UVSC’s Central Asian connection

UVSC is home to a groundbreaking exchange of delegates, information and ideas between Utah and the Central Asian republics.

Over the past eight years, the college has been the heart of what Dr. Alex Stecker said is an "unbelievable exchange" between Utah and countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkistan.

"These countries need to grow, and we’re a part of it," said Stecker, a senior lecturer in the political science and history departments. He said the program is, "Unique to Utah; it’s also unique to America."

As part of the exchange, delegates from the Central Asia republics visit to learn the basics of democracy and build ties with the Utah state legislature. Central Asian students have also attended UVSC, and several UVSC students have interned in Central Asian embassies in Washington, D.C.

The exchange was begun in 1999 by Rusty Butler, UVSC’s vice president of international affairs. "Rusty had the vision that we could become much more involved with Central Asia," Stecker said.

Part of that involvement is an international conference established by UVSC and the Kyrgyz National Centre for Development of Mountain Regions. Known as "Women of the Mountains," the conference addresses issues of mountain-dwelling women and children.

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, a distinguished visiting professor and a former Kyrgyz ambassador, explained that Utah’s remoteness and high altitude make it somewhat similar to the Central Asian republics, making it a good place to communicate with mountain communities around the world.

"Utah is a great example of how people started from scratch," he said. "Now you can see such a prosperous society." He hopes Central Asians can learn from what Utah has done right.

Abdrisaev was UVSC’s first visitor from the Central Asian republics, arriving in 1999 on Butler’s invitation. He remained at UVSC, and is now part of the full-time faculty. The school has since hosted delegates from countries including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Albania.

Most recently, UVSC hosted several Kyrgyz judicial delegates who came to Utah to learn about American law as part of the Open World Program. Kyrgyz ambassador Zamiera Sydykova also visited campus in September. Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem) recently visited Kyrgyzstan, and will personally interact with several delegates from Tajikistan who will be visit the school in December.

"This is only the beginning," Stecker said. He said that in the future, he would like to see an exchange of students and faculty. As for the emerging democracies in Central Asia, "I think someday they’re going to make it," Stecker said.

Leave a Reply