Category Archives: 2020

Orem Rotary Provides Coats for Elementary Schools in Orem

Orem Rotary President Dean Robinson and Rotary member Lynn Hillstead deliver coats to Noah Webster Academy

During the first two weeks of December 2020, members of the Orem Rotary contributed to the traditional Coats for Kids initiative. Coats for Kids is a service project which provides new coats to elementary school children whose families do not have the financial means to provide them. Orem Rotary has been heading local efforts in this program since 2012. Since 2012, the amount of coats donated has increased. Below is data since the inception of the initiative.

2012  – 37 coats and 3 schools

2013 – 126 coats and 9 schools

2014 – 125 coats and 7 schools

2015 – 176 coats and 7 schools

2016 – 177 coats and 7 schools

2017 – 221 coats and 7 schools

2018 – 174 coats and 6 schools

2019 – 142 coats and 4 schools

2020 – 153 coats and 7 schools

            Orem Rotary members raised $3,500 which was enough to purchase 153 coats to meet the needs of 7 elementary schools in the Orem area. Members delivered 70 coats to Noah Webster Academy, 16 coats to Westmore Elementary, 17 coats to Windsor Elementary, 10 coats to Geneva Elementary, 13 coats to Cherry Hill Elementary, 7 coats to Northridge Elementary, and 20 coats to Sharon Elementary. Due to the restrictions related to COVID-19, Rotarians met with the principals of schools, and were touched by the gratitude expressed.

Orem Rotary Member Natalie Okeson delivers coats to Cherry Hill Elementary School

As continued involvement and partnership of the Orem Rotary with the Utah Valley University (UVU), several members of the UVU Rotaract participated in this initiative. Rotaract is a student club representing Rotary International.

Orem Rotary members with UVU Rotaractors present coats to the principal of the Westmore Elementary School in Orem  

Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract President Yana Andersen and President of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU Sam Elzinga with Orem Rotary member Cholpon Akmatalieva and UVU Rotaract advisor Baktybek Abdrisaev   delivered 16 coats to the Westmore Elementary School and 17 coats to the Windsor Elementary School.

Coats being sorted prior to delivery

Each school emphasized the need that Orem Rotary fulfills through these important and timely donations. This was also a great and important opportunity for UVU Rotaract to contribute to one of the service projects of the Orem Rotary. Orem Rotary plans to have one such service project every month, which would be a worthy endeavor for Rotaractors to support. 

Yana Andersen, UVU Rotaract President

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

UIMF and Orem Rotary Co-Hosted Zoom Panel with Congressman John Curtis (R-UT)

On November 5th, 2020, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) together with Orem Rotary co-hosted Congressman John Curtis for a panel regarding conservation efforts, economic development, and climate change in the House of Representatives. Orem Rotary is a branch of the Rotary International which works to eradicate polio around the world through international advocacy efforts. Since UIMF is focused on international advocacy that highlights Utah as a model of Sustainable Mountain Development, this partnership is particularly fitting.

Congressman John Curtis speaks during Zoom session

As the President of UIMF and having the connections in the John Curtis Congressional Office, I was responsible for the logistics and planning of the event. I worked very closely with Gina Robie, Congressman Curtis’s district office scheduler, to make sure the Congressman was available to speak. We agreed on Wednesday, November 5th as the day to hold the panel. It was particularly great to speak with Congressman Curtis right after an election, so we jumped at the opportunity. I worked with the presidents of Orem Rotary, Dean Robinson and Clark Merkley, as well as with Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, to make sure we were all ready to go for the event.

Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary President asks questions during the event

The event itself was held over Zoom, as the pandemic is particularly bad in Utah and we wanted to take an abundance of caution to ensure all were safe. This made logistics for the event easy. I passed along a Zoom link to the Congressman and we were ready to go. We started the panel with Rotary’s typical opening, which includes a prayer, pledge of allegiance, and recitation of the four rotary points. After this, Rotary president Dean Robinson turned the time for me to introduce the Congressman and ask him some specific questions. When the panel began, I first congratulated the Congressman on a successful reelection campaign after he won a projected 69 percent of the vote. I asked how he was feeling after the election, to which he replied that he was feeling relieved, but tired. The Congressman has run for office three times in three years, which has made him very tired. He said he was looking forward to a break from running so much. I then asked him how he felt to receive such a high percentage of the vote, to which he replied that he was grateful so many Utahns trusted him that much to run. He said it’s sometimes hard for him because he would love to win all of the votes, but he reconciles the fact that he cannot please everyone.

Participants asks questions during the event

After these initial questions, I wanted to talk about public lands, sustainable development, and foreign policy- all areas the Congressman knows well. I specifically asked the congressman how he approaches being a conservative member of Congress, yet working so closely with climate change activists. He was thoughtful and measured in his responses. The Congressman believes that there is no problem with conservatives advocating for climate change policy. He went on further to say that  conservatives care about the land and environment just as much as those across the aisle, but their care manifests differently. On the subject of foreign policy, I asked if the Congressman anticipated any large foreign policy changes in the new Congress, or if things would stay the same. The Congressman remarked that he hoped to build better relations with important countries, like China, and hoped those challenges could be addressed further in the new Congress. I asked if he is concerned with how China is approaching their foreign policy, given his experience in East Asia. He remarked that he held a deep love for the Chinese people, and hopes that the government of the PRC will reflect how loving the people are.

Following his insightful remarks, then questioning was available to all participants, with the majority of the questions coming from Rotarians. The Congressman shared that he himself is a rotarian and that he is always proud to speak to members, wherever they may be. It was so great  to see that a man like John Curtis is a part of an organization as localized as Rotary. Other questions were related to the election, COVID, and any potential Congressional hearings that are upcoming.

Overall, the event was a success. Given the difficult situation posed by COVID, we were able to still hold a successful event and bring in a notable speaker to discuss important aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. Both us and the Congressman expressed hopes to see each other next time face-to-face. .

Samuel Elzinga, President, Utah International Mountain Forum



Eleventh International Mountain Day Celebration at UVU

On December 2nd, 2020, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) will host the eleventh United Nations International Mountain Day (IMD) at Utah Valley University (UVU). IMD observation will commemorate the United Nations’ 75th anniversary and be hosted at 12pm virtually via Zoom. IMD 2020 will be co-sponsored by the UVU office of Global Engagement and Orem Rotary club. The IMD observation UIMF will be held via a student engaged learning (SEL) model.  As per SEL, UVU students will prepare, participate in, and organize the event as a group effort while faculty will advise them when necessary.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly announced 2002 to be the UN International Year of Mountains and that each following year December 11th would be honored as International Mountain Day. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organizes an annual celebration to increase awareness of problems facing mountain communities globally. The theme for this year’s festivities regard protecting and celebrating mountain biodiversity and understanding the threats posed to them. There will be a special focus on UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, which aims to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. The preliminary event agenda includes the following speakers:

1)                  Sam Elzinga, UIMF President

2)                  Dr. Rusty Butler, Main Representative at UN, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, an NGO in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC

3)     Mr. Dustin Liu, Youth Observer to the UN, UNA-USA

4)                  Mr. Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary club President

The speakers and celebration align with the UIMF mission to promote the sustainability of the world’s mountain environments and livelihoods and FAO-UN goal of implementing the three UN-SDG mountain targets 6.6, 15.1, and 15.4.

Mr. Dallas Karren, UIMF Vice President




World Polio Day at UVU in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations

On Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract, in conjunction with the UVU Office of Global Engagement, held its first event of the semester. Rotaract is a member of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU. UIMF is also a UVU chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). The event was a virtual commemoration for Rotary International’s World Polio Day, dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. UVU students, as well as members of Orem Rotary, who sponsored the event, watched event via a YouTube livestream video. Those presenting at the event were invited to attend in-person at 12:00 pm at room 206a of UVU’s Sorensen Center.

Presenters during the World Polio Day commemoration at UVU

 Rotaract is the student organization of Rotary International (RI). RI is an international organization founded in 1905. Since its founding, RI has grown to over one-million members worldwide. Individual RI clubs exist all over the globe. Each club is actively involved in humanitarian and other service efforts in their local communities and around the world. 

Rotaract at UVU has existed on-campus since in 2017.  UVU Rotaract implemented a student-engaged learning (SEL) model to create, organize, and execute the event. Through SEL Rotaractors gain professional skills by addressing real-world problems of local and global communities as a group with a faculty serving them as a mentor. In order to execute the World Polio Day event and gain professional skills, UVU Rotaract created a task list, whereon students could sign up for and provide help for the event. UVU Rotaract Vice President Albeny Singh reached out to local leaders in the community, and through that correspondence secured the speakers for the event. Jose Coreas, UVU Rotaract Secretary, collected biographies of the speakers to be used in the event’s brochure. New Rotaract member Jessica Hair attended the event on-campus and acted as the event photographer. Sam Elzinga, Utah International Mountain Forum President, provided UVU masks as part of the special gift for each presenter. As president of UVU Rotaract, I had the opportunity to create an event poster, coordinate with the UVU Office of Global Engagement, moderate and present at the event. Student – contributors for the event and students in the audience, like Kaden Smart and Diogo DaSilva then had an opportunity to share their experiences from the activities after the event by submitting their reflective essays.

RI has contributed greatly to the eradication of Polio. From raising funds to providing vaccines to children in remote locations throughout the world, RI has helped eradicate 99% of Polio. From 350,000 cases in 1985 to now only 29 cases left in the world, Rotary continues these efforts.

At the event, four members of the local community presented on their fields of expertise. The speakers were, in order: Dr. Baldomero Lago, Yana Andersen, Dr. Scott Leckman, and Dr. Dean Robinson.

Dr. Baldomero Lago, VP for Global Engagement at UVU speaks about United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The first speaker at the event, Dr. Lago of the UVU Office of Global Engagement emphasized the importance of international cooperation through non-governmental organizations. He explained the United Nations’ Seventeen Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs), and praised Rotary International’s paramount efforts in achieving these goals. He highlighted SDG number three, health and wellness. Through Rotary’s efforts to eradicate Polio, they’ve contributed directly to that goal.

Yana Andersen, UVU Rotaract President speaks at the event

As the second speaker, I was able to speak on the background of Rotary and Rotaract. I discussed the contributions UVU Rotaract has made to promote both the six Rotary Goals as well as the UN SDGs. I highlighted past UVU Rotaract contributions to the UN agenda, including their presentation at the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Next March, UVU Rotaract will return back for the 64th UN CSW to present research on the model that Rotary provides on an international and local level for effective community engagement. This model can be used to improve the lives of women and girls in mountain communities, in order to prove their quality of life. This model will focus on contributing to SDGs three, five, and six.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to connect with our main presenter, Dr. Scott Leckman, via Zoom. Dr. Leckman is a former Utah District Rotary Governor, and has been involved personally with eradicating Polio. He presented on the several trips he has taken to India to personally administer oral vaccines. Since 1985, yearly polio cases went from 350,000 per year, to only 29 cases in the world. Rotary International continues to raise funds and provide vaccinations to children.

Dr. Scott Leckman, former Utah District Rotary Governor speaks via Zoom

Dr. Leckman then received questions from students interested in joining Rotaracts, and offered an invitation for students to attend the Utah Rotary World Polio Day event on Saturday, October 24th. His presentation was informative and inspirational and provided such meaningful context for the incredible efforts of Rotary International to make the world a safer place for all to live in.

Dean Robinson, Orem Rotary president speaks during the event

Our final presenter was Dean Robinson, current Orem Rotary president. Dr. Robinson presented on the history of Rotary’s inception, its connection to the United Nations, and reported on the contributions Utah Rotary has had in performing service and making an indispensable difference in Utah communities. He highlighted that Salt Lake City Rotary was created in 1911, several years after RI was established by Paul Harris in 1905.  In the last year, Utah Rotary has contributed over 34,000 hours of service by over 8,000 members.

UVU Rotaract is deeply grateful for the efforts of the presenters, as well as for the Orem Rotary for sponsoring the event. UVU Rotaract looks forward to working on future events, and is committed to continuing to promote Rotary goals and the UN SDGs, in order to create communities of peace and well-being for all.

Yana Andersen

UVU Rotaract President










Scott Leckman

Yana Andersen



Albeny Singh-World Polio Day at Utah Valley University



Kaden Smart- Rotaract Polio Activity

Diogo Dasilva-World Polio Day Celebration at UVU

Sarah Michaelis-UVU Rotaract hosts World Polio Day

Patricia Mo’unga-World Polio Day at Utah Valley University

Mitchell Hansen-Polio Commemoration at Utah Valley University


Utah Valley University Rotaract Meeting With District Rotaract Chair

On October 10, 2020 Utah Valley University’s Rotaract Club had the opportunity to meet with Martha Velasco, the District Rotaract Chair via Zoom. Martha was able to speak with us about the importance of getting everyone in our club registered with My Rotary. We made a goal to get all of our members enrolled as well as making sure our advisor and president are listed correctly. We also talked about working on recruiting new members and increasing our club status.

Yana AndersEn, Utah Valley University’s Rotaract Club President

Ms. Velasco then told us about the amazing opportunity Rotaract members have to virtually participate in the Big West Rotaract Conference. Big West Rotaract Foundation is an organization that trains students in leadership in the Western U.S. that is formed by Rotaract and Rotary clubs in the area. These clubs have been collaborating since 2010, but the foundation wasn’t founded until 2015. The conference takes place from Thursday, November 12 to Saturday, November 14. The conference will feature presenters from both inside and outside of Rotary who will speak on many Rotary topics.

Martha Velasco, District Rotaract Chair

After that, we were able to speak with our club about the upcoming World Polio Day that Rotaract is organizing on October 21. We talked about finalizing our key speakers which include; Dr. Baldomero Lago, the Chief International Officer at UVU’s Office of Global Engagement, Dr. Scott Leckman, the Utah Rotary Governor, and Mr. Dean Robinson, the President Elect of Orem Rotary. We discussed the coming up sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. We talked about Rotaract’s contribution and statement regarding it. Ms. Velasco was able to talk with us and give very insightful information regarding these events. Overall, it was an amazing opportunity to meet with Ms. Velasco and our Rotaract Club here at Utah Valley University.

Albeny Singh, Utah Valley University Rotaract member

Orem Rotary Video Call With Senator Mitt Romney

Zoom call with Senator Mitt Romney

On Wednesday, April 15th, 2020, The Orem Rotary Club hosted U. S. Senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, for their weekly luncheon.

Rotary International is “a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.” More than 35,000+ Rotary International clubs globally work together to: 1) Promote peace; 2) Fight disease; 3) Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; 4) Save mothers and children; 5) Support education; and 6) Grow local economies.

Orem Rotary is one such club, located in northern Utah.  With a long history of community outreach, service, and humanitarian efforts, Orem Rotary is a staple of community engagement in the area. Orem Rotary also assists in the efforts of Utah Valley University Rotaract, a partner in this event. “Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18-30 to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. In communities worldwide, Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service”. Utah Valley University Rotaract extended the invitation to Senator Romney, as well as planned the logistics of the meeting. Senator Romney was happy to accept UVU Rotaract’s invitation to speak at the Orem Rotary club’s weekly luncheon.

 Due to the current environment, social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the luncheon was held virtually, and Senator Romney participated via Zoom call, as did the other club members. He expressed his appreciation and excitement for the opportunity to gather with Rotarians from across Utah county. Rotarians from the Orem club, Provo club, Lehi club, as well as others attended the virtual luncheon. Clark Merkley, Orem Rotary Club President, moderated the event.

After receiving the floor, Senator Romney began to address various concerns regarding the current pandemic, a topic that many of the attending Rotarians expressed interest in. Among many things, Senator Romney expressed his appreciation for the efforts shown by the public through enduring the pandemic, “I know people are really suffering. But people are hunkering down and facing it with as positive of an attitude as they possibly can”.

Senator Romney continued his comments by addressing the critical role of NGOs during this time of crisis. Senator Romney commented that the ability of organizations, such as Rotary, to quickly identify those in need, organize, and provide the necessary relief was something that government could not compete with. He congratulated Rotary for its effectiveness in global service, especially in the local communities.

With the current pandemic taking its toll on the local economies, Senator Romney discussed the urgent need for communities to reach out to local businesses and business owners who may be feeling afraid and isolated. He urged those with business experience to share advice on how to weather these conditions with those who are struggling. Senator Romney also took the time to explain some of the government programs that have begun as a result of the pandemic. Rotarians joining the event asked follow-up questions regarding this topic.

            In closing, Senator Romney left a simple message to the Rotarians. The message was for everyone to strive to aid those in their immediate surroundings. With so many people becoming overwhelmed with the expansive, global concerns resulting from the pandemic, many are losing heart. To this Senator Romney encouraged those attending that, if everyone would place their efforts on those things that are close to them, then it would make a difference.

            Orem Rotary and Utah Valley University Rotaract were grateful for the time that Senator Romney gave. As an organization that seeks to draw humanity closer, Rotary is always looking for opportunities to work with government leaders for the betterment of our communities. Utah Valley University Rotaract was also grateful for the kindness and speed to which Senator Romney’s senate office accepted the speaking invitation.

Kyle Warren, President, UVU Rotaract

Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy

Events poster

A round table at Utah Valley University on March 10, 2010 titled Utah and Morocco: Inside Modern American Diplomacy highlighted the unique partnership Utah shares with Morocco.

In coordination with the Office for Global Engagement, Center for National Security Studies, and the Utah International Mountain Forum, I had the pleasure of welcoming to Utah Valley University. Hon. Consul Dr. Keith W.Martin, retired Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, , and a Department of Defense representative, native Moroccan Ms. Fatima Taki. Each person brought their unique perspective on the relationship between Morocco and Utah by highlighting the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program (SPP) and its effectiveness in advancing US interests in security, sustainable development, and promotion of democratic values globally. The event educated on the State Partnership Program, the objectives and outcomes of the program, and more closely analyzed the relationship Utah has built with Morocco, highlighting progress, developments, challenges, and benefits since the program’s inception.

Event audience at Utah Valley University

I opened the event by addressing the question on many students’ minds, why Utah and Morocco? To many it seems haphazard and random as to why there would be such strong relationships between a state in the Western US and a country in Africa. However, as was highlighted by the presentations, both Utah and Morocco have strong similarities and relevant practices, from which we can learn from one another to help set us up for a path to sustainable development in the 21st century. For one, Morocco, with the Atlas range traversing the country, and Utah, adjacent to the Wasatch Range, are both mountain communities with many similar climactic regions. Utah, like Morocco, has a burgeoning youth population, which according to the World Bank is a vital source of growth, innovation, and productivity. (Utah has the largest percentage of youth over the population 0-24 in the US, and Morocco has a 10% share of the entire youth in the MENA.) And like Utah, Morocco has a strong history of interfaith cooperation and peace. Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential.

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin speaks about Utah-Morocco Partnership

Honorary Consul Keith W. Martin opened the event and spoke about the longstanding relationship between the US and Morocco. He emphasized how Morocco was the first country to recognize the independent United States of America. He also highlighted some of the cultural aspects that make Morocco unique. He shared with us his lifetime of experiences interacting with Moroccans and the potential opportunities that Utah students can take advantage of today, such as study abroad programs or service projects between Utah and Morocco.

Major General Burton (retired) during the panel presentation

Next Major General Burton (retired) spoke to us about the State Partnership Program (SPP), a Department of Defense initiative. He has years of experience implementing the program between the Utah National Guard (NG) and Morocco as head of the Utah NG. He emphasized how much the program is able to do with its minimal budget. The purpose of the program is create stronger relationships between our country and other nations—this builds trust and helps the US maintain security worldwide by having allies in hotspot regions.

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carrol speaks during the panel session

Lieutenant Colonel Dustin Carroll, who currently oversees the SPP for the Utah NG, highlighted some of the benefits Utah has seen as a result of the partnership. For example, this program has an exchange component where Utah NG youth family members can do an exchange, where they spend time in Morocco with a Moroccan family, and then the same family sends a Moroccan youth to Utah. This helps them learn about their similarities and build strong relationships. Additionally, the NG benefits from the joint operations and training that the program implements in Morocco.

Ms. Fatima Taki during the event

Ms. Fatima Taki was our last presenter. We were especially honored by her attendance because she is a native Moroccan and currently works in the National Guard department in Washington D.C. She gave unique insight on how Morocco has benefited from the SPP, such as increased security in the region with US support, upgrading in their own military through joint operations and training, in addition to the humanitarian efforts that have helped rural Moroccan communities.

After the presentations, there was a panel discussions and questions were fielded from the audience. The panel was started with a few questions addressing of the role of the SPP in pandemic preparedness, as well as a question pertaining to how the SPP has helped rural mountain communities, and women in particular, to sustainably develop their communities. Students questioned the specialists on issues of security in the Western Sahara and sought advice on how one could pursue a career in sustainable development in an African context.

Students – hosts of the event with panel presenters

What makes this event particularly unique was the student engaged learning model that Utah Valley University emphasizes. As a student I spearheaded this project because of my interest in Morocco and the greater Maghreb. In fact, Lt. Col. Carroll thought I was an employee and was shocked to learn that I was an undergraduate student. I organized a student committee to make all of the preparations and worked with our university departments to find sponsorship and resources to make this event a success. As a result, we were able to find event space, provide a luncheon and thank you gifts, and the Department of Defense generously covered the travel costs for our invited guests. Each student on the committee was directly involved in coordinating the event, from presenting bios, to filming, to advertising. It was a collaborated effort of engaged students that I was able to lead. 

 Both Utah and Morocco have immense potential. The close relationship between our great state and the Kingdom of Morocco will only stand to better prepare Utahns and Moroccans alike for the decades to come as our youth enter the work force and innovate for a better world.

            Jon Downs, UVU Student, Political Science, emphasis Global Politics and National Security Studies



Keith Martin Jefferson Burton

Dustin Carroll Fatima_Taki



Dr. Keith W.Martin

Ms. Fatima Taki



Sarah Michaelis-Contributing to the Partnership Between Utah and Morocco


Hazim Alshanbari-Distinguished Guests Present on Utah and Morocco’s Strong Partnership


Ethan Elzinga-Helping Build a Strong Relationship Between Utah and Morocco


Andrew Tschirki-The Significant Relationship Between Utah and Morocco


UVU Rotaract and United Nations 75th Anniversary

On Monday March 2, 2020, Utah Valley University (UVU) Rotaract in junction with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), and the UVU Office for Global Engagement hosted a panel in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The event was hosted from 10:30-11:30AM (MST) in the Liberal Arts Building (LA) 116. “UVU and the United Nations 75th Anniversary” was open to all interested members of the community.

Kyle Warren, UVU Rotaract President moderated the event

Rotaract is the student organization of Rotary International which is an international organization founded in 1905. Since its founding, Rotary has grown to over one-million members worldwide. Individual Rotary clubs exist all over the globe. Each club is actively involved in humanitarian and other service efforts in their local communities and around the world. Rotaract, Rotary’s student branch is comprised of individuals whose ages range from eighteen to thirty. These student branches are also found all over the world, the first one being formed in 1968. UVU Rotaract is also a member of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU to promote the United Nations sustainable mountain development agenda in the state of Utah and North America.

The main event of UVU and the United Nations 75th Anniversary was a panel consisting of five individuals from the local community. The panelists were selected from among UVU faculty, as well as local NGOs: Dr. Baldomero Lago, Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham, Dr. Ryan Vogel, Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, and Clark Merkley. Each Panelists focused on a different aspect of the United Nations, with subjects ranging from the history of the UN to the effects of the UN in our local communities. The current efforts of local groups in reaching for the UN 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) were also discussed. Kyle Warren, President of the hosting organization, UVU Rotaract, moderated the panel. As the panelists concluded remarks, we then turned the time over to the audience for a period of questions and answers.

Dr. Baldomero Lago Speaks about UN -UVU Partnership

The fist panelist to speak was Dr. Baldomero Lago, CIO for UVU Global Engagement. Dr. Lago works with many international organizations. He serves as the Honorary Consul of Spain for Utah and was awarded the title of Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Civil Merit by King Phillip VI of Spain. Dr. Lago spoke on Utah Valley University’s involvement with the United Nations and how the University interacts with the UN. He made remarks about how UVU was able to help coordinate the recent civil society conference which was held in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2019. In addition to the past civil society conference, Dr. Lago talked about how UVU held its very first high school model UN conference, as well as the upcoming global Civil Society Conference being planned for August of 2021 on sustainable development being held at Utah Valley University.

Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham during round table at UVU

Following Dr. Lago, Dr. Geoffrey Cockerham addressed the audience. Dr. Cockerham, Associate Professor of Political Science and UVU, received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Arizona with a specialization in international relations. Dr. Cockerham took the time to explain the history of the United Nations, including its origins in the League of Nations as well as other important aspects of its history.

Professor Ryan J. Vogel Speaks about United Nations reform

Our third panelist was Professor Ryan J. Vogel, founding director of the Center for National Security Studies at UVU. Dr. Vogel served at the Pentagon as a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dr. Vogel spoke to the audience regarding the United Nations Security Council. He expressed the reasons behind its formation and its current functions in todays international political environment. Among other points mentioned, he explained past efforts as well as current ideas of expanding the UN security council and the plausibility of these efforts. Dr. Vogel had the chance to expand on these subjects during a period of Q&A after the conclusion of the panel.

Mr. Clark Merkley, President of Orem Rotary during round table

Clark Merkley, Executive Director of BootUP PD, then addressed the audience. Clark currently serves as President of the Orem Rotary Club, a local branch of Rotary International. Clark spoke from a different perspective then most of the other panelists, from the perspective of the NGOs. He described the United Nations role in working with NGOs and providing a forum where they are able to gather together and discuss global issues and efforts. A key point mentioned by Clark is that Rotary has been involved with the United Nations since its creation 75 years ago. Rotary has also recently commented on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations saying that it was intending to continue its partnership into the future.

Our final speaker was Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, former ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United States and Canada from 1997 to 2005, and member of the Kyrgyz Parliament from 1995 to 2000. Dr. Abdrisaev spoke on aspects of Utah’s mountainous living and the United Nations commitment to sustainable mountain development. The Utah International Mountain Forum, under the mentorship of Dr. Abdrisaev, has continued over the course of several year to promote sustainable mountain development as an agenda item at the UN. This effort has led to increased international awareness toward mountain communities, a population generally overlooked in global politics. Dr. Abdrisaev spoke about Utah’s model of sustainable mountain development being an excellent model for international implementation, something that UIMF as well as UVU Rotaract, in combination with other local partners, intends to present on in a parallel event at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, being held in New York later this month.

UVU Students in the Audience

UVU Rotaract is committed to continued efforts with the United Nations. As a club, we were happy to extend our efforts toward educating the student body and attending faculty on the subject of international collaboration between such political bodies and other NGOs. As a member of UIMF, Rotaract is also committed to continued efforts with local organizations for the advancement of the sustainable mountain development agenda. We look forward to future events in which we may demonstrate our commitment to these causes through active participation.

Kyle Warren, UVU Rotaract President


Front side

Back side




Dallas Karren-UVU Celebrates 75 Years of United Nations


Yana Andersen-UVU Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the UN through Engaged Learning


Jose Coreas-Rotaract hosted UN 75th anniversary event at UVU


Kelly Roark-75th Anniversary of the United Nations commemorated at UVU


Reviewing UIMF Preparations for Mountain Women Advocacy at CSW64

On March 17-20, 2020, the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University, will participate in the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) in New York City to advocate for women and girls living in mountainous communities globally, as well as highlight how Utah Valley University’s (UVU) developed student engaged learning model (SEL) constitutes best practices for empowering youth and other learners to contribute to implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

CSW64 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, considered by many to be the first comprehensive global agreement on gender equality. The priority theme of CSW64 is to assess the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and how to fully realize gender equality as part of the 2030 Agenda.

Given the priority theme and in continuance of its important advocacy of sustainable mountain development (SMD) topics, the delegation’s goals for CSW64 are to:

  • Raise awareness about mountain communities and families as the most neglected groups at the national and international levels and most vulnerable to modern challenges such as climate change, outmigration, food insecurity, etc.;
  • Urge the members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries to include language about mountain women and girls in the CSW64 final document, as well as reporte about measures to empower mountain communities and families in national review reports;
  • Urge the CSW64 audience to implement three mountain targets, designated by the UN among 17 SDGs as a roadmap for mountain communities to be in the focus of 2030 UN Agenda for sustainable development;
  • Host a parallel event titled “Mountain Women Empowerment Through the Inclusive Student-Engaged Learning Model” under co-sponsorship of RANS and UIMF at the Salvation Army Auditorium on March 19, 2020 at 6:15pm;
  • Promote Utah as the one of the examples of sustainable mountain development (SMD);
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of the student engaged learning (SEL) model to advocate for mountain communities and Utah as the SMD example;
  • Deliver an oral statement and intervention from the floor during CSW64 about the above topics.

Along with sponsorship of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RANS) and Utah China Friendship Improvement Sharing Hands Development and Commerce (Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C)—two NGOs under consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)—the delegation includes for the first time Project Work Groups, a company that works to find global sustainability projects related to food security, agriculture, and the environment and provide services and support for such projects from various stakeholders, including UVU and other Utah academic institutions.

Since the fall of 2019, UIMF members have worked closely with Mr. Uday Teki, founder and CEO of Project Work Groups, and other delegation members to make all preparations to attend CSW64 under SEL, which gives students the primary responsibility of solving problems related to SMD implementation by working together as a grout with faculty serving as mentors. Under SEL, the delegation has accomplished the following preparations:

  • Wrote and submitted with RANS, Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C, and Project Work Groups a written statement highlighting UIMF’s implementation of SEL to solve problems related to advocating for SMD, mountain communities and families, nontraditional students, and other sustainability issues. The statement was published by ECOSOC as official document E/CN.6/2020/NGO/91 on November 20, 2019;
  • Contacted permanent missions of various UN member states, including members of the Group of Friends of Mountainous Countries, to have meetings about building a coalition within the UN system to ensure mountain women and girls are not neglected by the UN;
  • Set up continuing partnerships with UVU Rotaract, a student club sponsored by Rotary International, to address SMD issues locally, as well as the UVU Foreign Affairs Club, to mobilize student members of the delegation;
  • Contributed language about SMD, mountain communities, nontraditional learners, and SEL to the NGO Recommendation document for the priority theme of CSW64

Under SEL, the delegation is also finalizing plans for a parallel event mentioned above in order to share best practices related to advocating under SEL for mountain communities and families, empowering all learners—including nontraditional ones—to implement the 2030 Agenda under , as well as to highlight Utah as the best model for addressing local, regional, national, and global SMD issues.

Michael Hinatsu, UIMF Vice President


UIMF delegation members/statements:

Samuel Elzinga, UIMF President

Jon Downs, Sustainable Mountain Development Club Vice President   

William Gum, Foreign Affairs Club Vice President

Michael Hinatsu, Foreign Affairs Club President

Mizuki Olivares, Foreign Affairs Club Vice President

Megan Raines, UVU Adjunct faculty, UIMF Alumni   

Bethany Raines, High school student

Kyle Warren, Rotaract Club President


UIMF delegation advisers:

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, lecturer, History and Political Science, UVU ; mentor, UIMF

Dr. Ross E “Rusty” Butler, RANS focal point at the United Nations

Ms. Wendy Jyang, founder, Utah China F.I.S.H. D&C

Mr. Uday Teki, Project Work Groups founder/CEO