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UVU Students Visit New York, Explore Democracy in Iran

21 September 2009 No Comment

September 21, 2009
For Immediate Release

For more information: Brian Birch (801) 863-5759, Michael Minch (801) 863-7482
University Marketing & Communications: Erin Spurgeon, (801) 863-6807

In conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly, students from Utah Valley University will travel to New York this week to explore issues in diplomacy, peace-building and democracy in the Middle East. UVU students will join colleagues from Westminster College and Southern Utah University to visit with scholars, diplomats and political leaders on strategies for overcoming misunderstandings and tensions between nations and cultures.

Students are scheduled to meet with leaders from various organizations including the Center for the Study of Iran at Columbia University, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the American Iranian Council, and the American Institute for Iranian Studies. Included is a dinner and cultural dialogue session with leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Students will also attend a reception hosted by the Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and be hosted on a special guided tour of the Islamic Art section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“It is a rare opportunity for students to visit with two heads of state during the General Assembly,” said Brian Birch, associate dean of the UVU College of Humanities & Social Sciences. “We are delighted by the opportunity to become more globally competent and to be a part of critical dialogue.”

The trip will be led Michael Minch, director of UVU’s Peace and Justice Studies Program, and Birch who are both interested in cultivating opportunities for students pursuing peacemaking, diplomacy, and intercultural and religious dialogue.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students,” Minch said. “Not only to meet with heads of state, but to engage scholars of this caliber who have intimate knowledge of Iran. When I spoke with the person in charge of the Iran desk at Amnesty International, she was amazed that we were getting access to these people.”

UVU political science major Tom Merrill said he values the importance of global engagement.

“With much of the world’s attention on Iran, there is a dramatic need for this kind of cultural and interreligious discussion,” he said.

Students will attend a pre-excursion workshop Monday, Sept. 21 with UVU professors and guest scholars. The workshop is designed to give focus to the major political and cultural issues of Middle East democracy and to prepare them for the culture of diplomatic exchanges.

The excursion is a collaborative effort from a variety of organizations on campus including the UVU College of Humanities & Social Sciences, the Center for Engaged Learning, the Center for the Study of Ethics, the Religious Studies Program, the Peace and Justice Studies Program, the Office of International Affairs & Diplomacy, and the International Center.

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