A recent gift to a university in Almaty, Kazakhstan, speaks volumes about UMW’s take on philanthropy and fostering international knowledge.
One U.S. State Department email to Mary Washington Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Stephen J. Farnsworth brought this response: a donation of more than 100 books to al-Farabi Kazakh National University.
“I offer sincere extra-large thanks to the University of Mary Washington, the political science faculty and Steve Farnsworth,” said Tim O’Connor, a U.S. State Department political officer based in Almaty.
When O’Connor contacted Farnsworth about donating books to the Central Asian University named for renowned scholar and philosopher Abu nasr al-Farabi, Farnsworth accepted the challenge. He organized a department-wide book drive in which all of UMW’s political science and international affairs faculty members participated. Within weeks, more than 100 new textbooks and other publications arrived in O’Connor’s Kazakhstan office.
Leaders at al-Farabi University requested the English-language books to supplement their existing library offerings, which consist mostly of texts written in Russian.
“We liked the idea of giving students and professors more access to ideas and works from different cultures and countries,” said O’Connor, who has worked through the years with Farnsworth on media development projects in Eastern Europe.
Farnsworth and his colleagues – many of whom have studied and taught in places similar to al-Farabi, where resources are limited – liked the idea, too. His personal experiences working with journalists and students in nations of the former Soviet Union made the book drive a “priority project” for him, said Farnsworth, Director of UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
“I know firsthand how little of the readily available materials provide students and professionals with American scholarly perspectives on democracy, international development and the U.S. political system,” he said. “These books can help expose these students to English-language research in the U.S. and nations around the world.”
Almaty’s U.S. Consul General Mark Moody presented the texts to students, professors and administrators in mid-April.
“Your contribution has not only made students here happy,” O’Connor said. “It really will help to expand their education.”