Global Scholar Spotlight: Zhailagul Sagyndykova

September 08, 2021

Zhailagul Sagyndykova is currently the Vice Rector to Internationalization and Infrastructure Development at Shokan Ualikhanov Kokshetau State University in Kazakhstan. She also is a Global Ambassador for Penn State and was at the University from 2014 to 2016, first as a visiting scholar and research intern, and then as the director of Eurasia Programs at Penn State Law.

Global Programs recently spoke with her about her time and experiences at Penn State.

A smiling portrait of a woman, Zhailagul Sagyndykova

Zhailagul Sagyndykova

IMAGE: Provided

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your time here at Penn State as a visiting scholar?  

Sagyndykova: My internship lasted for one year in 2014-15 at Penn State Law and Penn State Global Programs. It was funded by the Bolashak Presidential Scholarship. It took me one year to go through all procedures to be accepted to Penn State and be awarded by the scholarship.

My journey started with the meeting of the associate dean of Penn State Law in Nur-sultan with whom we discussed the stages of my future internship with the goal to do research at Penn State (University Park) campus. I could not have even imagined that it would bring me to the Global Programs office. I opened about up all my dreams and the things I wanted to accomplish, and, at that time, Karen Bysiewicz listened to me, and we agreed that it may take 6 months or so. Later, after long discussions, we agreed to my placement in the Global Programs office.

I spent 2013 in deliberations and preparations to make my research internship the most productive and beneficial it could be for me and for my country. In 2014 I applied to the Bolashak administration and managed to get the Bolashak scholarship. Penn State became my research alma mater. I found many colleagues who were interested in Internationalization Development in Linguistics and Education.

My stay at Penn State resulted in my two-in-one internship — both scientific and administrative. I acquired skills in management in education, internationalization, partnership creation, development and sustainability. I read a bunch of scientific magazines, surfed the University Libraries and research platforms to do research on management in education.

Another goal I had while at Penn State was to bring my experience to the campus. I spoke to the PSU students on interculturality, the Kazakhstani Language Policy, the Kazakh language and culture specifics. With my Kazakh friends we held the Kazakh Night, Nauryz and the Day of Kazakhstan for the State College citizens.

Q: What drew you to Penn State as an institution?

Sagyndykova: Penn State University is among top five in the U.S. in the number of international students and scholars. It aroused my scholar’s interest how a state university reached those goals and has these great achievements. As far as I know, Penn State has more than 140 Kazakhstani alumni and we created a small aul (village) there where Kazakhstani students helped each other.

(Editor’s note: Penn State ranked 12th in the U.S. in the most recent IIE Open Doors report. Penn State ranked 13th in 2015-16, when Sagyndykova arrived at the University.)

Q: What is your most impactful memory from Penn State?

Sagyndykova: I still remember how Stephen Barnes, our current associate dean of Penn State Law, welcomed all the international students and became my best mentor at the University. Penn State is all about friendship and family. In all my endeavors and research initiatives I felt the faculty and administrative support.

Q: How has your experience at Penn State prepared you for your career after graduation?

Sagyndykova: My career goal is to become a professional administrator, the one who thinks, does, and works in the team. After my research internship, [former Vice Provost for Global Programs] Michael Adewumi agreed to attend Kazakhstan and meet all Kazakhstani alumni in Nur-sultan, Almaty and Atyrau. After my internship, I worked three years as faculty and became the Best Teacher in Kazakhstan. Later, I was appointed as a head of International Office at Narxoz University and now I am promoting internationalization at Ualikhanov University. I am developing international partnerships and moving forward SDGs in the country by creating Global Social Platforms (Narxoz Global, ShoqanGlobal) for students and young professionals, helping them to improve their English and raise their professionalism through international profile.

Q: If you had one piece of advice to give to current or incoming international students at Penn State, what would it be?

Sagyndykova: I would recommend being active in the campus and be engaged in all students’ clubs and communities that the Global Programs office offers. It will strengthen your network and skillset in global thinking and mindset.

Q: Anything else you would like to add that we haven’t covered here already?

Sagyndykova: I would like to thank all my colleagues and friends at Penn State who became my colleagues and friends during my stay, and all my international friends with whom I keep in touch. I would like to say thank you to the Bolashak Presidential Scholarship, and my family who support me in my entire career path.

Last Updated September 08, 2021