$15-Million Endowment for American U.-Central Asia, in Kyrgyzstan

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri Apr 15 12:26:41 UTC 2005

>>From the Chronicle of Higher Education

Friday, April 15, 2005

Indiana U. to Manage New $15-Million Endowment for American U.-Central
Asia, in Kyrgyzstan


Indiana University has agreed to manage a new $15-million endowment for
American University-Central Asia. The institution, located in Bishkek, the
capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, is considered the
only genuinely American-style higher-education institution in the vast,
impoverished region of Central Asia. The endowment comes from a
$10-million donation from the United States Agency for International
Development, a government agency, and a $5-million gift from the Open
Society Institute, a nonprofit organization of the Hungarian-American
financier and philanthropist George Soros.

American University-Central Asia, a nonprofit, tuition-charging
institution with 1,100 students, was started in 1993 under a different
name -- Kyrgyz-American School -- by a group of faculty members in social
sciences and languages from Kyrgyzstan's main state institution. They felt
that the country's higher-education system was not making significant
reforms. For the past six years, Indiana University has been the
institution's main American mentor. About 40 Indiana faculty members and
administrators have traveled to the mountainous country to help develop
the young institution. An equal number of the Kyrgyz institution's faculty
members have enrolled in graduate programs at Indiana.

The two donors wanted an American institution to manage the endowment, at
least for the first five years, and the Central Asian university had no
objections. "The banking system in that part of the world is, to put it
mildly, not very developed," said R. Scott Horton, a lawyer in New York
and a founding trustee of American University-Central Asia. The Indiana
University Foundation will invest the endowment, and Indiana University
will oversee the disbursement and use of earnings to the Central Asian
institution. "Given our long relationship with American University-Central
Asia," said Charles B. Reafsnyder, Indiana's executive associate dean for
international programs, "it made sense for them to come to us."

American University-Central Asia's mission is to introduce an
American-style approach to education and to promote democracy, civil
society, and a free market in Central Asia, where nondemocratic regimes
have lived on long after the end of the Soviet Union. By chance, the
Kyrgyz university's Board of Trustees was meeting during last month's
popular uprising that forced from power the country's long-reigning
president, Askar Akayev. The trustees met in the university's main
building, the former Communist Party headquarters, located on Bishkek's
main square. Several tens of thousands of chanting demonstrators
confronted police officers and soldiers on the square. The security forces
eventually sided with the demonstrators and melted away, allowing
protesters to swarm into the government house, commonly known as the White
House, on the other side of the square.

"Someone said demonstrators had taken over the White House," said Mr.
Horton. "I said, No, that's not possible. But then we saw on television
that it was true." Mr. Horton said that both the former and the current
governments have supported the university.


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