The University of Central Asia launched a four-week “Connecting to Your Discipline” (CYD) programme for preparatory year students in Naryn (Kyrgyzstan) and Khorog (Tajikistan) on May 6th. Each week, participants discovered a new discipline through a series of workshops, guest lectures, career panels, interactive activities and field trips, which helped them better understand their specialisations: Communications and Media, Computer Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Economics.
Communications & Media
UCA students learnt about communications, storytelling, media production, advertising, marketing, bias in the media, world media systems, and reporting from industry professionals. Workshops were facilitated by international specialists including Kamil Karamali, a multi-platform storyteller and News Reporter from Global News in Canada, and Farhan Umedaly, an award-winning filmmaker from VoVo Productions. During their sessions, students learnt about the process behind what goes into putting together a newscast, how to be critical thinkers when ingesting different forms of news, and how to challenge the validity of information in the digital age. Participants put their learning into practice during excursions to Mynbulak (Kyrgyzstan) and Roshtqala district (Tajikistan) where students practiced their filmmaking and interview skills, which resulted in the production of several short films.
Preparatory programme students in Naryn and Khorog discovered the field of Computer Science from facilitators Farhez Rayani, Lighting Technical Director, formerly at Pixar Animation Studios, and Sarah Hakani, Artist, Educator and Technologist at Girls Who Code. They received an introduction to computer science, coding, and animation. As part of their sessions, students used block-based code to create interactive games, which allow them to play against their computer, as well as create immersive art, music, and narrative animations. They also learnt about 2D and 3D animations and created stop motion animations.
During Economics week, students in Naryn and Khorog developed creative business ideas that could bring both environmental and social benefits to the towns of Naryn and Khorog. Through this process, students learnt how to build a brand tagline, create a sustainable competitive advantage, the importance of market positioning when developing business ideas, and financial models. Students pitched their ideas to a "Dragon's Den" style panel at the end of the week, and some business ideas included fruit bars, modern traditional clothes, and honey production businesses.
The facilitators in Naryn included Tracy Li, Business Analyst from Accelerate Prosperity Kyrgyzstan (an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network), and Dr. Alisher Aldashev, Professor of Economics at Satbayev University in Kazakhstan. In Khorog, facilitators included Dr. Aldashev, as well as Dr. Alykhan Nanji, General Internal Medicine specialist from Calgary (Canada).
Earth & Environmental Sciences
In Khorog, students learnt about hydrology, geology, ecology and hazard management from facilitators Peter Marty, Lecturer at the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences of Zurich University of Applied Sciences, and Dr. David Rodgers, Visiting Faculty in Earth and Environmental Sciences and Fulbright Scholar at UCA. Students looked at different case studies to assess issues such as the risk of flooding or earthquakes for a school building project, as well as theoretical knowledge in class. Students also gained experience in the field during excursions, such as to Barsem village, where they discussed the causes and challenges of the 2015 flood.
Students in Naryn learnt about hydrology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), mapping, ecosystem resilience, ecology, conservation, climate change and environmental systems in the Naryn region. Lectures were led by Peter Marty, Dr. Roy Sidle, Director of UCA’s Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Evgenii Shibkov, GIS Research Associate at MSRI, Amadeus DeKastle, Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development at AUCA, and Jarkyn Samanchina, Country Director at Fauna and Flora International.
"The past month has been an incredible experience. We learned interview techniques, filmed our own movie, coded, created our own cartoons and a digital map," said Romiz Abdullaev, UCA student from Dushanbe, Tajikistan. "This week we are learning about the field of economics, and are developing our own business ideas that could contribute to the development of Naryn. "Connecting to Your Discipline" gave me a clear idea of what my major is all about."