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Updates

 

May 17th, 2020

Dear AUCA Community,
 
I know all of you are busy completing requirements for the spring semester, but I want to make a few announcements.
 
1) Graduation: After extensive consultation between the Student Life Office and graduating seniors, we have decided not to hold a virtual graduation in two weeks as scheduled. The overwhelming preference from seniors was to wait until we can hold a live graduation on the AUCA campus ideally in late August. Today, we do not know when it will be possible to hold a live graduation as it is dependent on when the Kyrgyz government relaxes conditions to allow for such an event. The event itself will also not follow the usual script of traditional AUCA graduations. For one, there will be more of an on-line aspect to it simply because all graduating seniors will not be able to attend in person, but we want to ensure that all students have their graduation "moment" so to speak, even if it is featuring them on-line on the big screen at the moment when their name is called. We will be innovative, and I promise it will also be fun. Please share ideas you may have about graduation format with the Student Life Office.
 
2) Final Tuition Payment: As you recall, in late March we extended the deadline for the final tuition payment for freshman, sophomores, and juniors to 15 days after the quarantine in Kyrgyzstan is lifted, and graduating seniors were given the deadline of May 20th. The new policy is that the final tuition payment that was due on April 1st is now due 15 days after the quarantine is lifted for all students, including graduating seniors. Note that graduating seniors must complete their tuition payment in order to receive their diplomas.
 
3) Thank you: I want to take a moment to thank all students, faculty and staff for their heroic efforts to transition to on-line learning for the final 7 weeks of the Spring semester. I know this entailed more work for all students, faculty, and staff to quickly adjust modes of teaching as well as of management of the University. As you know, this is my first year as President of AUCA, and while a year ago I did not fully know what to expect, obviously neither I nor anybody had any idea of how our year would be disrupted by COVID-19. It was a learning experience for all of us, and we all did the best we could to maintain a high quality teaching environment for our student body. Obviously it was not perfect, but from this experience, I know we will all do better if forced to do so again. And I also know that when we can return to live teaching in our building, many faculty and departments will integrate more features of on-line learning they have found useful to continue to provide the best education possible in a rapidly changing and less predictable world..
 
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank you all for all the support you have given me in this first year at AUCA. I have learned a tremendous amount about this job, and am confident that my performance will continue to improve thanks to your support, advice, and simply more experience on the job.
 
We will continue to regularly update you with information about graduation plans as well as plans for the next academic year. We are definitely hoping we can return the building as soon as possible, but we are also taking measures to improve our on-line capabilities over the summer if we are not allowed to open our doors in September. In the meantime, let me express to all my most heartfelt wishes for your health, happiness, and prosperity!
 
Andy Kuchins
 

 

 

May 9th, 2020

I want to send to all of the AUCA community my best wishes on the 75th Anniversary of Victory Day, May 9th, 1945. As an historian, I well know the tremendous sacrifices made by the citizens of the 12 Republics of the USSR to defeat Nazi Germany. I know that the alliance of the USSR, USA, and Great Britain was the core of the partnership for victory. I know this as an American as my father fought the Japanese for four years in the South Pacific. This is a global victory that will never be forgotten, and the tremendous losses from World War II will continue to teach us the lesson that war is the worst option to any conflict.

Today we are fighting another global foe, COVID-19. May all countries and peoples of the world work together to bring us a victory in this battle as soon as possible.

 

With my best wishes,

Andy Kuchins

 

 

April 17th, 2020

Dear AUCA full-time staff and faculty,

It is with increasing distress that we watch the rapid spread of people infected with the novel coronavirus all over the world. At AUCA, naturally our attention is most focused on the progression of the disease in Kyrgyzstan. The health of most or our students, faculty, staff, and their families is in growing danger.

Simultaneously, the pandemic has caused a major global economic crisis. As a young market democracy, the Kyrgyz Republic is making major efforts to reduce the negative effects of the current dual crisis on the country’s population. The main resource in this difficult struggle is the people of Kyrgyzstan, its intelligent, patriotic, generous and empathetic citizens who understand that there cannot be a trade-off between the number of those who suffer from the disease and the number of those who suffer from the economic downturn, and that only civic engagement and solidarity can bring us closer to victory over the disease and over poverty.

For more than 25 years, AUCA has been striving to impart scientific thinking skills and a sense of civic engagement and solidarity to its students. This is our unique trait and our strength. It is with deep regard for the progressive values of our university that the AUCA administration is constantly seeking opportunities to enhance the financial well-being of our faculty and staff. This is especially challenging now in such an unpredictable environment: how long will the pandemic endure; how deep will the economic losses be?

Like all institutions of higher learning, we are assiduously seeking to ease the strain of the crisis on our faculty and staff while safeguarding the longer term financial stability of the University. Congratulations to the AUCA’s administration that has taken all possible measures to prevent the spread of the infection on campus and in the dormitory, and it is continuing to do so. We are extremely grateful to our dedicated faculty and staff for their incredible efforts to organize the transition to online learning in the shortest possible time, including organizing trainings and consultations and making equipment and internet access available to those who needed it. Our psychologists and doctors are tirelessly counseling faculty, staff and students. Students have been granted grace periods for tuition fees, and entrance exams have been converted to an online format. AUCA is providing support to the Ministry of Education and Science with the daily filming of video lessons on our campus, which are then broadcast on national TV channels to schoolchildren all over the country. Open webinars are currently being prepared for those wishing to enhance their self-development and stress management skills during this period of isolation.

All these measures require great human and financial resources that AUCA is using in the interests of the university and the society in which—and for the sake of which—we live. This is the best example of civic responsibility that we can give to our students.

In order to provide additional support to our faculty and staff during this difficult time, and to mitigate the recent depreciation of the Kyrgyz som against dollar, the Board of Trustees and the AUCA administration have made the decision to pay a one-time bonus to all AUCA full-time staff and faculty in the amount of 30% of their monthly baseline salary. This bonus will be paid regardless of seniority. The relevant arrangements are currently being done by the Finance and Human Resources Offices in order for the bonus to be paid together with the regular salaries for April 2020.

The AUCA administration thanks all staff and faculty of our university for the tireless service and devotion to the values and ideals of our organization.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones!

 

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Kuchins, AUCA president

Chingiz Shamshiev, AUCA VP/COO

Nurgul Ukueva, AUCA VPAA

 

 

April 14

 

Message to AUCA community: Practicing Mental Hygiene during the Covid-19 Crisis

 Naturally, pandemics can lead to extreme stress and anxiety especially with a new disease that is not yet fully understood. This can lead to an acute Adjustment Disorder for which DSM-5 has diagnostic criteria, most importantly “Emotional or behavioral symptoms develop within three months after the onset of an identifiable stressor and the response is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor. There also must be significant impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.” In response the COVID-19 news coverage, we see not only anxiety and depressive features and conduct disturbances, but also cognitive distortions at global scale, an almost Collective Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, and psychotic features. Covid-19 could become endemic and recur regularly but this will also give us time to develop a treatment or a vaccine.

In the meantime, to fight effectively Covid-19 as a community, we all need a cleaner, better seeing mind. Here are four CALM actions we can all take to manage our fears:

Challenge cognitive distortions

Accept uncertainty

Limit exposure to media and seek sources of accurate information

Mindfulness

 

1) Challenge our anxiety-driven cognitive distortions (and distorted emotions and behaviors)

 Anxiety can easily minimize (denial) or catastrophize (exaggeration) reality. We may overestimate the possibility of terrible outcomes, jump immediately to worst-case scenarios, and treat every negative thought as if it were fact.  These irrational, pessimistic attitudes are known as cognitive distortions. In order to break these toxic thinking patterns, we need to first to identify our frightening thoughts. Then, instead of viewing these thoughts as facts, we need to treat them as hypotheses and test them out. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) call this “Socratic challenging”. As we examine and challenge our fears, we will return to a more balanced perspective. Questions:

  • What’s the evidence that this thought of mine is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen?
  • If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  • Is the thought helpful? How will panicking about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to reassure a friend who has the same worry?

We also need to be aware of how others affect us as well as how we affect others.

Ways to practice CPT:

Keep a Fear Diary for two weeks or so. See attached 5-column; print out copies and use them daily. Every time you start to worry, jot down the thought and what triggered it.   Overtime, you’ll start to see patterns. Challenge your distortions and then check on your level of anxiety. You will see that fear dropping to manageable levels

 

2) Accept uncertainty

Our intolerance for uncertainty is a Petri dish for anxiety and worry. Worrying is an ineffective psychological mechanism attempting to predict the future and control dire outcomes. Not only that this doesn’t work, but it will also keep us from finding effective solutions. To manage this, we need to rein in our need for certainty and immediate answers, accept that future uncertainty is a part of today’s situation, and refocus on the present so we can better manage our anxieties.

 

3) Limiting exposure to graphic news stories and get accurate information from credible sources such as

WHO: Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV) (includes situation reports) at  https://ncov2019.live/data

CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html

Worldometer at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

 

4) Mindfulness. The over worrying about Covid-19 is over focused on the future - on what might happen and what we will do about it. The practice of mindfulness can help us break free of our worries by bringing our attention back to the present. In contrast to the previous CPT techniques of challenging our anxious thoughts (the so called “stuck points” in CPT) or postponing them to a worry period, this strategy is based on observing and then letting them go. It is very important to carry on with our lives and work. An interrupted daily life functioning is a major source of distress and a Pandora’s Box. In addition to social distancing we also need to adjust our functioning to remote modalities quite widely available. We also need to maintain a sense of community and belonging by staying closely in touch with family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Some internet sources provide distorted information on mindfulness. The following resources might help you to practice mindfulness. Mayo Clinic exercises for mindfulness: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356

Page on Mindfulness in Russian: http://realmindfulness.ru/2011/10/chto-takoe-mindfulness/

 

Please, take care of yourself,

Your Psychology Department

 

 

March 22

Dear AUCA Community,

First let me extend my best wishes to all for the Nooruz holiday. It is in challenging times like these that spending time with family and friends and getting away from work and other difficulties is all the more important for our happiness and emotional stability.

The Kyrgyz government declared and Emergency Situation throughout the Republic starting today, March 22nd. In principle this does not change policies regarding the University. Detailed memos to faculty, staff, and students regarding the ES will be distributed today. Please read them carefully.

Faculty and Staff have been working very hard this week to prepare for our transition to on-line learning on March 30th. There are both major software and hardware challenges to ensuring continuity of instruction for students and faculty. Important instructions for faculty on on-line learning have been already distributed. Training sessions for faculty on using online platforms will start on Monday. Students will receive detailed guidance shortly. Please look out for these and pay close attention; it will be very important for a successful conclusion to the spring semester. We are not adjusting the academic calendar, so you may plan accordingly.  You can send your feedback about on-line learning at dl_feedback@auca.kg

As always, I am available to hear your suggestions and concerns. The best way to reach me is kuchins_a@auca.kg. Write in Russian or English; my Kyrgyz needs work))

Again, all best wishes for the holiday weekend!

Andy Kuchins

 

March 18

Dear AUCA Community,

As you already know, according to the decision of the Security Council of the Kyrgyz Republic about the need of quarantine for schools and high educational institutions and the Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic #282/1 announced on March 14, 2020 AUCA will be quarantined starting March 16, 2020 for the next 3 (three) weeks. The Spring Break for students is extended till March 28, 2020.

Students, faculty and staff members already received official emails from AUCA administration with the basic guidelines and regulations which have official status. You also can find emergency contacts in the letters we sent to you. The messages I post here are my personal messages which do not cancel or replace the ones you receive through your AUCA emails.

This page was created to keep the AUCA community up to date on news about University operations, announcements and policies of the Kyrgyz government, and suggestions for maintaining personal and family health.

First of all, we would like to ask you to get acquainted with the medical prescriptions and rules regulating movement of people placed in the section “Prevention”. More detailed instructions for students, faculty and staff are presented in the relevant sections of the webpage. We will keep you updated as much as best we can.

We are working on transferring classes to distance learning mode after the Spring Break starting March 30th. This requires a great deal of work on the part of our IT staff, the office of VP/ COO, the office of the VPAA, and faculty leadership. It is essential that all faculty and students follow closely the information circulated regarding trainings for on-line teaching. Maintaining continuity of instruction is the University’s most pressing task at the moment, and success will require all of us working closely together.

Just today the first three cases of coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan were announced in the Jalal Abad region. I am personally locked out of Kyrgyzstan and located in Moscow with my wife Lilia at her mother’s apartment. My travel plans were changing every day, and where I ended up felt like the when the music stopped in the child’s game musical chairs. If the Kyrgyz travel ban on foreigners had been announced one day later, I would be in Bishkek, but without my wife. Such is life in these uncertain and disruptive times)). I assure you, however, I am in touch 24/7 with staff, faculty, and students regarding management of the University as smoothly as possible, and I am very impressed with the rapid and effective response to a changing environment.

Thank you very much for your cooperation. This is an extraordinarily difficult time, and collectively we will need to learn on a day-to-day basis on how this works, so it is essential that we have very open lines of communication to make useful modifications as the semester goes on. If you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me at kuchins_a@auca.kg.

With best wishes,

President Kuchins

 

 

American University of Central Asia
7/6 Aaly Tokombaev Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic 720060

Tel.: +996 (312) 915000 + Еxt.
Fax: +996 (312) 915 028