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NMSU partners with Mongolian university for research, student and faculty exchanges

New Mexico State University recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mongolian State University of Education, the first of its kind for the foreign institution.

College of Education professor Candace Kaye presents a scarf to Executive Vice President and Provost Wendy Wilkins and Dean Michael Morehead.
New Mexico State University professor of curriculum and instruction Candace Kaye, right, presents Executive Vice President and Provost Wendy Wilkins and College of Education Dean Michael Morehead with a traditional Mongolian ceremonial scarf during the college's opening program to symbolize the memorandum of understanding with Mongolian State University of Education. (Courtesy Photo)

The MOU with Mongolian State University of Education is based upon NMSU faculty member Candace Kaye's work as the 2010-2011 U.S. Fulbright Teaching and Research Scholar. During her year-long appointment, the College of Education associate professor of curriculum and instruction continued her studies on the impact of educational policies for young children's education in Mongolia.

"Mongolia and New Mexico are very similar in that they both have so much rural education to take into consideration. The MOU is very exciting for the two universities with dedication to supporting and achieving common goals," Kaye said.

Mongolia was once part of the former Soviet Union, with most higher education faculty in the field of education receiving their training in Russia, which shapes the philosophies and theories behind their teaching approaches and content. The partnership between the two universities means not just exploring changes in the classroom curriculum and environment for Mongolian teachers, but a change in philosophy as well.

One of the main goals of the MOU is to help initiate a change in Mongolia from a teacher-centered to a student-centered approach to education, while providing an introduction to Western thoughts and ideas.

To help them make this transition, NMSU will partner with MSUE in four main areas: exchange of students; exchange of faculty and administrative staff; collaborative research projects, workshops, symposiums, etc.; and exchange of academic research materials. An exchange of faculty will be the first step.

"This MOU is a cause for reflection. It will allow NMSU faculty the opportunity to examine familiar concepts with a different perspective," Kaye said.

During the College of Education's opening program in August, Kaye presented a scarf to Dean Michael Morehead to identify and honor the connection that has been created between the two universities. In the Mongolian culture, presenting a scarf to someone is considered an honor, and a blue scarf celebrates an occasion. The scarves also are decorated with symbols from Buddhism, another part of Mongolia's heritage.

Kaye's connection to Mongolia began nearly two decades ago, when she served from 1992-1994 as the U.S. Information Agency liaison between the U.S. embassies in Beijing and Ulaan Baatar, the capital of the Republic of Mongolia. Her work involved supporting Mongolian citizens in their travel as country representatives to the U.S. to investigate specific processes within a democracy such as free press, elections and development of a stock exchange.