A Caravan to Samarkand
Updated: Apr 12
By Dr. Ron Wiley, Central Asia Director, Uzbekistan
Samarkand . . . even the name evokes images of the exotic and mysterious. The capital of ancient Persian, Arabic, Mongol and Turkic empires. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of Central Asia.
Once, Samarkand was the crossroads of the Silk Road from China and India to the Mediterranean, boasting its iconic images of the Registan (historic mosque/madrasa complex) as the center of Islamic learning and medieval science, Samarkand is now about to become the center for earth, energy, and environmental education this September with the opening of the new Samarkand International University of Technology (SIUT).
Come along with Ron and Jeanine Wiley, REI’s Central Asia Directors, as they lead a caravan to re-open REI’s work in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The history of REI in Uzbekistan extends back to 1992, when a team of environmental engineers delivered lectures and investigated how to mitigate damage from a large oil spill. REI’s work in Samarkand began in 1997 at the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages (SSIFL), with English education and teacher training, and other practical assistance to the institute.
Fast forward to 2019, when REI board member Linda Bruce and her husband, Karl who had served as a REI volunteer in Samarkand in the early 2000s at SSIFL, reconnected with the former rector of the institute, Professor Yusuf Abdullaev. Early efforts by REI to launch an American model university in Samarkand had come to nothing, but the embers of that dream still smoldered in Professor Abdullaev’s heart. The Bruces encouraged REI Central Asia Director Ron Wiley to meet with Professor Abdullaev in Tashkent, and a billow began to blow on those embers.
When Karl introduced Professor Abdullaev and his financial backers to the Global Initiatives Office at the Colorado School of Mines (Mines) in 2020, a flame flickered and began to grow. A partnership agreement was signed in December 2021 between the Uzbekistan partners and Mines, with the Bruces and Professor Abdullaev looking on. Days later, Professor Abdullaev personally invited Ron and Jeanine, representing REI to Samarkand, to take a major role in launching SIUT. With official registration on February 4, 2022, the flickering flame of a dream for an American model university in Samarkand has burst into a roaring blaze after more than 20 years.
Recognizing the importance of SIUT to the unfolding future of Uzbekistan and its people, Ron and Jeanine have moved from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to join Professor Abdullaev’s team in transforming this dream into reality. Ron has taken responsibility for recruitment, hiring, faculty/staff orientation and training in partnership with Mines. When facilities currently under renovation are ready for SIUT to occupy, the Wileys, Abdullaevs and the entire SIUT team will relocate to Samarkand.
Ancient Samarkand, home of scientific exploration and discovery for centuries, is now the new home of the Samarkand International University of Technology with whom REI will partner in bringing cutting-edge education to Uzbekistan’s young people. Building into people today to help create a profitable, hopeful and sustainable tomorrow for their nation.