UW–Madison team begins third phase of agreement with Kazakhstan university

For up-to-date information, go to the UW-Nazarbayev University Project website: http://international.wisc.edu/nuproject/

The University of Wisconsin–Madison recently moved into the third phase of a consulting agreement with Nazarbayev University (NU) in Astana, Kazakhstan, with a goal of fostering more faculty and staff collaborations between the two universities.

UW–Madison is among a group of leading institutions enlisted in an ambitious effort to create a world-class, English-language, research institution designed to serve Kazakhstani students in their home country. Previously, the Kazakhstan government had supported thousands of students in their studies outside of the country.

Nazarbayev University represents a bold and innovative experiment in higher education. Its leaders have committed to integrating the best of international research and education practice into Kazakhstan’s educational system. Toward this goal, the university has partnered with several foreign institutions, including University College London and such leading U.S. universities as Carnegie-Mellon, Harvard and Duke.

In March 2010, NU signed a contract with UW–Madison to conduct a feasibility study and make recommendations for the structure and curriculum of NU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). During the winter of 2011, about a dozen UW–Madison faculty and staff worked with NU administrators to develop proposals for an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum, the development of the library’s collection, and facilities and support services.

The UW–Madison team has based its work on the idea that a liberal arts education plays a critical role in developing creativity and innovation. Through the liberal arts, young people acquire the communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills that are essential for success in today’s world.

NU opened in the fall of 2011 with 500 Kazakhstani undergraduates enrolled in courses in three schools—SHSS, Engineering, and Science and Technology—each developed with assistance from a foreign institution. By this time, NU had hired 15 Western-trained faculty to teach courses in SHSS.

Meanwhile, the UW–Madison team had moved into the second phase of the project. Over much of the 2011-12 academic year, the team of faculty and academic staff developed recommendations to help NU refine its curriculum and hiring plans and to address needs in such areas as registrar and admissions procedures, co-curricular activities, and library development.

Under the third consulting agreement with NU, the UW–Madison team is focusing on language instruction, support of language learning, quality assurance and assessment, professional development, library development, and collaboration and exchanges of faculty and staff between the two institutions.

“This project is an example of horizontal, peer-to-peer consulting,” says Yoshiko Herrera, professor in UW–Madison’s Department of Political Science and director of the Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia (CREECA). Herrera is the faculty principal investigator for the NU project.

“Rather than offering general expertise from above, we seek to link faculty and academic staff from UW–Madison with their professional counterparts at NU. In doing so we are expanding professional development opportunities for UW–Madison faculty and staff and at the same time providing valuable professional expertise to NU faculty and staff.”

Programs of study in SHSS include economics, international relations/political science, anthropology and sociology, world languages and literature, and history. SHSS now has approximately 35 faculty teaching an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum, which includes some courses offered to students across the university. NU currently has approximately 1,000 freshman and sophomores enrolled.

Questions about the project may be directed to Herrera, project coordinator Virginia Martin or project manager Cynthia Williams.

By Kerry G. Hill