Category Archives: Featured Events

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 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 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


4th Annual Essay Contest For Utah High Schools on Family Farming

Back in 2011, Utah Valley University hosted the first ever Utah high school ‘Youth and the Mountains’ essay contest. This contest focused on academic research and introduced the importance of Sustainable Development. From its conception, the essay contest has been a great asset to the academic community and has helped to introduce young adults to their surroundings.

With topics ranging from women of the mountains to energy, essay contestants have dealt with and postulated solutions for important socio-economic factors being discussed and improved upon globally. The relevance of which should not be lost or ignored.

Utah Valley University’s essay contest provides a firm foundation for the next generation of leaders; to create new ideas and promote innovative thinking. This says nothing of the $300 cash prize for first place; a much appreciated bonus for one of these students.

This year’s contest, being held March 28th, will be drawing from an ever expanding pool of high schools and the competition will be fiercer than ever. The topic of this year’s contest is, ‘The Family Farm in Mountain Communities’. The topic draws from the important work that is being done globally to end world hunger and promote more sustainable farming practices. It is also the topic of discussion for this year’s 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Students draw from Utah’s rich cultural and religious history to provide a unique perspective on sustainable development. Previous submissions have proposed alternative means of development and have done much to inform others of dangerous materials, working conditions, and poorly constructed policy making at the government level.


Of true significance is not the cash prizes or the publication of those papers written but the positive influence and introduction of policy making which this essay contest promotes. Students are able to research effective and ineffective decisions made by government officials and provide insights from a different perspective. Additionally, students learn more about their history and culture, promoting activism to the future leaders and makers of change.

A great source for inspiration and a resource which should not be overlooked is Utah’s culture and history. Coming to this, at the time, desert state Utah’s settlers had to introduce new farming methods and agricultural techniques. This same level of intuitiveness and creativity has been applied to the previous essay contests. It will be no surprise to witness such ingenuity in the coming contest.

The schools being represented will not only be showcasing the quality of their students and the efficacy of their instructors, but the idea that there is still much that can be done to promote change and that it is never too early, or late, to start. Likewise, the students will not be simply writing words down on a piece of paper. These research papers are the end product of a desire to make the world, whether that be personal or global, a better place.

Joseph McCain, President of UIMF 

2014 Essay Contest

Call for Papers 

The Fourth Annual Utah High School Essay Contest
The Family Farm in Mountain Communities
March 28, 2014

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. In conjunction with this celebration, the Utah International Mountain Forum will again host its annual High School essay contest. The goal of this essay contest is to educate and engage the public on the issues of family farming, mountain life, and the ways we can serve and lift up our fellow man. Given Utah’s history of endurance, innovation, and success in cultivating a high mountain desert, and the recent troubles with drought and water shortages, this topic is particularly relevant today.

For more information on how to participate, click here

Welcome to

The Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) is a coalition of several different clubs on the campus of Utah Valley University (UVU) including; The American Israeli Alliance, College Democrats, College Republicans, Foreign Affairs, Model UN, Russian, and Sustainable Mountain Development. Together these clubs work together under the umbrella of UIMF to sponsor events including; education of mountain sustainability, international guests including many foreign dignitaries, and community events including local International Mountain Day Celebrations in both 2010 and 2011. We welcome you to our website and hope you will learn and enjoy!