UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On Wednesday, January 11, Kazakhstan Minister of Science and Higher Education Sayasat Nurbek, Ph.D., along with a delegation, visited Penn State Law in University Park on a tour looking at select law schools in the United States, including Stanford and Harvard. One of the delegation members was Samgat Yermekbayev, head of the Project Office for Social Initiatives in the Office of the Vice-Prime Minister and Penn State Law LL.M. class of 2018 graduate, who aided in facilitating the visit.
Stephen Barnes, assistant dean of graduate and international programs, welcomed the delegation to Penn State Law. He remembered first meeting Yermekbayev in 2016 and his time as a student in the LL.M. program. “Samgat was a leader of the class, well-liked by all. And here we are, six years removed from our first meeting: an adviser to the Vice-Prime Minister and undertaking major, visible projects. He’s a member of the board of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, and is leading the Minister of Education’s delegation to his alma mater. It's amazing.”
The delegation included Aibolat Aibetbekov, deputy director of the Ministry of Higher Sciences and Education; Marat Sapargalieyv, first secretary at the Kazakhstan Embassy to the United States; and Ruslan Sakeyev, Bolashak representative to the United States in the Kazakhstan Embassy in Washington, D.C. The delegation attended several meetings at the University to discuss developing Penn State programs in Kazakhstan.
“Penn State Law’s international relationships provide more educational opportunities while extending our institutional outreach. We’re laying the groundwork for an exciting future,” 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.
Kazakhstan delegation tours Montague Law Library in Lewis Katz Building.
The delegation met with Barnes for a tour of the Lewis Katz Building and a luncheon with Penn State Law and Penn State School of International Affairs faculty members, Kazakh LL.M. students, and Kazakh students who are attending other colleges in Penn State University.
Alina Borodina, a student in the LL.M. class of 2023 from Kazakhstan, attended the luncheon. “The most exciting part of that day for me was when students asked questions, and the Minister gave detailed answers. The relationship between Penn State and Kazakhstan will benefit both parties, and most Kazakh students can have the opportunity to study at a world-famous university and get international connections,” she said.
Kazakhstan delegation with Kazakh students attending Penn State in Katz lobby.
Jud Mathews, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Penn State Law, and affiliate professor at the Penn State School of International Affairs, spoke with the Minister about the future of higher education. “I was impressed with the Minister’s dynamism and his global perspective. Carving out a new role for Kazakhstan in the complex ecosystem of global higher education is a big task, and he’s approaching it with energy, vision, and data-driven thinking,” he said.
Mathews added, “It’s very rewarding as an instructor to see students we have taught in University Park, like Samgat Yermekbayev, having a huge impact in Central Asia.”
Stephen Barnes (left) gives Sayasat Nurbek, Ph.D. a Penn State sweatshirt.
“Penn State, in my heart, is my second home,” Yermekbayev said. In 2021, he started the conversation about Penn State Law and Kazakhstan exploring future collaborations. Yermekbayev said the 2023 delegation’s visit was positive and that everyone was on the same page in their meetings. He’s looking forward to the future of Penn State programs reaching Kazakhstan and providing more Kazakh students with the opportunity to learn and understand what it means to be a part of Penn State.
Over the past 12 years, the LL.M. program at Penn State Law has had 26 Kazakhstan graduates. Many of these graduates are first generation lawyers and are filling positions in judicial offices, law firms, ministries, and universities. “A country’s citizens can make it better. If we increase Kazakh graduates of Penn State into the thousands, I think Kazakhstan will get better and better,” said Yermekbayev.