Iraqi and Utah students work together to close culture gaps


Deseret News

Iraqi and Utah students work together to close culture gaps

By Julian Reyes , Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 8:33 p.m. MDT

Rana, a student from northern Iraq, helps YouthWorks students paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A thoroughfare filled with murals had previously attempted to connect the Jackson and Gadualupe neighborhoods in Salt Lake City. It is now being used to build a bridge of peace and understanding between two countries.

The program Bridge over Barriers invited Iraqi high school students and their host families Tuesday to participate in painting a mural design under the bridge at 300 N. 700 West, in hopes of combating stereotypes and closing the gap between cultures.

“As you know, the American society is the open minded people (and) there’s a lot of needs in my society, yet I want to learn more from the American society and copy this experience to my community,” said 16-year old Abdullah, who along with the rest of the students asked that their last names not be used.

Rana, a student from northern Iraq, helps YouthWorks students paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy and the Iraqi Youth Leaders Exchange Program  chose 64 English-speaking Iraqi students to participate in a four-week youth leadership exchange program that started in Washington D.C. and later placed them in seven cities throughout the country.

Salt Lake City participated for the first time by hosting 10 students and placing them with families of Salt Lake high school students, who gathered to work together and get to know each other while painting the mural Tuesday.

Abdullah’s family had previously visited the United States and had described the country to him. But nothing his parents said could have prepared the teenager.

“I was telling myself, ‘This is America, am I dreaming?'” he said. “Everything is cool (and) the streets are clear, clean, everything is beautiful. Oh! I will stay here, just kidding.”

Sarah Mian of South Ogden and Carlos Andrade of Kearns paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Zahraa, 15, wants to improve her leadership skills while experiencing different cultures.

“I want to improve everything in Iraq,” said the teenage girl. “I want to make our voices be heard and I want to have freedom in Iraq, just like here in America.”

The Iraqi students did not look past liberties that are usually taken for granted.

“People are free to do anything, free to behave the way they like, free to talk the way they like,” she said. “In Iraq, you don’t have the right to talk about yourself (and) about how you feel.”

The Iraqi Youth Leaders Exchange Program, which is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, has had 200 alumni in the past several years. The program has helped eliminate many stereotypes among the students.

YouthWorks students and Iraqi students work together to paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

“I am not even feeling homesick because I really feel like they’re my family,” Zahraa said of his host family. “My host sister treated me like her own real sister.”

Sarah Mian, 18, and her Pakistani family are hosting Zahraa and 18-year old Rana. “Having them here is just the most humbling experience in my life,” Mian said.

Mian said she, too, has been able to break stereotypes previously instilled in her.

“They are more intelligent, advanced then even the Western world. Here, (they) have so much knowledge that no one else has, so much truth that we are all yearning to search for,” Mian said. “Them exposing that to us is the most gracious gift.”

Mian, who is hoping to go to medical school in Pakistan, still sees tension between the Eastern and Western cultures in Salt Lake City and believes that the more exposure people get in an artistic manner, the better it will be for all cultures.

YouthWorks students and Iraqi students work together to paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

“The more we talk face to face, and we don’t rely on the media and the news and the things that people are telling us and not really explaining to us, the more we will understand who these people are and why there is nothing wrong with them,” she said. “They are just like you and me and maybe they have more to give us. We have something to give them, too.”

Yusur, a 15-year-old who choose to cover herself with a veil and wear sunglasses to shade her face, said she believes that a bridge can be created between Iraq and the United States, but not at the expense of losing her culture and religious beliefs.

“My opinion before I got here was that life here was very easy and easier then Iraq,” Yusur said. “I was thinking that Iraq is a hard country to live in and that America was easy, but I discovered that no, America is very hard to live (in).”

Rana, a student from northern Iraq, helps YouthWorks students paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Life is harder, she believes, because of the variety of different cultures.

Because her family is not here and because she is a girl, she feels an obligation to keep her traditions and customs.

Elise Grizzel, 15, expected the Iraqi students to be much more conservative and was surprised at how much English they speak. She and her host sister Yusur are very different.

“She (Yusur) is almost like a newborn baby to this culture,” Elise said. “It’s amazing watching her adjust and try to expand herself. I think she is having a hard time because she is trying to stay with her past and her culture. But, the more I get to know her, the more I understand why.”

Fifteen-year old Shadan said she has realized that there are more similarities between Iraqis and Americans than there are differences.

YouthWorks students and Iraqi students work together to paint a mural under a bridge on 300 North in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

“Before I came here (to the United States) I didn’t know the world had so many different cultures,” she said. “It is nice to know that even though I am different and from a different country, I am still human. I have the same rights (as) everyone in the world.”

Once Shadan returns home, she said the first thing she wants to tell her parent is that Iraq needs change.

“We need change in our lives,” she said. “We need more freedom, definitely. We need to start working on things, you know?”

E-mail: Twitter: @_JulianReyes_

Copyright 2012, Deseret News Publishing Company

UCCD Welcomes Visitors from Ukraine and Uzbekistan

IMG_6329 edit

UCCD Proudly welcomes visitors from Uzbekistan and Ukraine to Salt Lake City, Utah!

Incoming International Visitors to Utah
International Visitors are participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. All International Visitors are accompanied by U.S. Department of State Interpreters and/or English Language Officers.

UCCD Welcomes Visitors from Uzbekistan and Ukraine 

July 26: Program Director Kaitlin Spas welcomed  visitors from   Uzbekistan to Salt Lake City. The visitors studied “Conservation in Libraries,” attending meetings at the Utah State Library, LDS Family History Museum and the Brigham Young University Center for Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, among other activities.   

July 27: Six visitors from Ukraine, pictured here with Speaker of the  Utah House of Representatives, Rebecca Lockhart, examined “LGBT Advocacy in the US.” The group’s activities included a meeting with Equality Utah, Utah Log Cabin Republicans and attending a workshop on “Cultivation Volunteers” with the University of Utah Nonprofit Academy

Seeking a Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy is seeking a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for a three-month term. There will be the option to apply for the permanent position at the end of the term. See below for the full job description.

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) offers an exceptional opportunity for a communications professional or recent graduate, interested in International Relations to apply those skills to help shape U.S. foreign relations “one hand-shake at a time.”   Since 1967, UCCD has promoted respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations as a nonpartisan, nonprofit, community based organization.  UCCD is a dynamic organization and will provide the successful candidate a unique opportunity to “live local and work global.”

UCCD is seeking a talented individual with experience in MailChimp (or another email marketing program), WordPress, Photoshop, Illustrator and social media to market our programs and our signature fundraiser, WorldQuest, which will be held on July 31.  This is a 3-month temporary full-time position, after which you will have the option to apply for a permanent position.

UCCD serves as a private-sector partner with the U.S. Department of State to administer the International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional and cultural exchange program for emerging leaders.  Each year UCCD welcomes nearly 400 leaders from over 100 different countries to Utah to meet with their professional counterparts and to meet with ordinary citizens.  We are guided by the belief that respect and understanding is cultivated through person-to-person meetings and open  dialogue.  Help build a more peaceful world through citizen diplomacy.

The Marketing and Communications Coordinator is responsible for:  strategic communications planning; public relations; event planning and marketing; membership development and management; community programs and organizational branding.  As Marketing and Communications Coordinator you will produce all online materials including e-fliers, newsletter, and website updates.

The role Marketing and Communications Coordinator is critical to the success of UCCD and the successful candidate will be detail-oriented, creative and culturally-sensitive.  You will be able to work within a non-partisan context and have excellent interpersonal communication skills.

Key traits of the Marketing and Communications Coordinator include:  self-directed; creative thinker; problem-solver; adaptable to changing circumstances; highly organized; great working on teams.

Key skills include:  excellent verbal skills; excellent written skills; proficiency in Microsoft applications; WordPress; Photoshop; Illustrator; understanding and experience in social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The Marketing and Communications Coordinator will work with the Executive Director to achieve the organizational strategic goals and support the mission and values of UCCD.  They will work in a creative and supportive environment to help build a more peaceful world.

Other Information:

  • Hours 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Some evenings required
  • Must have own transportation
  • Office conveniently located on the campus of Westminster College


  • Bachelor’s Degree in communications or marketing
  • Previous experience in communications
  • Experience planning, promoting and facilitating community programs and events
  • Proficiency in developing, designing, and managing online communications tools
  • Skilled in MailChimp, WordPress, Photoshop and social media


  • This is a full-time temporary position (three-months) with the option to apply for permanent employment after three months.


  • $15 – $18 per hour based upon experience

To Apply:

  • Submit Cover Letter, Resume, and Writing Sample to Laura Dupuy, Executive Director, at
  • Position available immediately and applications accepted until position is filled
  • To learn more visit:

Welcoming two Program Associate Interns

We are excited to have such great talent join us for a summer internship. Meet Mitch Waite and Sarah Bell!

Mitch Waite

Mitch Waite is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in history. To this end, Mitch possesses a keen interest in international affairs within a historical context. Global exchange and understanding became his passion during a two-year service mission, which he performed for his church. Assigned to serve the Latin American community in the state of New Jersey, Mitch developed a love for the Latin people, and the Spanish and Portuguese languages. In pursuit of a career in foreign diplomacy, Mitch interned with the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. at the Foreign Service Institute. The experience with the State granted Mitch the opportunity to work in the School of Romance Languages, and to work alongside many U.S. diplomats. Thus, Mitch is very excited to join the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy team, and aid in the advancement of global understanding and cultural exchange.

Sarah Bell

Sarah Bell is finishing up her Bachelor of Science degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Science, minoring in Environmental and Sustainability Studies at the University of Utah. She has lived in Utah all her life but has a great love for studying different cultures and meeting new people. Her plan upon completion at the University is to travel abroad and gain experience of life in other countries. She spends her free time outdoors, camping and hiking particularly in Southern Utah.  Along with being outdoors, she enjoys reading and playing with her dogs.

Job Posting: Executive Director

Update: Applications are no longer being accepted.

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy has a future opening for the Executive Director position. Please read the full position description and qualifications below.

Executive Director Job Posting

To Apply:

Submit Cover Letter, Resume, and Writing Sample to:, Martha Felt Barton, Board Chair

Position available July 1, 2015.


Message from Executive Director

Dear UCCD Members and Friends:

Laura Dupuy webFor the past seventeen years, as Executive Director of the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, I’ve had the good fortune to be part of a great organization and a wonderful community of kind and passionate people.  I’ve seen, first hand, the successes and challenges nonprofits and government entities face each day, and have been challenged in ways I never thought possible.  I’ve broadened my understanding of world cultures, customs, politics, and religions, and received a “hands-on” degree in international relations.  I’ve met thousands of International Visitors who have inspired me with their stories of courage and commitment to building stronger civil societies.  I’ve worked with hundreds of members of our community as volunteers and board members, and have made friendships of a lifetime!  But most importantly, I’ve been privileged to be part of a grass-roots movement that truly does help shape U.S. foreign relations “one hand-shake at a time.”

It is with sadness that I submit this letter as notice of my retirement, effective August 31, 2015.

After much thought, I have decided that it is time for me to invest in my health and hobbies, and to continue to learn and grow as a human being.  I will spend more time riding my bike, playing the fiddle, gardening, and taking classes in whatever subject intrigues me.  And, of course, I’ll be traveling the world!

My experiences with UCCD will forever be a part of the fabric of my being. I thank each and every one of you who has placed their trust in me, who has guided and advised me, and who has supported me throughout the years.  I am a better person for having worked with each of you – our trustees, staff members, interns, volunteers, and professional colleagues in Utah and Washington, DC. I wish the best for UCCD in the future.  The contributions that this organization and program make are profound, and I will always be honored to have played a role in building a more tolerant and understanding world through citizen diplomacy.

With warmest wishes,

Laura Dupuy

Executive Director

Vivaldi by Candlelight highlighted as one of Utah’s Top 10 Classical Performances of 2014

ConcertThe 32nd Vivaldi by Candlelight Benefit Concert was featured in the Salt Lake Magazine on January 5, 2015 as one of Utah’s Top 10 Classical Performances of 2014.

Edward Reichel wrote, “For over 30 years, the Vivaldi by Candlelight concert has rung in the holiday season in Salt Lake City. And under the guidance of music director Gerald Elias, the programming has been distinctive and unique. Joining Elias and a select group of string players for this concert was internationally recognized harpsichordist and scholar Mark Kroll. Together they gave a scintillating account of the obscure Portuguese composer Carlos de Seixas’ Concerto in A major and a masterful performance of J.S. Bach’s imposing Concerto No. 3 in D major, BWV 1054. Throughout the concert, Elias allowed the ensemble and Kroll to display their remarkable artistry and virtuosity. It was one of the best Vivaldi by Candlelight concerts in a number of years and a glorious way to end a fabulous musical year.”

Read the full article here. The concert truly was a success, and it benefited the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy’s work in promoting peace and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations.

Vivaldi Review on Reichel Recommends

Vivaldi by Candlelight was featured in Reichel Recommends. Take a look at this short excerpt and click on the link to read the full review!


VIVALDI BY CANDLELIGHT, First Presbyterian Church, Dec. 6

Mixing the familiar with the obscure, this year’s edition of the annual Vivaldi by Candlelight concert – a benefit for the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy – featured a delightful selection of works by the concert’s namesake, along with Francesco Geminiani and Carlos de Seixas, and culminating with J.S. Bach’s magnificent Concerto No. 3 in D major for Harpsichord and Strings, BWV 1054.

Music director and conductor Gerald Elias always knows how to pick works that make each concert interesting and different — and unique. This year, he found a pair of pieces that are unusual in one way or another, with one of them ostensibly receiving its world premiere at Saturday’s concert.

Read the full review HERE.

Salt Lake Tribune Feature on Vivaldi concert: “Long-lost gem will see the light”

IMG_0961By Catherine Reese Newton, Salt Lake Tribune

“It’s not often you get to hear a world premiere on a concert dedicated to the music of 18th-century composer Antonio Vivaldi and his contemporaries, but Vivaldi by Candlelight music director Gerald Elias has come up with such a work for this year’s edition of the popular series.

A violin sonata by Francesco Geminiani, orchestrated by his contemporary Charles Avison, recently was found inside a wall during renovation of Avison’s former home in London. Boston Symphony harpsichordist Mark Kroll, a friend of Elias’ and scholar of Baroque music, edited the piece and will be on hand when the Vivaldi by Candlelight chamber orchestra gives its premiere.”

Read the full feature article here!


Vivaldi Soloist Announced

harpsichordThe Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy is pleased to announce this year’s soloist for the Vivaldi by Candlelight Benefit Concert.

Tickets to Vivaldi by Candlelight are available here.

Mr. Mark Kroll has been acclaimed as one of the world’s leading harpsichordists and fortepianists. During a career spanning more than forty years, he has performed on four continents, winning critical praise for his expressive playing and virtuosity. Among his travels he has been the first American harpsichordist to appear in numerous countries, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. He has appeared with noted soloists and ensembles, and played under the batons of conductors such as Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, James Levine, Kurt Masur and Charles Dutoit. Since 1979, he has served as harpsichordist for the Boston Symphony.

In addition to his inspiring array of musical performances, Mr. Kroll also excels in scholarly endeavors. Among his publications, he has written the books Johann Nepomuk Hummel: A Musician’s Life and World and Playing the Harpsichord Expressively: A Practical and Historical Guide. Throughout his career he has presented lectures in scholarly conferences in the United States and Europe, including the International Baroque Conference in England. He has also served as the music critic for WBUR-FM/Boston, and is currently book review editor of Early Music America Magazine and editor-in-chief of the Historical Harpsichord Series of Pendragon Press.

UCCD is honored to welcome Mr. Kroll as this year’s concert soloist. Please join us and embrace this opportunity to experience the harpsichord as played by Mr. Mark Kroll.

You can learn more about Mr. Mark Kroll and listen to pieces of his music by visiting

Purchase tickets here.

Free Film Screening Features Former UCCD Speaker Dr. Geoff Tabin

dukcountyDr. Geoff Tabin, a former UCCD lecturer, and Professor of Surgery and Ophthalmology at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Co-Director of the Himalayan Cataract Project, will be featured in a free screening of the documentary, Duk County. The film portrays a moving story about a five-day mission to deliver eye care in a remote and war torn region of South Sudan. The film screening will be held at the Salt Lake City Library on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Two short films will be shown as part of the Science Movie Night: Notes on Blindness and Duk County.

Notes on Blindness was an offical selection at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. In 1983, writer and theologian John Hull became blind. To help make sense of his loss, he began keeping an audio diary. Encompassing dreams, memories, and his imaginative life, Notes on Blindness immerses the viewer in Hull’s experience of blindness.

Duk County, which won two awards  at its world premiere at Telluride MountainFilm 2013,  is a moving story about a bold, five-day mission to deliver eye care in a remote and wartorn region of South Sudan – the world’s newest country. It chronicles the miraculous work of Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Alan Crandall; two eye surgeons committed to eradicating preventable blindness in Africa, and John Dau, one of the original Lost Boys of Sudan and a visionary for peace in South Sudan’s precarious new independence.

After these two films, Michael Yei, the Manager of the International and Domestic Outreach Division at The John A. Moran Eye Center, will discuss the global burden of blindness and its impact on communities and individuals. Dr. Alan Crandall, M.D., the John A. Moran Presidential Professor and Senior Vice-Chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, will talk about the causes and treatment of blindness and the work the Moran Eye Center’s Outreach Division is doing do help end preventable, curable blindness around the world.

The evening is presented by The Natural History Museum of Utah, in partnership with the Utah Film Center. Read more here.

A Special Thank You to our Partners

All of us with UCCD would like to publically thank our hotel and transportation partners for all that they do to contribute to our mission and programs. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, our hotel and transportation partners are on the front line of our public diplomacy efforts.

From the moment our International Visitors arrive at the airport, Le Bus is there to provide transportation to their hotel, professional meetings, and weekend cultural experiences.  The personalized care that the drivers take with each group make a lasting impression.  Whether it’s help finding a special souvenir to take home or bringing homemade fudge as a special local treat, our International Visitors treated with kindness and respect.

For many years Little America Hotel has been a “home away from home” to our 400+ International Visitors we welcome each year. We ask a lot of our hotel partner – whether it’s personal greetings upon check-in, flexibility in changing itineraries, sometimes at the last moment, or ensuring adequate accommodations for individuals with disabilities – their dedication to providing the best experience possible is part of what makes our program a success.

As the summer peak tourism season begins, we realize UCCD and the International Visitor Leadership Program is one of many clients competing for space and attention. Please join us as we reach out and thank LeBus and Little America Hotel for their continued commitment to providing the highest levels of service.  Together we are achieving our mission to promote respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations.

Copyright © 2014 The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy. The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.