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

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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

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.

Calling for WorldQuest Sponsors








In anticipation of our upcoming fundraiser, WorldQuest, we are seeking sponsors to help support the trivia competition and our mission to promote respect and global understanding between the people of Utah and other nations. Click here to find the full details on sponsorships, the unique team-building opportunity for your company, our circulation and media, and more!

Two sponsorship levels are available:

Naming Sponsor: $5,000

• You will be prominently displayed as a NAMING SPONSOR on all signage at WorldQuest

• You will be listed as a NAMING SPONSOR on an insert in UCCD’s newsletter

• You will be recognized from the podium as a NAMING SPONSOR during the opening and
closing remarks

• Your company name will be prominently displayed as a NAMING SPONSOR with your logo on
UCCD’s website

• Your company can participate as an eight-person team at WorldQuest on August 1, 2014.

• You have the exclusive opportunity to distribute marketing materials, merchandise, and/or gifts from your company at the event


Category Sponsor: $1,000 (Limit: 6)

• You will be prominently displayed as a CATEGORY SPONSOR at the event. Each of the six rounds of trivia questions will feature a different category that challenges your global knowledge. There can only be one sponsor per category, so select your chosen category and let us know as soon as possible:
Current Events                    World Leaders                 Geography
Global Economy                  Culture                             Business, Science & Technology

• You will be recognized by the emcee from the podium as a CATEGORY SPONSOR in the introduction to the chosen category. Your company name and logo will be on a large display screen throughout the questions of your category.

• Your company can participate as an eight-person team at WorldQuest on August 1, 2014.

• Your name and logo will be recognized and prominently displayed as a CATEGORY SPONSOR on UCCD’s website

What’s next? Register for your sponsorship on our WorldQuest registration page! Sponsors of either level will have an automatic entry for a team of eight players at WorldQuest. If you’d like to discuss sponsorships in more detail, please contact our Executive Director, Laura Dupuy, at or 801-832-3271.

Former UCCD Intern Selected as Truman Scholar

Tianna TuCongratulations to former UCCD intern, Tianna Tu, who has been selected as the University of Utah’s Truman Scholar! Read more about her accomplishments here. Regarding her 2011 internship, she wrote, “Thank you so much, UCCD! I have learned so much from the UCCD members, staff, and supporters. Thanks for working to make the world a better place.”

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the thirty-third president, Harry S. Truman. The Foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class and be committed to careers in government.




Submit a Photo to the Faces of Diplomacy Photo Contest!

UCCD is accepting submissions now through September 1, 2014 for our 1st Annual “Faces of Diplomacy” Photo Contest.  The top 10 photos will be exhibited at UCCD’s first lecture of the season on September 16, and the winners for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place will be announced and prizes awarded.  Submitted images should capture the essence and spirit of Citizen Diplomacy. The winning entries will be dynamic photos that tell a powerful story, showcase a unique community, or capture a powerful interaction between IVLP participants and community leaders. Submissions may be taken with International Visitors in both Home Hospitality, Professional Meetings, and Cultural contexts.

Photographs will be judged based on creativity, composition, and the ability to capture a strong sense of UCCD’s mission – to promote respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations. Previously published or awarded photographs are not eligible for this contest.  Photographers will grant UCCD the right to use their entries in their online and printed materials.

Email your photos with a caption to Emily Olsen, Director of Communications at by September 1.

JPEG, DNG or PNG files up to 10 MB in size will be accepted. Photographs sent via mail will not be entered into the contest and cannot be returned to senders.  Finalists must be able to provide UCCD with a print quality hi-res file of their photograph.  Each individual may submit up to five photographs. The judges will select and notify the winners by September 9, 2014.

Attention: As the winning photos will be posted on social media, permission must first be granted by the International Visitors in the picture in order to participate in the contest.

Opening for Summer Event Coordinator Internship

scott-internHelp UCCD launch Utah’s first WorldQuest! We are now accepting applications for an Event Coordinator Intern during the Summer Semester.  This fun and unique fundraiser will become the signature fundraising event for the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy.

We are seeking an enthusiastic, outgoing individual with excellent verbal and written communication skills, the ability to work independently, and a passion for contributing to global understanding.  Candidates must be detail oriented and possess the ability to manage a large scale project with a variety of moving parts.  Creativity essential.  The ideal candidate will have experience planning events.  This is a paid internship and college credit may be available through your university.  The successful candidate will have his/her own transportation, and business-related mileage will be reimbursed.  This position offers flexible hours and a convenient location at Westminster College.

This position has been filled. 

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.