October 21, 2013
Lilya Gafiatullina was thrilled when she learned that she and five of her colleagues at Bashkir State University in Russia would have the opportunity to visit Northampton Community College and neighboring colleges to learn about educational practices in the United States.
She had only one concern. Would she starve? "Our image is that all you eat are hot dogs and hamburgers," she said with a chuckle, "but you have good food. Lots of variety and lots of greens."
That wasn't the only thing that impressed Gafiatullina and the other administrators from Bashkir State during a ten-day stay that included living with American families, meeting with educators from East Stroudsburg University, Lehigh University and Moravian College and with Congressman Charlie Dent, sightseeing in Washington, DC, and New York City, and (of course!) lunch in NCC's now world-renowned restaurant, Hampton Winds, and shopping at SteelStacks and at the college "gift shop" (aka the bookstore).
Some of the things they were most eager to learn about were career services, teaching techniques, online learning and residence halls.
"It is new for universities in Russia to help graduates find jobs," said Gafiatullina, the head of the career guidance center at Bashkir State. She and her colleagues got to see a career fair at East Stroudsburg and to talk with members of the career services staff at Northampton.
They were fascinated to see "that you are monitoring your graduates to see how they are doing afterwards," said Ildus Sharafullin, the deputy director of the Institute of Physics and Technology. "That is just beginning to be done in Russia," he said.
Sharafullin also commented on how practical education is at Northampton. "We really like that," he said.
What else made a big impression? The caliber of the technical equipment available to students and faculty, and the comfortable furniture in the library! "Everything is done to make students feel comfortable," the visitors remarked.
"But most important is you are friendly people who answered all our questions," said Aynur Raufovich Khaybullin, the deputy director of the Office of Academic Affairs and Instructional Technology at Bashkir State. "We are very grateful to the international department for organizing the meetings."
The educators' visit was made possible through a grand from Open World Leadership Center, an organization established by Congress to enhance understanding and capabilities for cooperation between the United States and the countries of Eurasia by developing a network of leaders in the region who have gained significant, firsthand exposure to America's democratic, accountable government and its free-market system.
Discussions have already begun about expanding educational exchanges between Bashkir State and Northampton Community College to include students as well as faculty and staff.
Founded in 1909, Bashkir is the oldest higher educational institution in the Republic of Bashkortostan in southeast Russia. Like Northampton, it offers a wide variety of majors.
The university's care for its students and faculty also seems to be similar to Northampton's. Bashkir's website says: "Every new generation of students and teachers contributes something to the life of the University and new bright names are constantly discovered, thanks to which the history of the University is getting richer with every passing year. And this is how it should be for Bashkir State University is a significant period in the life of every student and employee."
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