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Dr. Andrew Kuchins, President of the American University of Central Asia, addresses his welcome video to the AUCA community
July 5, 2019
It is such an honor for me to serve as President of AUCA. This institution since its initial roots were planted at the KAF 25 years ago has developed and grown, almost miraculously into the leading University in Kyrgyzstan and perhaps in all of Central Asia. And it is certainly the most internationally diverse from the standpoint of student body and faculty. We have now graduated more than 4000 students who are rapidly taking leadership positions in business, education, media, civil society and other sectors throughout Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, and the world. I have inherited a strong institution with excellent prospects for further growth in learning opportunities, research, and engagement with society and the world. What could be more personally satisfying than contributing to the education of citizens of a young country in a region of such rich cultural and historical achievement?
Many people ask me what my “vision” is for AUCA. At the moment I see it in three parts.The first is basically to continue to build on the vision of the founders of the school 25 years ago: establish an American-style liberal arts university in a region of the world where this does not exist. I had the privilege of attending Amherst College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States. The key tools I forged there that have served me a lifetime are critical thinking and written and oral expression skills that flow freely and logically, reflecting clear thinking. No matter what technical field or further specialization one develops over a career, they are built on a foundation of the ability to think clearly and critically and the capacity to express oneself in clear and compelling fashion. Clear and logical expression, oral or written, reflects clear thinking. When one is forced to write an essay or a speech, you quickly find out whether you really understand the material and concepts you aspire to master and convey.
It is virtually impossible to predict what kinds of technical skills will be required for jobs in such a rapidly changing world of technological advancement. But we can safely predict that strong skills of active reading, critical thinking, and self expression will always be in demand as these are at the heart of innovation and creativity.
The second part of the vision is the almost banal conclusion about what makes up great universities: great students and great faculty. Great sports teams, upscale dining halls and the like are nice extras, but they are hardly the foundation of great universities. This is where AUCA needs to continue the search for the resources to ensure that we are #1 in recruitment and retainment of the best faculty and the recruitment and graduation of the most gifted students.
The third goal, and the one that is more personal, is to strengthen AUCA’s place not only in Central Asia but in the wider world as a place for learning, research, and convening top experts on the most challenging issues we face in a globalizing world: climate change, sustainable development, issues around refugees, displaced peoples, and migration, the proliferation of trafficking of illegal goods from weapons to humans to drugs—I could list many others. I came from Georgetown University’s top-rated School of Foreign Studies to AUCA, and as an internationalist myself, I would like to develop much stronger and diversified course offerings and to promote research on international issues important for Kyrgyzstan and the region. Ideally, faculty and students would want to come to AUCA to teach and study because of our relative strengths on global challenges.
My work will have been successful if people say long into the feature, “Yeah, that guy, Andy Kuchins really made a big and positive difference for the AUCA institutionally and for its broader community.” Helping to make a difference in the education of young people in concert with all faculty and staff at AUCA—well, that is something I know I could feel unambiguously good about in my life.
Read more about the new president of AUCA here.
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