Photo essay about the project at UBC

A short photo-essay is now on UBC’s Vice Provost International website, with images, quotes from participants and brief descriptions of goals and accomplishments. See From the ground up: helping build a new university’s undergrad program in Central Asia.

Also, all 22 courses produced as part of this project are available for use in whole or in part by anyone at UBC’s two campuses. See our course list page for summaries of each. Please contact the Department of EOAS or Geography if you are interested in seeing any of this material.

Congratulations to the first class of graduates!

The first graduating Class, UCA, Khorog Tajikistan
The first graduating class celebrate graduation at the UCA Khorog Campus.

Congratulations to the students, and all who have made possible this graduation of the first class from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Central Asia. See a description of this historic celebration including links to recorded speeches, and a photo gallery of the event.

Read a short reflection from one of the first Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates here.

See the address by the Chancellor His Highness the Aga Khan at the first Convocation of the University of Central Asia (11:14 mins).

For those interested in the research and academic activities at UCA, see all public lectures given at UCA via the University’s YouTube channel.

End of 2019

Courses are largely complete, with just a few now getting a few minor adjustments based on reviews and updates to assessments.

This has been a surprisingly challenging project to complete for various reasons, and one day it would be rather interesting to compare experiences among the various partners who developed degree programs.

For those interested, here are slides from a 1/2hour “casual” presentation given at the UBC International Mountain Day Celebration, December, 11th 2019. 10.00am-1.00pm in the Liu Institute, UBC. Link.

Nearing completion

See for an introduction to the EES curriculum and course development project.

As of mid August, 2019, courses to be taught in September have been delivered to our collecting site, and remaining courses are nearly complete. All courses have fully developed “extended syllabi” with detailed course calendars summarizing lesson flow for the whole course. A few courses will be a few weeks later than originally planned – for various reasons.

We thank all reviewers for their constructive feedback and their patience as delivery schedules “evolved” over the last 6 months. We also wish new UCA faculty very best wishes for a successful term teaching, and look forward to engaging with them to support their first term teaching these courses.

Our Student Contributors

Our four undergraduate academic assistants, Fatima, Qingyang, Iram, and Akash at UBC have finished their work on our project. Congratulations!

They have contributed by carrying out background research for course developers, researching and generating case histories, and contributing to this blog. They have also reflected on their roles as student contributors to our project and we deeply appreciate their energy and enthusiasm. Please see the student contributor page for their reflections on our project.


UCA Khorog Inauguration, and a Brief Report on UBC’s visit to Kyrgyz Republic and WMF2018.

UCA Khorog Inauguration

The momentous occasion of the inauguration of the Khorog campus of UCA by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, is summarized in this UCA video (4:22 mins): .

Some highlights from the visit to the Kyrgyz Republic.

Fatima Mannapbekova, one of our research assistants, and Dr. Arthur Gill Green, our GIS course developer, attended the WMF2018 Conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic last October.

  • They met with UCA faculty and MSRI staff to discuss project deadlines, goals of the trip, and local culture’s impact on students’ learning expectations and behaviours, which seems very symptomatic.
  • Gill met a possible GIS instructor at UCA and they agree that the open source software and internal data sets from research institutions work best for students.
  • They talked with UCA students about their desire to learn GIS. As students are very enthusiastic and seemingly very resourceful, aspiring to pursue careers that make use of GIS, Gill identified “professionalism” as a new addition to overall learning outcomes. He is also considering integrating a portfolio component to the learning assessment which students will be able to show to future employers.
  • Gill with five other conference attendees visited the Naryn campus. The overall goal was to see and learn about the quality of the facilities, how students were living, how were students doing in the academic programs, were there lessons learned from the delivery of other courses.  and the general context within the community.
UCA’s Naryn campus, next to Naryn river.

Some highlights from the WMF2018 conference:

  • The first day of the conference was set to coincide with the International Snow Leopard Day to emphasize how this keystone species is an indicator for the sustainability of mountains throughout the region from the Himalayas to the Altai.
  • The conference was split into four thematic tracks. Each track was given a separate room. Fatima spent most of her time in Track 3.
    • Climate Change Affecting Water and Energy in Mountain Areas,
    • Poverty, Food Systems and Agrobiodiversity,
    • Resilience & Transformation in Mountain Communities and Ecosystems,
    • Investing in Mountains – Securing the Future.
  • Gill and Fatima were both excited to meet some of the global leaders in the WMF meeting.
  • Fatima represented the UBC-UCA curriculum development partnership by presenting a poster about the project. This provided a focus to clearly explained to people the goal and components of the Earth and Environmental Sciences B.Sc. degree being developed for UCA.
  • Talking with student volunteers during breaks was particularly rewarding. For example, they discussed gender imbalance in the EES program with majority boys. Nevertheless, both boys and girls expressed genuine interests for the subject and the importance for them to be studying this degree. Students and faculty recognize that local people (including parents of current and prospective students) seem to be unaware of the content of the program and the career potentials associated with the Earth and Environmental Sciences degree, which may put pressures on students who decided to pursue this degree.
  • While there was a wide range of topics that had varying levels of quality regarding evidence and research, people at the conference often spoke of the beauty of mountains and their own identity in relation to mountains. Both Gill and Fatima found this “personal relationship” fascinating and important. Gill mentioned that talking about identity and community centered on a natural feature is rare in academic conferences on environmental issues.
  • The conference was very policy focused on generating a “Call for Mountains” declaration.
  • Both UBC delegates agreed that the most interesting presentation was Sonam Wangchuk – from Students’ Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) – presented on the Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh initiative in the trans-Himalayan desert of northern India, which has pioneered an alternative education system suited to mountain culture and ecosystem. Fatima was able to talk with Mr. Wangchuk in depth. Gill traveled with him to Naryn and discussed the UBC/UCA partnership. While interested, it is clear that intra-region collaborations are of most interest, rather than interactions with European or North American organizations.
At the WMF2018 conference, Bishkek, October 2018. Standing: Marc Foggin (MSRI), Gill (UBC); Sitting: Fatima (UBC), Christian Hergarten (MSRI)

(Post authored by Qingyang Liu.)

Visit to Tajikistan for geology course development.

October 8 – 19, 2019.

Ozlem is building two courses; Geochemistry and Sedimentology and Hydrocarbon Resources. A productive 10 day trip was made in October 2018 to gain some understanding of mountains, rocks, faculty, students, administrators, affiliated organizations and different cities in Tajikistan. This was a busy visit with many goals accomplished, especially a greater appreciation for the landscape, people and academic setting of UCA’s Khorog campus.

  • Oct 7 – Oct  9: Travel Vancouver -> Toronto -> Istanbul -> Dushanbe, then on to Khorog.
  • Oct 9 –  10: introductory meetings with UCA faculty, staff. Also meetings with Khorog State University and AKAH (Aga Khan Agency for Habitat). It is wonderful to have Prof. David Rodgers at Khorog, helping establish geology teaching and learning opportunities for classes, labs and field experiences. See photos and reflections on time in Tajikistan here on his project blog.
  • Oct 11: Road-trip to explore geology close the university. We observed rock lithology and structures and examined locations on the river that may be suitable for field work for geoscience courses. We also went to Barsem Village, scene of a major debris flow disaster in May, 2015.
  • Oct 12 – 14:  Road-trip along Pamir Highway onto the high Pamir plateau as far as Murgab (approximately 5hrs of driving time one-way). See some wonderful photos of the region by David Rodgers. Gained an appreciation for the landscapes, collected rock samples and observed the larger-scale geological features of the area. Meeting with locals to discuss potential for having students carry out field studies in the area. Also talked about how geoscience graduates may contribute to community and regional development. Returned to Khorog before end of October 14th.
  • Oct 14  After return to Khorog, we meet with Dean Dianna Pauna, considered planning and requirements for geoscience teaching labs, attended classes, met with students, and discussed teaching and curriculum with science lecturer, Maqsad Suriev, and other instructors.
  • Oct 15 – 16: mostly travel between Khorog and Dushanbe
  • Oct 18:  Meetings with AKAH and Geological survey in Dushanbe to discuss arrangements necessary for a formal partnership between UCA and AKAH that will support exchange of information for learning at UCA.

A special thanks go out to everyone at UCA who were so welcoming and supportive in making this visit productive and enjoyable.

October 2018, UBC visits to Central Asia

First – some project highlights to date are summarized here.

Also, several course developers are visiting UCA this month. One is spending two weeks in Khorog, collaborating with Dr. David Rodgers to work on geology curriculum and establish field sites for learning about rocks, structures and landforms at sites around Khorog.

Geoscience in Tajikistan (photo D. Rodgers)
Geoscience in Tajikistan (photo D. Rodgers)

Two of our team are attending the WMF2018 conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

We are excited to be presenting at this conference. Fatima Mannapbekova, one of our research assistants, will present a poster entitled Engaging in Sustainability: A New Mountain-Focused BSc. Degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences for the University of Central Asia, by Fatima Mannapbekova, Tara Holland, Francis Jones.  See the PDF of this poster here.

Finally – D. Rodgers (professor at Idaho State, serving as visiting professor at UCA’s Khorog campus, on Fullbright funding) has a lovely blog with regular reflections and photographs documenting is activities. See it at

September – news from UCA.

Several important updates include:

  1. On September 14, 2018, President Rahmon inaugurated the first regional university in Tajikistan, the University of Central Asia’s Khorog campus. Click For more details at UCA’s news feed, click here and  here.
  2. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan and the University of Central Asia (UCA) took a key step forward by signing an Agree of Cooperation. Click the link for more details.
  3. New and existing faculty participated in a faculty orientation workshop, with on-site contributions and workshops led by Linda Strubbe, the UBC team member who built the prerequisite physics course. See photos here and here.
  4. Starting this September, students will taking the first 3 of UBC’s 22-course contribution, in preparation for Earth and Environmental Sciences courses that begin September 2019.
  5. Co-op education is now underway at UCA. This is an innovation for Central Asia, and a key component of undergraduate students’ experiences as they develop academic and work-related capabilities. See details here.
  6. Dr. David Rodgers, geology professor at Idaho State University, is now in Khorog, contributing some of his sabbatical leave to help teach at UCA and to help develop the geoscience component of their EES degree. This is going to be an awesome collaboration that will significantly enhance their degree program, especially the geoscience courses.

For more news and announcements, see the UCA main web page at, and browse for “news”, “media”, and “announcements”.

“Training”, or course transfer meetings

How will courses developed at UBC be “transferred” to the actual UCA instructors? May 23-31, 2018, three UCA instructors visited UBC to interface with developers of the three prerequisite courses that will be taught for the first time in September 2018. This was a busy, but enjoyable opportunity to build collegial relationships between UBC and UCA generally, and to help UCA instructors take ownership of courses they will teach.

UCA visitors explore the UBC campus.

Here are the types of activities we engaged in for the week of “training”. A complete itinerary can be seen on a separate page.

  • Attend free UBC professional development workshops about teaching and learning (much appreciated). Examples here and here.
  • Observe UBC classes at prerequisite level (also much appreciated).
    • Summer term means classes are double length compared to normal terms, which is consistent with some UCA scheduling. However, most are “large enrollment” (~150-250 students).
    • For senior courses, this will not likely be possible outside of fall or spring terms, since UBC’s summer courses tend to focus on prerequisite capabilities (math, etc.)
  • Meet UBC instructors or Science Education Specialists to discuss specific teaching strategies, pedagogies, or subject-specific issues (eg. math, chemistry, etc.) (Well worth while).
  • Whole-group meetings to discuss curriculum, etc. Two, possibly three of these are probably adequate.
  • One-on-one meetings with instructors and course developers. These are the most important and specific component of ‘training’.
  • Private “study time” to review course materials before and after one-on-one discussions. Important to leave appropriate ½ day time slots in the first and second “thirds” of the visit.
  • Social opportunities. Important; lunches are relaxed, 2-3 dinners involving the whole team, or at least sub-sets of the team. One evening event at a team-member’s home was also much appreciated.
  • Down time: not study time (see above). A slow first 24hrs is recommended after long distance traveling. Two or three ½ days to see some of Vancouver worth while, and contribute to efficient, well-motivated training sessions.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet