Munira Mirmamadova

Munira Mirmamadova

Las Vegas, N.M. –New Mexico Highlands University international exchange student Munira Mirmamadova is making a difference interning at the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance (HPWA).

The 23-year-old from Tajikistan in Central Asia is participating in the IREX, the International Research and Exchanges Board. The program is aimed at advancing leadership and innovative programs to promote lasting change globally.

Mirmamadova is spending a full academic year at Highlands immersed in natural resource management and business management courses. She completes her business management degree from Khorog State University in Tajikistan in June.

“My goal is to go home and a write a grant to start a nonprofit environmental organization focused on water, land and soil,” Mirmamadova said. “These kind of nonprofits are rare in my country. We have so much natural beauty ­– like the beautiful Pamir Mountains surrounding my hometown of Khorog — and resources that need to be preserved.

“The best thing about my internship at the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance has been learning about how to help nature in a collaborative way. The alliance has such good teamwork and I admire that. I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” Mirmamadova said.

Since 2011, the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance has worked to promote and facilitate watershed health in the Gallinas, Sapello and Tecolote watersheds. Lea Knutson is the executive director.

“Munira’s enthusiasm is contagious and it’s wonderful to have her infusion of energy and new perspectives,” Knutson said. “She came with a very clear goal in mind, which is rare for a person her age.

“Munira takes the initiative and has a gutsy, adventuresome spirit. She’s very good at being fully engaged and present in our local community. I think all these qualities will help her when she goes back to her country with the goal of starting an environmental nonprofit,” Knutson said.

Knutson added that Mirmamadova spent time analyzing the alliance’s business plan, and she thinks the student will write a strong business plan for her own nonprofit.

During her internship, Mirmamadova worked on projects ranging from leading activities with young students when the HPWA presents educational programs at local schools to planting trees along the Gallinas River near Gallinas Village and helping coordinate the alliance’s April 26 Gallinas River cleanup.

“There’s more debris than usual along the Gallinas because of the big flood in September,” Mirmamadova said. “We’ll be working on the river from below Luna Community College to the other side of the Gallinas River Walk.”

People interested in volunteering for the Gallinas cleanup may contact Julia Dullien at

Mirmamadova said she’s had a valuable learning experience at Highlands that will help her pursue her goals. She’s taken classes with forestry professor Craig Conley, including a natural resource economics course this semester.

“Dr. Conley is very impressive in his knowledge and is so good at explaining complex scientific material in simple terms. He’s also very helpful about removing barriers, like talking a little slower in class at first so I could understand,” Mirmamadova said.

“Munira is very bright and one of my best students,” Conley said. “She’s a delight to have in class because she comes prepared, asks good questions, and has strong focus.

“What impressed me when I first met Munira is her directness and confidence. She’s very clear in what she wants to do,” Conley said.

“My experience at Highlands has been amazing. At first it was very challenging just finding my way to class because my university is just in one big building. But everyone here welcomes you so nicely with kindness. They hear my accent and are so interested and friendly. People in the community are like that too,” Mirmamadova said. 

Mirmamadova invites those interested in learning more about Tajikistan to come to her presentation April 15 at 12:30 p.m. in Douglas Hall, Room 217, 805 University Ave.

Three other international students are at Highlands spring semester through the IREX program. Yawar Hayat and Ejaz Karim are both from Pakistan, and Zaita Asaova is from Russia.