UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Law in University Park expands its global outreach to international students each year. With established footholds in China, Colombia, and India, Penn State Law has recently garnered the interest of students from another country: Uzbekistan. The LL.M. program has 23 Uzbekistan students enrolled in the Class of 2023. This class of 150 total students represents 35 countries, with Uzbekistan having the largest representation.
“Our LL.M. students from Uzbekistan are hardworking and passionate about their education and experience at Penn State Law. We’re excited to welcome these students into our program,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh distinguished faculty scholar, and professor of law.
The Uzbekistan students attending Penn State Law represent all kinds of backgrounds and experience. Stephen Barnes, assistant dean of graduate and international programs explained that some Uzbek students are second and third generation lawyers, while others are the first generation to attend university. The students come from all over the country, including large urban areas like Tashkent and Sammarkand, as well as small villages.
Class of 2022 alumni with incoming students.
Starting the Journey
The road to gaining a large Uzbekistan presence at Penn State Law started in 2019. The Uzbekistan First Secretary to the United States invited Penn State Law to present at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) in Tashkent in October 2019. Barnes represented Penn State Law.
According to Barnes, Uzbekistan students expressed interest in Penn State Law for its academics, engagement with professors, great campus life, and to experience American culture in Happy Valley. Initial engagements resulted in enrolling 10 students from Tashkent State University Law School (TSUL), UWED, and Westminster University.
“These 10 pioneering Uzbek students—or, as I call them, our international student ambassadors—left a distinct impression upon the Penn State Law community. Our ambassadors were professors, civil servants, lawyers, and new law school graduates. Two have remained in the United States to pursue their S.J.D. degrees; the rest returned to Uzbekistan in law firms, universities, and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice,” said Barnes.
Gamletbek Kadirov, one of the first Uzbekistan ambassadors at Penn State Law, graduated in 2022, and is now the head of Lexionis, a law firm in Uzbekistan. “I felt myself as a part of family or even something huge from my first day of being there,” he said. “I was stunned by the professionalism and patience of faculty to work with students. There was neither a moment nor a second I felt myself foreigner or stranger, and for this I am grateful to all of them,” he added. He said his most cherished memory was seeing his name on the screen at the commencement ceremony.
Gamletbek Kadirov (front row, second from left) holds the Uzbekistan flag with fellow peers.
Penn State Law’s connection to Uzbekistan continues to open doors for students and faculty. Professor Dr. Islambek Rustambekov, acting-rector of TSUL and former vice-rector of academic affairs at TSUL said, “These three years were fruitful in the life of both law schools, because we had an opportunity to send TSUL graduates to study at Penn State Law, deepen their legal education and prepare for bar exams, which made and is still making them dual legal practitioners. Moreover, we discussed and agreed on several courses to be taught by Penn State Law professors at TSUL.
“Both law schools understand that this is a huge benefit for the whole legal community, because alumni are presented as ambassadors of both TSUL and Penn State Law when they get their positions at global law firms, governmental positions, academic fields, et cetera,” he continued.
Rustambekov also mentioned that he spoke with an LL.M graduate from the Class of 2022 about her successful time at Penn State Law. “Recently, I had a conversation with Ms. Shakhzoda Tuychieva, who was one of the first Uzbek LL.M students and scholarship holders at Penn State Law. She responded that it was a delightful time engaging in a new environment with people from around the globe,” he said.
“Archimedes said, ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.’ Penn State Law gave me a place to stand, so I moved my own earth and found my path,” said Tuychieva, S.J.D Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a Teaching Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh University Center for International Studies.
Uzbekistan students gather with classmates from neighboring countries in Central Asia.
“Being one of the Uzbek ambassadors at Penn State Law shaped and strengthened my cultural dignity, but also introduced me to the diversity of other national backgrounds from more than 45 countries and nations. I would say that support is the main word describing not only international students but also faculty at Penn State Law,” she said.
She explained that because of Penn State Law, she attended Stockholm Summer School, where she studied global health law and the interconnection between politics and international law. As Tuychieva applied to the S.J.D. program, she received support and guidance from LL.M. Class of 2018 alumnus Ylli Dautaj.
The Class of 2023 and Beyond
Farzin Vahidov is the class-elected representative of the LL.M. Class of 2023. He attended UWED in Uzbekistan. He reflected on his initial reservations about starting law school in another country, but how that quickly changed once he arrived in University Park. He said, “Before arriving in University Park, I was a little bit concerned about being far from home, family, and cultural differences that could make my experience at Penn State Law difficult. However, we were warmly welcomed by the community of University Park, and Penn State Law particularly. I have never felt homesick because I have met a lot of people who became my family here. The University Park community helped me to adjust to a new experience, lifestyle, and culture.”
After he graduates, Vahidov can seek opportunities as a teacher in the UWED Law Department or in Uzbekistan state courts. His Penn State Law degree also makes him eligible to sit for the bar exam or work as a paralegal in the U.S.
Students from Uzbekistan hold flag.
As students have graduated from the LL.M. program and started their careers, some have stayed in touch with their professors in Uzbekistan. Gulnoza Ismailova, vice-rector for science and innovation at UWED said, “Students from Uzbekistan who graduated from Penn State Law’s LL.M. program have an immense feeling of gratitude. They cherish all the knowledge, skills, and experience during the program, as well as promote and recommend the program to other law students in Uzbekistan.”
Since the initial meetings in 2019, Uzbekistan students’ interest in Penn State Law continues to grow as they send in more applications. Barnes said that as of mid-December 2022, the program has received more than 100 Uzbek applications to the LL.M. program for 2023-2024.