co-hosting side events with focus on promotion of mountain women and families for the next time. In addition, it was a wonderful opportunity for Regan Warner as well as her peers to learn how to hold negotiations and discussions with diplomats like the Permanent Representative (PR) of Hungary to the United Nations, Ambassador Katalin Bogyay and the PR of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, Ambassador Mirgul Moldoisaeva. It was a refreshing experience for the top women envoys from Hungary and Kyrgyzstan as well to have students as counterparts instead of a faculty member or university official.

The UVU delegation included also Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, UIMF Advisor and Dr. Cholpon Akmatalieva, UVU faculty,  and contributor for the WOMCs since 2007. In addition, Meerim Abdrisaeva was included in the delegation as a high school student from the Utah County Academy of Sciences and a contributor to the Fourth International WOMC.

Kimberly Williamson speaks to Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the UN, Mrs. Mirgul Moldoisaeva

While for some students it was the first visit ever to New York, the visit agenda included sightseeing and visiting some of the most prominent places in this city. They used that opportunity to also bring family members and enjoy time with them together in New York, which plays an important role for non-traditional students to be successful in their education.

As a preparation for the next year’s visit, UIMF members now plan also to gather NGOs from Utah and North America with consultative status under ECOSOC in order to discuss joint activities both at the CSW and at the UN in order to promote the gender and the SMD agendas.

As a representative of the UVU History and Political Science department and still a non-traditional student myself, I would like to highlight one more time the engaged learning approach at UVU, which puts students at the focus of the activities at the university and encourages them to learn through hands-on experiences which better prepares them for their professional careers and life. I have been involved in those activities since my time as a UVU student and I have continued to do that during the last four years by helping more UIMF members to be successfully involved in the gender and SMD advocacy in addition to taking care of their families and being able to get their education. I am confident that many of them will further make a difference not only in their own lives and professional careers but also in improving livelihoods of mountain communities, families and women around the world.

Kimberly Williamson, Administrative Support, History and Political Science Department, Utah Valley University  


UIMF preparations for the participation at CSW61


Ms. Lakshmi Puri: Analysis of CSW61 and Agreed Conclusions


United Nations Mountain Partnership about UIMF at CSW61


Power point about UIMF participation at CSW61


Photos about UIMF participation at CSW61




Tony Medina: Promoting Mountain Women and Families at CSW61


Christian Jensen: My Story, Student Engagement and Work at the UN


Regan Warner: My experiential Learning at the 61st United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women


Munkhbat Batmunkh: Advocating Mountain Cause and Women From Mongolia, to Utah and to CSW61


2017 International Women’s Day at UVU


2017 International Women’s Day at UVU

Two of main goals of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs a Utah Valley University (UVU) ( are to sponsor events which raise awareness of sustainable mountain development (SMD) topics and bring the public into contact with international guests and foreign dignitaries. We were able to combine these two goals on March 6, 2017, by bringing special guest U.S Ambassador Elieen Malloy to UVU ( see: and involving her in a gender-related project, one of the sustainable development goals we as the UIMF focus on. Ambassador Malloy promoted variety of projects with focus on women and mountain families in particular during her time as US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (1994-97) as well as other diplomatic postings in such countries in Central Asia as Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.  Therefore, it was natural for her to get involved in activities during the visit to UVU with focus on women.

(Left to right):  Kathryn Johnson, Assistant Director of Women’s Services, Dr. Anne R. Wairepo, Sr. Director of Women’s Services and Director of the Women’s Success Center, Ambassador Eileen Malloy, and Regan Warner at the International Women’s Day Event.

UVU celebrated International Women’s Day with a number of events put on by the UVU Women’s Success Center ( ) One of them was an opportunity for students and faculty to participate in assembling Days for Girls hygiene kits. The mission of the NGO Days for Girls is “Creating a more dignified, free and educated world through access to lasting feminine hygiene solutions.” ( ) Since 2008, Days for Girls has reached girls in over 101 countries and since 2015 over 108,880 girls have received hygiene kits. The impact of these efforts has been incredible. For example, absence rates for girls in schools. in Kenya has dropped from 25% to 3% and in Uganda from 36% to 8%.

UIMF members are familiar with Days for Girls and its President Celeste Mergens: they hosted Celeste as keynote presenter during the fourth international Women of the Mountains Conference under the umbrella of the United Nations Mountain Partnership at UVU in October 7-9, 2015. After that UIMF members participated at Days for Girls presentation as parallel event during the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Status of Women (CSW) on March 2016 in New York. They also hope to work together during the 61st session of the CSW in New York on March 20-23, 2017.

Members of the UIMF were able to attend the Days for Girls event together with U.S Ambassador Eileen Malloy. We were greeted by leaders of the Women’s Success Center, including Dr. Anne Waipero, the Senior Director of the Women’s Success Center and Women’s Services at UVU, as well as Utah representatives of Days for Girls among others who instructed us on how to create the hygiene kits and of the many accomplishments of the Days for Girls organization. Following this, the members as well as Ambassador Malloy helped put together numerous Days for Girls hygiene kits to be sent to girls in Samoa. These kits included eight absorbent tri-fold pads, one washcloth, one drawstring bag, two one-gallon size Ziploc freezer bags, two moisture barrier shields, one travel-size soap, a two pairs of panties, and a visual instruction sheet.  These kits are designed to last up to three years, allowing girls all around the world to continue their education uninterrupted and in safety.

(Left to right):  Matt Rands, Regan Warner, Ambassador Eileen Malloy, and Josman Cereceres being instructed on how to assemble Days for Girls hygiene kits.

It was an honor for UIMF members to participate in this event hosted by UVU Women’s Success Center, which supports students’ efforts in hosting the international Women of the Mountains Conferences as major grass-roots gathering in North America to promote gender and SMD agendas of the United Nations since 2007. We were able to contribute to the celebration of women around the world and invest our time to their education. Additionally, it was a great opportunity to involve Ambassador Malloy in this effort and demonstrate to her the importance of women issues to the students and faculty here at Utah Valley University.

Regan Warner, Vice President, Sustainable Mountain Development Club


UVU Press-Release




Photos of Ambassador Malloy Visit to UVU




Josman Cereceres: The Honorable Eileen Malloy Prepares UVU Students for Foreign Services