COLLEGE STATION English is the language of business and Murad Begliyev of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, is making business connections for his country and the United States by learning more about it at Texas A&M University.
Begliyev is one of many visiting professors and scholars from other countries who are taking part in a far-reaching program that not only benefits their own economies but also assists American agriculture by building networks of international trade.
Dr. Tim Schilling, coordinator of Texas A&M’s International Agricultural Programs, said, “Texas is world-renown in agriculture we’re probably one of the top five agricultural universities in the world. Our faculty are well-known, and there is a lot of respect for this institution. This type of program adds a very solid international dimension to the Agriculture Program, supporting Texas agriculture through marketing opportunities and building positive relations in other countries.”
Texas and the central Asian country of Turkmenistan are a natural fit for agricultural projects, Schilling said. Roughly the size of Texas, Turkmenistan’s economy also depends heavily on cotton, natural gas and oil. Its climate also is dry but temperate.
Turkmenistan achieved its independence in 1991 as a result of the decay of the Soviet Union and a national referendum. The country’s current president, Saparmurat Niyazov, wanted to increase his country’s international prestige all over the world, Begliyev said.
To achieve a stable market economy, Turkmenistan sought help from the U.S. government. Through a competitive process, Texas A&M was awarded a grant from the U.S. Information Agency to assist that country in creating a market-oriented educational system in business and agribusiness schools.
According to Begliyev, “The Turkmenistan-Texas A&M University partnership program has been recognized as a model of collaboration to meet the new educational demands that have resulted from the drastic economic changes in the last eight years.”
“The changing economy figures prominently in that country, ” Schilling added.”They have no idea of the free market concept of business. For many years, Moscow decided what they needed and gave them supplies and the inputs. Now, they are basically cut from their source. They have to learn how to survive and thrive within a new market concept.”
A College of Business and Administration was set up at Turkmen State University, and in November 1998, Texas A&M faculty traveled to Turkmenistan and conducted a needs assessment of the university. One of their recommendations was to strengthen English language skills of the faculty and students.
“Their proposal is necessary for the long-term success of the new international administration program (of the university),” Begliyev said. “English is the international business language.”
Begliyev was one of the faculty identified for special training in setting up an advanced English language enhancement unit. He arrived at Texas A&M in August and will leave in December, having attended classes in scientific and technical writing, business writing, composition and rhetoric, advanced composition, public speaking, and classes on vocabulary, grammar and oral skills.
He plans to begin teaching these skills soon after returning to his own country.
Dr. Julian Gaspar, director of the Center for International Business at Texas A&M, is director for the Turkmenistan project, developing curriculum and arranging audits for exchange faculty in the Mays College and Graduate School of Business at Texas A&M.
Schilling said the international agriculture program works very closely with Texas A&M’s business school in international and domestic ventures.
There also will be a lot of “hands-on” training for faculty and students in Turkmenistan, Schilling explained.
“We can get a lot across through education and information, but it’s a long way from getting real buy-in and take-off. We are devising ways to work with the business community so these principles can be applied in business and agribusiness.”
This type of program benefits not only the recipient country, Schilling said, but also the host university’s faculty and students.
“As we become more and more global, it is important for our faculty to have that hands-on dimension. This allows them to build their own international expertise,” he added. “In turn, they can pass that on to their students.”
Other Texas A&M Agriculture Program international efforts recently funded through federal grants include:
Setting up an agribusiness curriculum in Armenia, another country that is re-establishing itself after declaring its independence from the Soviet Union.
Policy and public administration reform within Trinidad’s agricultural ministry. That country concentrated on building up its energy base sector and neglected agriculture for about 20 years, Schilling said. In a joint project with the Agriculture and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M, faculty will make recommendations that will turn that country’s agricultural cabinet “into a lean and mean ministry responsive to its clients,” he added.
Assessment of the infrastructure of the “cold” chain for refrigerated food products and trying to open markets for the U.S. private sector in the Pacific Rim countries of Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.