VCU Hosts Kazakh Delegation through Open World Program
By Brittany Keegan
The VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, the VCU Global Education Office, and the VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture recently hosted a delegation of officials from Kazakhstan from January 24 – February 9. The visit was administered through the Open World Program.
The mission of the Open World Program is to “introduce rising leaders of emerging countries to the importance of legislative functions in creating and sustaining democracies . . . through the introduction of young foreign leaders to the American system of participatory democracy and accountable governance at every level: federal, state, and local.” Established in 1999 as a pilot project of the Library of Congress, it gives emerging Eurasian leaders a firsthand experience with America’s democratic system through visits to communities and local governments across the country.
The VCU delegation included:
- Aidar Sadyrbayev, Deputy Akim, Akimat of Semey City
- Batyr Abdrakhayev, Deputy Akim, Akimat of Satpayey City
- Mereke Myrzabekova, Head of Unit, Internal Policy, Zhezkazgan City
- Mira Kazbekova, Deputy Akim, Kyzlorda City
- Rustam Alpysbayev, Department Head, Internal Policy, Almaty Oblast
- Aigul Zholdasbayeva (Program Facilitator), Cultural Assistant, US Embassy, Kazakhstan Republic
Jordan Stewart, Legislative Liaison at the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy, coordinated the delegates’ academic curriculum. This included visits to the Senate Gallery, as well as meetings with the Freedom of Information Act Council executive director, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts executive director, the Richmond City Mayor's office, a senior vice president from McGuire Woods Consulting, and a member of Red Maverick Media.
“The Open World Program places a focus on mutual learning,” said Stewart, “Through the academic curriculum, as well as through interactions and conversations, delegates and community members are able to learn from one another. VCU has hosted delegates through the Open World Program in the past, and it’s always a great experience.”
During their visit, delegates were also provided the opportunity to give a presentation on professional and cultural aspects of their life to their colleagues and to the community at large.
“By hosting these delegates, VCU is building connections between our school, our community, and our world,” said Robyn McDougle, Ph.D., Director of the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy, “Their visit provides a wonderful experience for members of our community to learn about Kazakh culture and governmental practices. With Richmond being the state capital, it also gives these high-ranking government officials the opportunity to learn about American government at the state and local levels. It’s an enriching experience for all.”