Alumni of the Month  |  2014-05
May 20, 2014

New Media: The Final Frontier

How can people effectively use technology to mediate conflict? After studying communications and journalism at the University of Washington in Seattle, 2010 Fulbright alumnus Samagan Aitymbetov of Kyrgyzstan decided to answer that question. “I was lucky to study and get empowered by the innovative atmosphere of the digital community in Seattle, Washington, named by tech experts the next Silicon Valley,” Samagan said. “[The] culture of American entrepreneurship ignited in me many new ideas of making [a] difference in a society by proper application of technologies.”
Upon his return to Kyrgyzstan, Samagan became the director of the Development of Central Asian News Service Public Foundation, which promotes digital journalism in Central Asia. In May 2013, he initiated and facilitated a successful conference on peace building through technology entitled, Generation Peace: New Media Technologies for Central Asia.  Samagan explained, “Connections with the vibrant Fulbright community inspired me to launch the Generation Peace Project. Its purpose is to raise new generations of leaders who can promote peace and justice in conflict-prone, multi-ethnic regions using new media technologies.” 
Fifty civil society activists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan attended the new media conference, where they discussed topics such as peace journalism, social media and web metrics, and the role of media in conflicts. True to form, the conference attendees frequently updated Facebook and Twitter throughout the sessions. As a result of the conference, 26 project concepts were submitted by attendees to the Association of Fulbrighters of the Kyrgyz Republic.
As a board member of the Association, Samagan helped organize the 2012 annual alumni reunion and advised the organizers of the 2013 reunion. As an active member of his community and proud exchange alumnus, Samagan enthusiastically participates in alumni service projects. From repairing dilapidated orphanages to installing accessible ramps throughout the city center and constructing bike parking racks, Samagan has made an indelible impact on his community. 
Samagan’s work demonstrates his mantra that, “Digital is not only about information – it’s also about relationships.” His extensive work to organize conferences and facilitate service projects makes it clear that building relationships is at the heart of his digital campaigns. At every turn, Samagan Aitymbetov is mentoring students, inspiring peers, and connecting generations. 
Each month, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports program alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Samagan Aitymbetov is this month’s outstanding alumnus, and his work will be recognized throughout May on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.