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Fulbright Grant Sends RMU Professor to Tajikistan

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pittsburgh, Pa. -- A border dispute in Central Asia resulted in a few chilly nights for Robert Morris University Professor Marcel Minutolo.

Thanks to a Fulbright grant from the U.S. Department of State, Minutolo, associate professor of management, made three trips to Tajikistan in 2015 as an advisor to the Tajik State University of Commerce. Tajikistan, which was a part of the former Soviet Union, is a mountainous country of 8 million people bordered by Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan.

After he arrived there for his final stay in November, Minutolo learned that Uzbekistan had cut off exports of natural gas and electricity to Tajikistan. That led to power shutoffs every night from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., with no heat and no water.

“I told my host, ‘This reminds me a little too much of being in the military,’” said Minutolo, a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard.

Under the Fulbright Specialist Program, U.S. scholars and professionals engage in short-term development projects at host institutions abroad. Minutolo was selected as a consultant to a branch campus of the Tajik State University of Commerce, located in Khujand, a city with a population of approximately 172,000. That campus enrolls about 5,000 students, not much smaller than RMU.

Minutolo, the head of the Department of Management at RMU, was tasked with recommending whether or not the university should seek accreditation from AACSB International, the premier accrediting agency of collegiate business schools. RMU is among only 5 percent of business schools worldwide to have earned this prestigious designation. Tajik State University wants accreditation in order to attract students from across Central Asia and the Middle East to its MBA program.

During this visit and two others in March and May, Minutolo lectured to students, helped to plan a research forum for faculty, and facilitated strategic planning. He also ferried textbooks that were donated by the RMU Department of Mathematics.

He also met with U.S. diplomats, a Russian general, and Tajik business owners.  An expert in entrepreneurship who has owned several successful start-ups, Minutolo also visited business incubators in Tajikistan and plans to help the university develop a center for entrepreneurship.

“Their culture is steeped in entrepreneurship, but they have no infrastructure to support it,” he said.

Ultimately, Minutolo recommended that Tajik State University first seek accreditation from The Association of MBAs, which has less stringent requirements than AACSB and will still allow the institution to meet its short-term goals.

ABOUT ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY

Through 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 45 states and 41 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse.

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