Mongolia: Geopolitics and the Environment
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"The SIT Mongolia program taught me to think, live, and breathe outside the box, and to be able to relate to people with whom I had, on the surface at least, very little in common."
-- Bianca Santos, Rice University
Examine international relations, natural resource management, and economic growth from Mongolia’s unique vantage point.
Live alongside nomadic herding communities and experience some of the most pristine natural environments in the world.
Mongolia offers a fascinating study of the interplay between foreign engagement, economic development, and natural resource utilization, in the context of a developing nation. Landlocked between Siberia and northern China, much of this rugged nation was historically isolated from global development and is today facing rapid economic and environmental change.
Topics of study include:
- Diplomatic engagement with major global economies including the US and regional relations with China, Russia, and North Korea
- Socioeconomic and political reform
- The search for a balance between environmental conservation and natural resource development
- Cultural shifts among Mongolia’s pastoral population
- Rapid urbanization and the rise of urban consumption in the context of a dramatic influx of foreign direct investment (FDI)
Resource management and exploitation
A central factor in Mongolia’s development planning is the fate of the country’s abundant natural resources, particularly coal and copper. Students scrutinize the multitude of ways in which mining, conservation of pasturelands, grazing rights, and other resource management issues are shaping public and private life. Additional areas of study include public policy prioritization, urbanization, conceptions of private property, and shifting livelihoods and pastoral traditions.
Through the program's field excursions, students visit historically, economically, and culturally important areas in Mongolia’s central and northern regions. Rural homestays in nomadic camps provide stark contrasts between Mongolia's urban and rural communities.
The program is based in Ulaanbaatar, home to nearly one half of Mongolia’s population and its political, economic, and cultural capital. In addition to SIT faculty and staff, lecturers include academics, diplomats and domestic government officials, national and transnational mining companies, national and international NGO representatives, and other professionals from highly esteemed entities such as:
- The National University of Mongolia, the oldest university in Mongolia
- University of the Humanities
- Mongolian State University of Education
- Mongolian Academy of Sciences
- Institute for Defense Studies
- Zorig Foundation
- American Center for Mongolian Studies
- The Mongolian Morin Khuur Ensemble
- FPMT Mongolia Mahayana Buddhist Center
|Learn more about the rapid changes underway in Mongolia on NPR’s special series Mongolia Booms.|
“SIT provided me with in-depth opportunities to learn about Mongolian culture, make contacts, and conduct research, which allowed me to hit the ground running when I arrived for my Fulbright.”
SIT has been a critical stepping stone in Heddy’s academic career path. Her Independent Study Project was an important experience in conducting research in a radically different context among people whose everyday lives were very different from her own. It taught her to reconsider what she always regarded as self-evident; to view the world through another’s eyes; and to understand that intercultural research is incredibly dynamic, as one is confronted with language barriers, cultural differences, and clichés. The experience helped turn a once unfamiliar country into home.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Ulaanbaatar
Language Study: Mongolian
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