Four legislators from Tajikistan visited UVSC as part of an international exchange program that brought them to Utah from Dec. 6-14, 2007.

The legislators came to the Beehive State to study human rights, democracy-building, legislative process, and religious tolerance, meeting with political leaders, including Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), State Sen. John Valentine (R-Orem) and U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman.

Alex Stecker, a senior lecturer at UVSC involved with the delegation’s visit, said the Tajik legislators visited Utah to find out what changes they need to make to their current system of government.

An emerging country located in Central Asia, just north of Afghanistan, Tajikistan has a fragile economy and is struggling with issues such as drug trafficking, lack of infrastructure, and vocational education.

The delegates came as part of the Library of Congress’ Open World Program, which facilitates exchanges with former Soviet republics to "strengthen their friendship and cooperation with the American people."

Stecker said that by the delegation visiting Utah, not only could they learn to better help their country, but Utahns could also learn from them.

"Exchange is not one-sided. It’s two-sided," Stecker said. "We need to know about that part of the world. They need to study us."

Accordingly, Cannon and Valentine have accepted invitations to visit Tajikistan next summer. Stecker said the planned exchange represents "a new milestone in cooperation between the legislators of Utah and nations in Central Asia."

Stecker said future goals of the exchange include involving faculty and students, possibly even sending them to Tajikistan.

"A world of good could be done if we sent students over there," Stecker said, explaining that it would bring a different perspective for both sides.

Stecker and other organizers are currently trying to obtain a grant for a vocational education exchange between UVSC and Central Asian countries like Tajikistan. The program would focus on teaching trades such as repair and mining.

"We’ve got some great programs here," Stecker said. "These countries are emerging, and we need to help them."