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Address by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, at the UCA Graduation 2022

Bismillah ir Rehman ir Rahim

Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan

Patrons of the University, their excellencies President Rahmon of the Republic of Tajikistan, President Japarov of the Kyrgyz Republic and President Tokayev of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The honorable Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, Dr Almazbek Beishenaliev

Honorable Governor of Khorog, Alisher Mirzonabotov

Honorable Governor of Naryn, Sabyrkul Ashimbaev

Members of the Board of Trustees

Rector Sohail Naqvi

Dean Maxim Khomyakov

The Faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences

Parents, family members, honored guests,

And the stars of today’s event, the Graduates of the Class of 2022

As salaam was alaikum

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this important day for UCA.

This is only the second graduation in the life of this young University. However, it is very gratifying that already, many from the Class of 2021 and a quarter of your own graduating class have made a mark for yourselves and the University of Central Asia by gaining admission to graduate studies at reputable universities in Central Asia, Russia, Europe and North America. Several have received full scholarships. Many more have secured interesting jobs while some are rightly reflecting on their future options.

These achievements are impressive, but they look even more striking when seen in the context of the unexpected challenges of Covid-19, exacerbated by disturbances in the region and beyond, which the graduates and the faculty had to contend with.

Of course, technology helped, but we learnt again that where technology reaches its limits, human ingenuity, determination, and perseverance take over. As we celebrate the success of UCA’s students, this is a befitting occasion to acknowledge the central role of the Faculty. They have worked closely with the students under the leadership of Rector, Professor Sohail Naqvi, the support from Senior Management of UCA, and the dedication of the Dean and the Associate Deans.

Please join me, on behalf of the Trustees, in conveying our deep gratitude for this exemplary and inspiring team effort.

This is also a day of thanksgiving to the parents who have made immense sacrifices for your education and have instilled in you high values.

Universities are particularly complex institutions. Those which are responsive to their multiple stakeholders over changing times and make policy decisions with a long-term horizon; they are the ones which remain relevant and survive and thrive over centuries.

In this context UCA’s trajectory is guided by the vision and support of the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as the wisdom the Trustees bring to farsighted policy making.

Dear graduates, 62 years ago I was sitting where you are during my MBA graduation at the University of Minnesota.

Like you, I was excited and ready to apply my education towards my future success. Of course, there was no dearth of good and well meaning advice on how I could succeed in life.

Having gone through multiple careers, in business, higher education, and public service including as government Minister, allow me to share an important thought with you today.

Most people are convinced that the main ingredients for success are the quality of the education you receive, and the technical skills of your chosen discipline. 

I would like to offer a different perspective. A good grounding in your professional skills is certainly very important and universities do this. But there is plenty of evidence that only 20% of your success will be directly determined by your professional education.

You have worked very hard to attain a high grade point average. But, don’t be disappointed that the only times you will be asked for your GPA will be by your first employer or by the admissions office of your graduate school.

So what does 80% of your success depend on?

It is People Skills or often described as soft skills. It is well known that as you move up the ladder in your career, even more important than technical knowledge and skills are the soft skills.

Ultimately, your success will depend on your leadership abilities, your personality traits, attitude, behaviours, and interpersonal skills.

How you relate to your co-workers so that they willingly offer cooperation;
how as a manager you inspire your staff to perform at their full capacity, even without having to ask them and;

how your peers seek you out because of the maturity and clarity of your thinking will provide the greatest impetus to your success.

At UCA our classes are small, because the objective is quality, not quantity. Your education was designed to not only learn from what was taught in the classroom, but to enable you to learn by absorbing the environment in which you studied and your residential experience. The education you have received was designed to instill in you a pluralistic mindset to help unify cultures and nationalities, prepare you for responsible citizenship, as well as ethical and enlightened governance; to think logically and to think critically. In short, you have been provided resources to help you become leaders in whatever is your chosen career.

So dear graduands, I urge you to continuously work towards improving these soft skills. Insha’Allah it will lead to a deeper understanding of human nature. It will set you apart as a leader in your chosen career who can make a difference.

While the Board of Trustees wish you every success, we will be closely following your progress and achievements. Your successes are UCA’s successes, and we hope that as lifelong learners you will stay connected with your Alma Mater. Visit us often to share your experiences with the new students to inspire and give them an advantage in life.

Thank you.