Category Archives: Recent Events


The Women of the Mountains conference organizing committee held their first Fundraiser last Saturday, August 29 at the Pacific Heritage Academy ( in Rose Park, Utah. “Pacific Heritage Academy is a DBA of Pacific Heritage Schools, a Utah Not-for-profit entity and a registered 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. Pacific Heritage Schools received authorization in 2011 from the Utah State Office of Education to operate a public charter school, to be called Pacific Heritage Academy, in the Salt Lake City School District beginning in the Fall of 2012.”

Event Program

This event would not have been possible without the generous in-kind donations, sponsors and volunteers, under the leadership of Kamaile Harris, Salt Lake City Liaison for the WOMC organizing committee, who created and coordinated the event. Kamaile Harris is a community leader who promotes sustainable ways of life through networking, building coalitions and partnerships in the area of Salt Lake City. She was thrilled to be a part of the organizing committee of the WOMC by organizing the fundraising event at the Pacific Heritage Academy to contribute to both the success of the WOMC and the activities of the United Nations affiliated Mountain Partnership with focus on sustainable mountain development.



(L to R): Kamaile Harris and Jennifer Starley

Great support to her was provided by Jenny Starley, PR and Fundraising for the WOMC organizing committee. The event was a great example for many UVU students of building long-term engaged learning experience through cooperation with local communities in Salt Lake City area.

There was a tremendous amount of support from local sponsors to make the event a success. Participants attempted to outbid each other at the silent auction which included over $4,000 in generous in-kind donations from local organizations, artists, individuals and sponsors. Even vegetables were donated by High Desert Produce Co. from West Valley City, Utah.


(L to R): Lisa Shepherd, member of the organizing committee of the WOMC with Alex Azmi, Director of the Documentary “To Climb A Cold Mountain”

Upon conclusion of the reception and closing of the silent auction, the guests and participants were treated to a screening of the documentary, To Climb A Gold Mountain ( The movie was generously donated and attended by the Director and Producer, Alex Azmi, from Los Angeles, California. Mr. Azmi provided a QA after the screening where participants were able to further discuss the film’s compelling subject matter of the triumphs and struggles of Asian women in the United States throughout different eras.


Guests of the event inspect items for bidding

Participants were greeted by Genre Zero, a local music band from Rose Park, Utah. The reception included Asian Fusion vegan food samplings from Jennifer Russell-Fenus of SLCVeganista’s Kitchen. Participants enjoyed; eggless egg foo young with mushroom brown sauce, rice, vegan egg rolls and Thai tea.

The fundraiser volunteer staff; Jim Boswell, Thelma Rother and Manda Lujan are some of the best local experienced event staff in the Salt Lake area community. Hamyanie Gustafson is a Seventh grade student at Pacific Heritage Academy who also volunteered and was a great example of hard work.


(L to R): Event Volunteers Thelma Rother and Hamyanie Gustafson serve Refreshments to the guests of the Fundraiser.

Many members of the organizing committee of the Women of the Mountains conference were happy to volunteer during the event, including Deann Torsak, executive secretary of the conference, Tony Medina, VP for logistics and protocol among others.

The fundraiser brought a new awareness to our guests about the critical issues faced by women and overall gender inequality living in the mountain areas in particular. The organizing committee of the Women of the Mountains conference concluded their successful event by announcing the funds which were raised of just over $1,200.

Genre Zero’s Band Manager and Vocalist, Joshua Isbell has given organizing committee of the Women of the Mountains conference permission to utilize their song, Berry Blossom, in an upcoming promotional video. The song talks of growing gardens and sharing our bounty, which is in line with Women of the Mountains values to live sustainably.

This was the first experience with fundraising benefitting gender and SMD agendas of the United Nations. Next one Kamaile and her team would like to host after the WOMC and to contribute to the efforts of Sagar Basnet, Utah Valley University student from Nepal, who helps to rebuild school in his village. They already started preparations for that and some items for bidding were already sold during fundraiser on August 29, 2015 with those goals. We wish Kamaile, Jennifer and their team success.

Stacy Medina, member of the organizing committee of the WOMC

Fundraiser for Women of the Mountains Conference

Gold-Mountain-PosterJoin us for this Women of the Mountains UVU Fundraiser. It is a preview of the subject matter we will be presenting at the conference in October.

Here is the agenda:

6 to 7 pm
Refreshments by SLC Veganista’s Kitchen
Music by Empty Set Records
Silent Auction

7 to 730 pm
School Welcome
MC Greeter
Read of Silent Auctions

730 to 830 pm
Film Screening of “To Climb a Gold Mountain” Directed by Alex Azmi and Produced by Rebecca Hu.

830 to 9 pm
Q&A with Director Alex Azmi
Announcement of Funds raised


Students engaged learning at Utah Valley University by hosting the International Women of the Mountains Conference

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Dr. Rusty Butler, Dr. David Connelly

Utah Valley University (UVU) will hold the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference (2015 WOMC) on October 7-9, 2015. UVU traditionally co-hosts the WOMC with the International University of Kyrgyzstan as a gathering to advocate gender and sustainable mountain development (SMD) agendas under the auspice of the Mountain Partnership (MP) under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN). MP is a United Nations voluntary alliance of partners dedicated to improving the lives of mountain people and protecting mountain environments around the world. (For more information, see:

One main feature of all WOMCs is their focus on raising awareness about the importance of gender and sustainable mountain development agendas of the United Nations throughout local communities in the state of Utah and the Rocky Mountains region as well as their contribution to the efforts of the MP on a global level. Another important goal of the WOMC is to continue traditions of gender advocacy established by international communities during the Celebrating Mountain Women conference in Bhutan in 2002 (part of the commemoration of the United Nations International Year of Mountains.)

WOM 2007 Poster
WOM 2007 Poster

WOM 2007 Display Poster
WOM 2007 Display Poster

The First WOMC hosted in Orem UT in 2007 gathered representatives from almost all the Rocky Mountain States and emphasized the importance of regional cooperation in contributing to gender and SMD advocacy globally. The Second WOMC hosted again in Orem, UT in 2011, continued the tradition of the previous gathering and at the same time helped to expand a network of the Mountain Partnership members in North America. As one of the results of the 2011 conference, the Mountain Partnership secretariat created a North American regional hub in Colorado State under the auspice of Aspen International Mountain Foundation and Telluride Institute.

2011 WOMC Poster
WOM 2011 Poster

WOM 2011 Display Poster
WOM 2011 Display Poster

The Third WOMC held in Puno, Peru in 2012 was the first gathering held outside of the state of Utah, implementing the decisions of the Orem Declaration of Mountain Women (the final document of the 2007 WOMC) to alternate the location of the conference between the State of Utah and mountain nations around the world.

WOM 2012 Poster
WOM 2012 Poster

WOM 2012 Display Poster
WOM 2012 Display Poster

WOMC is a grass-roots initiative which unites officials from different international organizations, led by the United Nations, the World Bank, diplomats, scholars and leaders of NGOs, educators, students and local community representatives. Their goal is to network, socialize and discuss joint initiatives and projects with a focus on engagement in global gender and SMD advocacy mountain communities from North America.What should we expect from the coming Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference on October 7-9, 2015?

Display Posters from previous conferences

This conference will be hosted for the first time by students from the State of Utah. In 2011, Utah Valley University students created the Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of several student clubs with a focus on SMD promotion in their state and in the region ( already have several achievements in that area:

  • UVU students contributed research to the Report on SMD in North America, prepared by the Mountain Partnership for the landmark United Nations RIO+20 conference in Brazil in 2012.
  • They were able to raise funds to send representative to the RIO+20 conference and to participate at the Third Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership as a side event there.
  • Two UVU student contributed to the agenda of the Fourth Global Meeting of the MP in 2013 which developed strategies for SMD advocacies by MP members in 2014-2017.
  • They advocated for the inclusion of mountain indicators among Sustainable Development Goals during sessions of several United Nations Open Working Groups in 2013-2014.
  • Since 2010, they made a tradition to commemorate the United Nations International Mountain Day on December 1.
  • Since 2011 they host an annual essay-contest on different SMD aspects among high schools in the state of Utah as a tool to foster new leaders for future SMD programs.

The student led initiative to host 2015 WOMC is based on UVU’s engaged learning approach which is “….in the spirit of the Carnegie Foundation designation, designed to help realize the two engagement categories that UVU has achieved:

  1. Curricular Engagement (Curricular Engagement describes the teaching, learning, and scholarship that engages faculty, students, and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community identified needs, deepen students’ civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being, and enrich the scholarship of the 2015 Carnegie Elective Community;
  2. Outreach and Partnerships (Outreach and Partnerships describe two different but related approaches to community engagement. The first focuses on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use with benefits to both campus and community. The latter focuses on collaborative interactions with community and related scholarship for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources (research, capacity building, economic development, etc.) (

During preparations for the conference, UVU students were able to expand their coalition by including in their organizing committee community organizers from Salt Lake City, Utah County and their peers from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, among others. Many of them are learning very important skills of managing logistics, protocol, and raising funds for the conference.

The organizing committee represents students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Many of them combine a membership in the organizing committee with their university study, full-time jobs and taking care of their own families.If you are interested in supporting them or wish to contribute to the conference and be a part of supporting student’s engaged learning experience at UVU, see for more details at:

For additional questions please contact the following members of the organizing committee:

Deann Torsak, Executive Secretary of the Conference by:;

Tony Medina, VP for Logistics and Protocol by:;

Jennifer Starley, Press-Secretary and Fundraising by:;

Yanko Dzhukev, Social Media coordinator by:;

Kamaile Harris, Salt Lake City Liaison by:;

Carlos Alarco, Liaison at University of Utah by:;

Mary Cisneros, Economic Panel Moderator by:;

Kiersten Palmer, Business Fair Coordinator by:;

Parker Nielsen, Head of Protocol by:;

If you are interested in receiving the weekly WOMC newsletter, please contact Gabrielle Williamson, media specialist by;

Dr.Baktybek Abdrisaev, was Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the U.S. and Canada (1997-2005), now Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Political Science at Utah Valley University and an Advisor to UIMF, Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate Vice-President, International Affairs and Diplomacy and focal point (coordinator) for the Mountain Partnership at UVU, and Dr. David Connelly, Chair, Department of History and Political Science, UVU, and Editor-in-Chief of the “Youth and the Mountains” journal, published by UVU.

UIMF Presents Women of the Mountains Conference at University of Utah


UIMF Introduces Women of the Mountains Conference at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics

Members of the Utah International Mountain Forum made a presentation titled: “Women of the Mountains 2015 conference and Students Engagement” to students at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics on April 16, 2015. They also extended an invitation to the University of Utah students to join with UVU in participating in the WOM Conference by making presentations, being members of the organizing committee, or moderating panels.

womu1 Jesler Molina, President of the UIMF during presentation at University of Utah

Jesler Molina, President of the Utah International Mountain Forum introduced the presenters and thanked Associate Director Jane Nelson for the opportunity to speak to the University of Utah. Jesler also explained what the International Mountain Forum is, the main focus of the UIMF coalition is, including promoting the United Nations agenda on sustainable mountain development. Jesler presented the upcoming Women of the Mountains Conference and then introduced a video that illustrated the work the UIMF has done and highlighted some of the student members of the club.

womu2 Deann Torsak, VP , UIMF during presentation at University of Utah

Jesler introduced Deann Torsak, Vice President of Cultural Affairs of the UIMF who presented the panels that are being organized and explained the topics, including Transmitting Family Values, Heritage and Culture, Education of Women and Children, and Climate Change and Gender. Deann also invited students to participate by assist in moderating the panels for the conference.

womu3 Deena Ainge, President, Sustainable Mountain Development Club at UVU during presentation at University of Utah

I spoke about the objectives for the WOM Conference to the audience, explaining the important goal of including other educational institutions such as the University of Utah. Other goals include engaging local communities in the conference and establish partnerships with NGOs from around the world and to strengthen ties with the United Nations, UNWomen, the World Bank and the US State Department. She also explained the goal to bring women in business from around the world to speak on behalf of women in their countries and expose them to business opportunities here in Utah.

Kiersten Dumas, Vice President of Community Outreach for the UIMF followed. Keirsten thanked the Hinkley Institute and the University for hosting the delegation from UVU, she highlighted some of the opportunities members of the UIMF have had in recent months to present the conference to other organizations such as the United Nations, UNWomen, and the US State Department. Kiersten reported on the recent High School Essay Contest which allowed local high school students to write and present their research on sustainable mountain development and women’s issues. Kiersten emphasized the importance of including youth and engaging local communities to promote the agenda of sustainable mountain development.

womu4UIMF delegation with Jayne Nelson, Associate Director of the Hinckley Institute at University of Utah ( C ) after presentation

Jesler concluded by explaining how success can be achieved in hosting the WOM Conference and bring recognition of student activities to the United Nations. He emphasized the way to ensure success is through joint student involvement from other schools, like the University of Utah. The panel then concluded by answering questions from the audience.

Deena Ainge, President, Sustainable Mountain Development Club at UVU, and Deann Torsak, executive secretary, Women of the Mountains Conference 

UIMF hosts the 5th International Mountain Day Celebration at UVU

Utah Valley University (UVU) will celebrate International Mountain Day (IMD) as declared by the United Nations on December 5, 2014. This will be the fifth celebration of International Mountain Day at UVU. As a part of the established tradition, Utah International Mountain Forum, a coalition of student clubs at UVU will host the event.

The IMD celebration is an effort to further the agenda of the UN to create new ways for mountainous regions to develop around the world while still considering sustainability. The theme this year is family farming and Utah in particular has much to offer relative to this topic in mountainous regions.

More specifically Utah International Mountain Forum is interested in involving the community in efforts to further the UN agenda. This celebration will be an effort to pursue that goal. This event will allow scholars and community members to present their research and efforts to sustainably develop the region. Other international mountainous regions will be able to learn from the developments in Utah and surrounding states.

The event will take place at UVU library auditorium, LI120

10:00 Opening Remarks by Rusty Butler
10:10 UIMF video presentation
10:30 Greetings from Mountain Partnership members and Future Farmers of America
11:00 Essay Readings of 2014 UIMF Essay Contest winners
11:30 Inauguration of the Women of the Mountains Organizing Committee
12:00 Refreshments
1:00 Dr. Michael Minch, Presentation on The Sustainable Mountain Development and Conflict Transformation Global Database
2:00 Panel of Regional Scholars on Family Farming
5:00 Final Remarks from Chris Wiltsie, President of the Sustainable Mountain Development club at UVU


UIMF With Somini Sengupta From the New York Times: Conversation About Mountain Development


New York Times Chief Bureau Somini Sengupta’s UVU Visit

On October 29th, The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta paid a visit to students at Utah Valley University. During her major presentation at Ragan Theater at UVU at noon she spent most of her time answering the group’s many questions, and as a NYT United Nations correspondent, Sengupta was able to provide valuable insight into many of the pressing issues facing the global community.

The main focus of the discussion was centered on current Middle-Eastern crises such as the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian Civil war, and Sunni-Shiite relations. At one point a student asked if there was concern amongst the UN community about the spread of ISIS influence. Sengupta responded by bringing up the startling fact that a recent UN study found that ISIS has recruited fighters from at least 80 countries. She went on to address the concerns of diplomats from Pakistan, India, and numerous South East Asian countries about the threat of Islamic State activities within their nation’s borders.

Ms. Sengupta not only discussed the issues it faces, but also the United Nations itself. While covering the institution, she has grown to appreciate its size and scope—at one point referring to it as a “massive creature with many tentacles”. As someone who has to cover the UN as a whole, it is impossible to be an expert on all areas of the world, therefore, Ms. Sengupta is reliant on experts to help clarify situations involving nations she is less familiar with. In a field as dependent on accuracy as journalism, it is important that one asks themself: “why is he/she telling me this?” As Ms. Sengupta says: “even think tanks or other sources that are supposed to be neutral can have biases”.

While listening to Ms. Sengupta speak, not only the difficulties of her profession became apparent, but also the rewards. It was easy to tell that she loves what she does and derives true satisfaction from it, her only complaint about covering the UN being: “the cafeteria”.


Somini Sengupta during presentation

When Somini Sengupta arrived for a meeting with students at the class on International Relations in the Middle East at 3:00PM, room was full of students and professors that were anxious and eager to hear her speak. In comparison with a gathering for Mrs. Sengupta earlier in the Ragan Theater, this one had a more informal air.

Sure enough, she opened her comments by inviting questions from the students, many of whom had attended her previous lecture. Some of the questions were very interesting. In response to some questions, she talked about her life as a reporter covering the United Nations. The United Nations complex in New York City has a press wing where she stays. She spends a lot of time running after dignitaries to ask questions about particular issues they may have discussed during the day, getting up to date information for her stories at the source. She also discussed her methods for finding alternative sources. There are usually three or four experts in a given area that she will contact when she needs things explained, and she uses quotes from those interviews sometimes in her reports. She also asks her colleagues in-house who may be working in a particular region, such as in Israel for instance, on those kinds of topics for information on the ground where the events discussed in the United Nations are taking place.

Her task is further complicated because there is no United Nations directory board showing which discussions are to be held where, where meetings may be, or anything like that. But, she mentioned, when they have meetings she doesn’t necessarily have to hear from one particular person what was said and decided in the room, because there were usually a small group of dignitaries present. In this way, she can often get good information by talking to several people who were in attendance, which turns out just as well.

Many of the students who attended the lecture, as we noted, were not members of the class, and the camera presence certainly wasn’t usual. We saw in the audience also Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, who as well established tradition takes two students every year to visit the U.N. Some of the students in the audience shared with us several interesting and important experiences which took place during his program.


Jesler Molina, UIMF President Presents to Somini Sengupta documents about UIMF involvement in SMD-promotion

After Sengupta’s comments, some of the students stood up and explained several examples of the involvement they have had in the United Nations here at UVU. There were several posters explaining the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) program at UVU, and major achievements in that area since 2006 when UVU joined United Nations SMD program. Here at UVU, we support a program for sustainable development in mountainous regions throughout the world, furthering an objective of the United Nations and promoting goals related to that agenda internationally. Many members of the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at UVU were in attendance, including Jesler Molina, the UIMF’s president. He did a short presentation at the end of class, explaining why it is important to promote sustainable way of life for mountain communities, the students’ involvement in the UIMF, the purpose of the coalition, and the prospects for the future of our program, including plans to continue expanding its influence and potential.


Somini Sengupta with UVU students and faculty after Q&A session

The UIMF’s vice president, Linda Munoz, who is in charge of implementing one of their initiatives, hosting the fourth international Women of the Mountains under the United Nations next fall, also stood up and explained major goals and priorities for the conference. The conference will include scholars and dignitaries from all over the world, intending to promote the United Nations agenda to support sustainable mountain development for women in particular. Sengupta was formally extended an invitation to attend. She replied by promising to check her calendar and see if she would be free.

James Nielsen and Justin Wall, UVU Students With Political Science Major


Group Photo with Somini Sengupta

UVU Students thoughts about Somini Sengupta’s visit to UVU.


In her discussion of the UN and the events that the intergovernmental organization is currently attempting to tackle, Somini Sengupta quotes the French Ambassador to the UN as doing the following: “The UN is in charge of crises that matter to no one.” On this note, this essay will briefly discuss the comments made by Ms. Sengupta on October 29 at Utah Valley University.

Sengupta opened her presentation for the general student body by describing the civil war in Liberia and the failure of the international community’s efforts to rebuild the war-torn country. She argues that because the international community failed to help Liberia build a stable infrastructure following the war, the country was unable and unprepared to handle a mass epidemic, Ebola, in the region. She argues, perhaps rightfully so, that if healthcare institutions been properly established, the situation in Western Africa may not be so dire.

Following her discussion about Ebola, Sengupta briefly described the organization of the United Nations. She paid particular attention to the 15-member Security Council and its five superpower-veto holders which includes USA, China, Russia, the UK, and France. She told the audience of the difficulty of the council to accomplish anything of great significance because if any of the five powers disagree with a resolution, the resolution will immediately die. Thus, the French ambassador told her “The UN is in charge of crises that matter to no one.” This has resulted in most of the resolutions of the Security Council having a focus in Africa, where the five countries with veto power have relatively few interests.

To further illustrate the concept of the difficulty of creating a contentious in the Security Council, Sengupta points to several current affairs that the organization is failing to control. She mentions Ebola, Syria, and “bodies falling from the sky” in Eastern Ukraine following rebels destroying a Malaysian airlines flight. In contrast, Sengupta described the agreements that the great powers have on fighting ISIS in Syria. Because ISIS poses a threat to all five of the great powers, they have an interest in fighting the organization. The current problem, however, is the Security Council’s inability to gain support for counterterrorist measures by the countries in the region. There are several cases of countries in the region refusing to engage themselves in the fight against ISIS without certain preconditions, which often conflict with each other. For example, Iran and Turkey both have demands that cannot both be met. If the Security Council cannot gain support from all of the countries in the region, then long lasting peace in the region following the ISIS crisis may be unobtainable.

To conclude her presentation, Sengupta poses the following question to the university students: “Should we live in fear?” Her answer was that we should not live in fear. She argues this for two reasons: (1) fear is no way to live a fulfilling life, especially in the USA, and (2) although today may seem chaotic and dangerous, this may be the most peaceful era in human history. To argue her second point, Sengupta points to research done by her colleagues that has found that there are relatively few wars today compared with history. Additionally, she noted that the wars that are currently plaguing our world today are civil wars. Although civil wars take the lives of many, which is devastating, they take fewer lives than international wars.

Overall, Sengupta was a very informative presenter. She presented her ideas with great clarity and conciseness. She clearly has a great understanding of the events that surround international relations today and she will make many great contributions to the world.

Willy Sheehan, UVU Student

UVU Hosts New York Times Chief Bureau

On October 29, the New York Times United Nations Bureau Chief Somini Sengupta came to visit and present at Utah Valley University. Her speech, “ISIS, Ebola, and Bodies that Fell From the Sky: a View of Global Crisis from the United Nations” gave insight to reporters within the United Nations, and the unique perspective that Sengupta has in her position. That afternoon, after her presentation, Sengupta was kind enough to offer a Q&A session for a group of students and professors.

Sengupta explained her unique position; as a writer for the United Nations, she does not have the luxury of being able to focus on a single topic, issue, or even country. Her projects range from the relevant to the explicit, from “ISIS to Ebola”, from India where she was born to Canada where she was raised. She must have an expert understanding on economics, history, politics, and culture to write well. To cover such a wide variety of topics, a large amount of research is necessary. She explained her research methods, and the many resources she needs to pull from, including scholars and specialists on certain topics. Sengupta feels responsible to her readers—those that want truth, honesty, and quality content in the pieces they read. By contacting previous sources, making connections, and being able to internalize a large amount of information in quick, fifteen-minute phones calls with experts, she is able to commit herself to accurate and knowledgeable articles that are needed for their insight to world events and the deliberations of the United Nations.

The UN Bureau Chief was incredibly well rounded and animated, talking about ISIS and its future, Islam in the Middle East, and posing some queries that she might ask a representative from Saudi Arabia, who will be visiting UVU next semester. Discussion ranged from the culture of Saudi Arabia and its questionable intentions and affiliations with terrorist groups like ISIS to the quality of the meals at the UN cafeteria.

Meeting her was an excellent opportunity for UVU students to gain insight to the United Nations, the research of a New York Times reporter, and to discuss world politics and affairs with someone who has the daily opportunity to witness such events first hand.

Hailey Young, UVU student Majoring in Political Science

Notes on The Visit of Somini Sengupta

Last week our International Relations of the Middle East class had the distinguished pleasure of having New York Times writer Somini Sengupta, who cover the United Nations. Our class frequently uses the New York Times to do research for the country case studies we are assigned to do. Many would agree that the New York Times offers us as students a way to stay current without the pollution of a predominant political bias. Mrs. Sengupta was exactly as the company she works for educated, polite, articulated and extremely well informed. She truly embodies what the New York Times stands for.

During Mrs. Sengupta’s visit students were given the opportunity to ask her all sorts of questions. Through our questions we were able to get insight and a new perspective on current issues. Also, perhaps, a greater privilege was that we had the opportunity to ask her about her job and what it involves. Some students even asked her about how she gets her information on the several topics she covers.

Nowadays the New York Time, like most newspapers, can be found online. However accessing the New York Times online something requires a paid subscription. To help its students UVU offers free physical copies of the NYT daily. Thanks to the accessibility of the New York Times students are able to use it as a resource. Of course, when you’re assigned a certain country you’re often reading the articles of the same reporters. Being able to meet one of the New York Times authors allowed us as students to make the connection between the writer and the person.

Personally, I can say that I strongly believe that we might have never had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the structure of engaged learning through the New York Times that our UVU professor Baktybek Abdrisaev has developed. As Political Science students many of us which to someday have our academic knowledge recognized by a legitimate source such as the New York Times. For such students Mrs. Sengupta offers a tremendous source of experience and motivation. Additionally, having her visit our classroom offered the unique opportunity to observe first had the behavior of a professional journalist.
In conclusion, it was an absolute honor to have Mrs. Sengupta in our classroom. As a women in the field I aspire to be like her, which is the reason I invited her to our conference next October, The Women of The Mountain Conference; which, is a conference that promotes the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations. The amazing thing in all this is how through the study of international relations we are able to connect which all sort of scholars, academics and dignitaries. Mrs. Sengupta is one of the people influencing IR today through her articles and it was a great pleasure to be able to interact with her in a classroom environment.

Linda A. Munoz, Vice-President of UIMF

Thanks for organizing this.

I spent most the day at UVU just so I could make sure and be to Somini Sengupta presentation, also when she attended your middle eastern relations class. First off I was very impressed by her professionalism, and the poise at which she held herself. The presentation she gave was very enlightening, entertaining, (not as if that would be a surprise, because of the amazing job she does and her skills as a writer) and simple to follow.

I really enjoyed her comments about the problems that are facing the UN today, and how if the big 5 (USA France, UK, China and Russia) were not interested in what was being brought up, then nothing really ever happened. Which again makes me wonder the effectiveness of the UN. However on the Upside, she did talk about all the little ways the the UN really does make a difference in the lives of the people around the world due to the ability of the little countries to band together in order to form a larger international power.

During the Class we talked mostly about the UN and what was mentioned above. However another comment that really made me enjoy the day was when she commented on the Boko Haram, and who ISIS may be dominating the news, however there are many more terrorist cells and threats that we cannot forget still exist and still pose a viable threat to the lives of people around the world.

Also I guess that if I ever go to the UN in NYC, I should avoid the cafeteria. haha!

Thanks for organizing this. This really was enjoyable and opened my eyes to be a little more open and less strict on how I view the UN as a whole.

Corwin Bowles, UVU student

Eye Opening Presentation of Somini Sengupta

Attending the presentation given by Somini Sengupta was an absolute pleasure. As New York Times Bureau chief for the United Nations she is in the thick of international politics all the time and hearing her speak to that experience and the methods used in informing the readers of the Times was an enlightening experience. I was able to attend a session she held in a classroom setting. Rather than giving a formal presentation, she opened the floor to attendees to give the best responses.

One of the main focuses of the session was how she does her work within the United Nations, and the challenges that can pose to a journalist. In her words “If I was only using official releases I should be fired.” Clearly, reporting at the United Nations is more than just compiling press releases. She detailed some of the processes she goes through to vet sources for articles, and the challenges posed by having to cover such a wide variety of places, namely, that there are more stories than she has time for, more places than one person can have expertise in, and more happening than they can sit in on. To address those issues, the Times calls upon a wide variety of experts from across various disciplines, and with the wide range of place that the times is able to have embedded reporters, they often are able to help corroborate stories with details on the ground, or know an expert locally. This network is invaluable to her and allows the Times to accurately cover stories where one person may not have all the answers. This is especially a benefit in the newsroom where the top story of today is old news a week from now, there is often not enough time in the day to really gain all the knowledge necessary, and she described the process as somewhat like a 15 minute crash course on all that was necessary to cover the story properly.

One of the other main focuses of her talk was on ISIS and the role it plays in the Middle East and its meteoric rise to prominence on the international relations front. Speaking on the developments in Syria and Iraq, Sengupta was informative and explored the issue and the frustrations surrounding it that she sees working at the United Nations. She mentioned the level of international draw that the organization in its recruitment as well as the actions that counties have taken in response to them, specifically calling out the declaration by Saudi Arabia against the group and noting that such action by the king was notable.

The discussion was also brought around to some of the frustrations of the United Nations organization, one of which was the Security Council and the veto power that is held by the major powers, and the degree to which one veto can derail conversation and action on what are international issues. But when asked what the one thing she would most like to change about the UN was she was lighthearted and answered that the one thing that really needs change is the cafeteria.

In all, the presentation by Somini Sengupta was both highly informative and highly entertaining and it was a pleasure and an honor to be able to see such an esteemed guest visit UVU.

Ian Ritchie, UVU student

UVU Hosts Somini Sengupta from the New York Times

Somini Sengupta was born in Calcutta and then has lived in Canada and California, graduating at the University of California, Berkley. She is a New York Times correspondant and bureau chief to the United Nations. On October 29, 2014 at noon she addressed students and faculty at Utah Valley University as part of the Times’ readership program which allows UVU students to have access to current events through complimentary copies of the New York Times. Somini Senguptas topic was titles “ISIS, Ebola and Bodies That Fell From the Sky: A View of Global Crises From the United Nations.”

Ms. Sengputa began by telling a story of Liberia and how Ebola hit a war and poverty stricken country. Soon Ebola spread because of a lack of preparation. No one in the world was prepared for this violent hit, therefore it was no longer just Liberia’s problem, but the world’s as well. This introduction provided a good base for her to show that issues within the world are the whole world’s problem from Ebola to ISIS.

The world’s problems truly are all of our problems, especially the UN’s problems. The UN Bureau chief then briefly spoke about the UN and the role it plays within the world today. She personably interacted with the audience as she quizzed them on different facts of the UN. Although the UN is known as “the world’s conscience”, it truly is an ensemble of countries with their own interests and therefore truly have very little control.

She then went on to tell of specific current events around the world that we are all facing, and further showed how the UN really has little power to affect them. The Syria War showing dysfunction within the Security Council and a product of no real peace talks. From her topic the “bodies that fell from the sky” is referring to when the Malaysian Airline crashed in Ukraine. This story was told from what a townsperson from Ukraine saw which shows how inexplicable and extreme the issues are becoming. She spoke about how it reflects of the Ukraine vs. Russia vs. United States. This shows that there is very little clarity about the enemies and issues facing the world, which just lead Ms. Sengupta into the popular current event of the ever-growing Islamic State in Syria, or ISIS. Who is the enemy? Within this crisis as there are over 80 countries that recruits have come from. The sheer ever growing number of their recruits shows that ISIS is globally everyone’s problem.

Somini Sengupta pointed out that there is very little clarity within the world right now with diseases, insurrections, and even climate change. Then she posed a thought provoking question. We may have all these issues, but what is it compared to the past? Is it really that much worse? She offers the solution that maybe, just maybe the future is something less to fear when compared to the past.

It was very interesting and enjoyable to listen to the eloquent Somini Sengupta talk about the different issues throughout the world. She is reporting directly about each of them and has done so much research and has been able to observe directly for years. She had such a basis of knowledge and background that no matter what question was asked her, or what topic was brought up she could easily and knowledgably speak about any issue.

Kami Winward, member of the UIMF

Local media about Somini Sengupta’s Presentations at UVU:


UVU’s Capitol Reef Field Station Contributes to Promotion of Mountain Sustainability

Utah Valley University’s Field Station at the Capitol Reef National Park

Recently I visited Utah Valley University’s Capitol Reef Field Station along with a group of professors and honors students. According to the main mission, the Capitol Reef Field Station, in partnership with Capitol Reef National Park, promotes and supports engaged learning, environmental ethics, research, scholarly, and creative activities through the exploration of the Colorado Plateau. We spent four days at the station discussing sustainability issues and exploring the area. Presentations were given by professors ranging from astronomy and dance to philosophy and literature.


Utah Valley University Honors students resting during a canyon hike in the Capitol Reef National Park.

The field station is on a bluff overlooking a vast desert canyon. The station represents a model of sustainability for mountainous regions, including energy self- sufficiency through solar panels, pro-active recycling policies, and monitoring capabilities over water and energy consumption (For more information about the station see:

The Capitol Reef Field Station should be seen as a hub for the promotion of sustainable mountain development both in Utah and globally. Next year Utah Valley University’s Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) will host the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference under the umbrella of the Mountain Partnership. Inclusion of the field station in the conference could be a great asset for developing awareness of sustainability issues.

All of these features are eye opening for the un-initiated to the cause of conservation. The field station manager, Jason Kudulis, is a testament to the ability of people to live sustainably as he resides and works fulltime at the station. Kudulis is always willing to respond to questions or concerns about conservation, and more importantly, explain how to translate what is learned at the station into our everyday lives.


General View of the Field Station

Conservation at the field station became a sort of game to outdo previous groups that have visited by limiting our water and energy consumption and trash generation. We stayed well below the national average across the board. The reality is that American individuals unnecessarily generate an average of 1,679 lbs. of trash each year totaling in the neighborhood of 537.280.000.000 lbs. of trash collectively each year. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of our consumption problems. I want to remind the reader that prior to my trip to the capitol reef station, these problems rarely came across my radar, but these numbers were definitely a wakeup call.

After leaving the field station, I decided I needed to, and was capable of, living a life more structured around sustainability. This included texting my neighbor to ask if I could put my recyclables in his curb side recycle can. I live in an apartment that does not provide this service and after some confused responses from my neighbor wondering why I would want to do that, he agreed. I have often heard people, including prominent activists, deride the idea that if we all make small changes, it will make a big difference. Perhaps their cynical attitudes come from seeing little or no change come about in their lifetimes, but I do believe that cultures change if the will exists. Personally I don’t think we will end up destroying the world with our consumption problems, but I do think we are creating a trash-filled dystopia for our descendants. We would be irresponsible to disregard the effect our decisions have on the future.

 Utah Valley University should be commended for the creation of the Capitol Reef Field Station. It is a step in the right direction in creating a more conscientious public.

capitolreef3 Honors students and faculty pose for a picture.

 Christopher Wiltsie, President, Sustainable Mountain Development club at UVU

Photos courtesy of Allen Hill, UVU Honors Advisor


“UIMF Members With Igor and Vesna Gruppman”

Utah International Mountain Forum members attend a concert of the Orchestra at Temple Square conducted by Igor Gruppman

On Friday night, October 17, 2014 Utah International Mountain Forum members Jordan Giles, and Jesler Molina with their families enjoyed amazing performance of the Orchestra at Temple Square conducted by the outstanding Maestro Igor Gruppman.

Igor Gruppman currently is the professor of music in Rotterdam Conservatory and the concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in addition to being the conductor at the Mariinsky Orchestra in Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation. As the conductor of the Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, he and his wife Vesna Gruppman visit Utah to perform concerts of classical music with the Orchestra during early spring and fall every year.

groupman During the performance of the Orchestra at Temple Square conducted by Igor Gruppman

This time two concerts during October 17-18, 2014 commemorated the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Orchestra at Temple Square and 10th anniversary of Igor Gruppman’s tenure as its conductor. The Orchestra at Temple Square was founded in 1999, under the direct involvement of Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The concert opened with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in B-flat Minor, op. 23, with the piano solo performance by George Li, a 19-year-old piano prodigy whom the Washington Post praised for combining “Staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression.” Mr. Li is winner of multiple awards and competitions including the Gilmore Young Artist Award.

The second half of the concert featured Camille Saint-Saens’s Symphony no. 3 in C Minor, op.78 (“Organ”). Tabernacle organist Clay Christiansen performed the organ part on the symphony. Christiansen has been a Tabernacle organist for over 30 years, having also held positions at St. Mark’s Cathedral and with Congregation Kol Ami among many others.

Igor and Vesna Gruppman cofounded Gruppman International Violin Institute (GIVI) in 2002 “to select, train, and develop the careers of exceptionally gifted young violinists around the world using the latest videoconferencing technology.” GIVI contributes to the activities focused on improving lives of the mountain communities in the State of Utah and globally since joining the Mountain Partnership in 2010.

UVU and UIMF were fortunate to establish close relations with GIVI since that time. Igor and Vesna contributed to the success of the second international Women of the Mountains conference hosted in Orem, UT in 2011. GIVI also collaborated with the UIMF during the celebration at UVU the International Mountain Day, declared by the United Nations in December 5, 2013 by presenting a master class to play violin via Skype for students in Utah from Miami, FL. Currently UIMF and GIVI are looking for foundations interested in funding a project to teaching music via Skype for children in mountain areas of Central Asia by GIVI from Utah and Rotterdam.

After the concert the UIMF members were able to meet and to have a dinner with Igor and Vesna Gruppman and George Li, with his mother. Jordan Giles and Jesler Molina were able to interact and to talk on a personal level with Maestro, his wife and their guests about great performance and how they enjoyed music of both Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Camille Saint-Saens. They also congratulated Igor Gruppman’s 10th anniversary of his tenure as the conductor of the Orchestra at the Temple Square. Many questions were asked from George Li, who was almost the same age as both students: where he was born, how he achieved such a great successes and whether he plans to participate at the famous Pyotr Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow.

groupman1 From left to right: Sabrina Giles, Jordan Giles, Igor Gruppman, Vesna Stefanovich-Gruppman, Jesler Molina, and Rocio Ruiz before the dinner

Both Igor and Vesna enjoyed a meeting with UIMF members due to their special attention to raising new talents in music. They were glad to know that, for example Jordan Giles currently works as a staff member with Congressman Stewart (R-UT) in his Salt Lake City office and that his involvement in the promotion of mountain activities, in the state of Utah and globally, helped him advanced his professional career. In the same way cofounders of GIVI listened with great attention to a story of Jesler Molina’s’ involvement with the United Nations activities including his participation and statement made during the U.N. Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in New York in December 11, 2013.


From left to right: Cholpon Akmatalieva, George Li, Sabrina Giles, and Jordan Giles after dinner with Gruppman’s.

Both sides also discussed future projects and collaborations between UVU and the Gruppman International Violin Institute such as the celebration of the International Mountain Day to be held this year at UVU on December 5, 2014 and the fourth international Women of the Mountains to be held at UVU from during October 7-9, 2015. Both Igor and Vesna expressed a strong interest in continuing their support and contribution to such joint initiatives and projects.

 Cholpon Akmatalieva, Adjunct Faculty, History and Political Science Department, Utah Valley University