The founder of the United Nations Association of Mongolia spent a month this spring in Blacksburg, learning about Virginia Tech but also sharing ways that the university can work with her country.

The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance hosted Khishigjargal Enkhbayar, who also is a fellow for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Enkhbayar’s trip was supported by the U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program. It’s a global exchange program designed to offer accepted applicants personalized professional development experiences in nonprofit organizations, private sector business, and government offices across country. Enkhbayar, who is a youth development and civil society specialist, was one of 150 fellows from 70 countries visiting locations throughout the United States.

The committee paired Enkhbayar with the institute because of her desire to learn more about nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their organization and leadership in the United States. The institute has a long track record of providing capacity building services to NGOs.

Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships David Moore previously participated in the program when he visited China in 2019 to learn more about development and education-focused nongovernmental organizations in that country.

(From left) David Moore, Khishigjargal Enkhbayar, Max Stephenson Jr., and Elizabeth Allen during a visit to the Institute for Policy and Governance at Virginia Tech. Photo by Billy Parvatam for Virginia Tech.

Here are some of the ways that Enkhbayar spent her time at Virginia Tech:

  • She met with an array of potential university partners in the dean’s office of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the School of Education, Department of Political Science, and the Center for International Research, Education, and Development to discuss relationships and partnerships. Those included joint pursuit of grant opportunities offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, discussions concerning STEM programming, rural and representation issues, and the potential for the establishment of a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence in Mongolia with the support of that center at Virginia Tech.  
  • She became acquainted with several community nongovernmental organizations, including local Rotary clubs and a youth STEM program.
  • She shadowed Moore throughout her visit. That opportunity allowed her to learn about program evaluation work and grant writing and to participate in strategic planning sessions with community partners.
  • Enkhbayar also took in the Blacksburg life. She jogged on the Huckleberry Trail, shopped at the Blacksburg farmers market, worked with others to solve the clues to exit an escape room, and enjoyed river kayaking for the first time.

“The VT community is incredibly expansive,” Enkhbayar said. “I met many great people doing important work.”

Following her time at Virginia Tech, Enkhbayar participated in a weeklong Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C., with other individuals in the program. They compared their experiences and shared what they learned.

Enkhbayar plans to work on an NGO handbook for civil society professionals that addresses governance and management challenges, practices, and resource acquisition strategies. Institute Director Max Stephenson Jr. or Moore hope to travel to Mongolia later this year for a reciprocating visit to continue to assist Enkhbayar as she seeks to support civil society organizations with that project and others in her nation. Tentative plans for that trip include an event for members of the United Nations Association of Mongolia to support a soft launch of the program by sharing the handbook with leaders of other Mongolian NGOs.

Overall, Stephenson and Moore said they were pleased with Enkhbayar’s visit as a unique opportunity to offer the knowledge each has developed in assisting with capacity building for vulnerable populations locally and globally.

“Khishi brought very broad interests and capacities with her on her visit,” Moore said. “I feel that I and others gained as much from her encyclopedic knowledge of Mongolia, sustainable development, and UN activities across the globe as she gained from talking with us.”

Stephenson said he looks forward to future work.

“Khishi offered all with whom she interacted a vision of possibility and hope for our common future,” Stephenson said. “It was a special pleasure to learn about her nation and her many efforts to provide opportunities for her fellow citizens.”

Written by Billy Parvatam