- Honorary Degree (2005)
- Doctor of Laws
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: Adam W. Herbert
Natsagiin Bagabandi was an advocate for positive change in Mongolia well before he won his country's highest office in 1997. Beginning in 1980, Bagabandi held various political positions, including his election as leader of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party in 1991, the year after the collapse of the communist system, and positions as parliamentary speaker and opposition leader in Mongolian Parliament. During his two terms as president of Mongolia beginning in 1997, Bagabandi helped preserve the country's stability while advancing its market economy, democratic institutions, and educational initiatives - particularly the exchange programs with Indiana University, which has the only university level, full-scale Mongolian studies program in North America.
Early in his presidency, Bagabandi took the lead in combating an alarming decline in Mongolia's previously high standards of universal education. He also was able to successfully transition the country away from practices that had made universal education impossible, securing agreements with governments of more than 20 nations to offer higher education scholarships for Mongolians to study abroad. On average, 10 Mongolian students have studied at IU for each of the past five years. "Mongolia's ties with Indiana University have increased rapidly during President Bagabandi's years in office," said Christopher Atwood, associate professor of Mongolian studies at IU. "Research and student exchanges [with Mongolian universities] have become increasingly common. The flourishing development of these exchanges has depended upon the cordial environment of international cooperation between Mongolia and the United States for which President Bagabandi has set the tone." Mongolia is currently the only fully democratic country in the former Soviet bloc remaining east of the Baltic. Bagabandi has played a strong role in preserving the stability of Mongolia through controversies including constitutional issues, privatization, and a contested 2004 Parliamentary election.
In a recent Sant Maral Foundation (nongovernmental organization) poll, Bagabandi was ranked Mongolia's most respected political figure. He has received international awards from the Russian Federation and the International Council for Caring Communities, United Nations Economic and Social Council. In addition, Bagabandi has been honored with honorary doctorates from more than 10 universities worldwide. "I have seen how the growing community of Mongols in Bloomington has helped to nurture an enriching cultural environment for our students and our community," said Patrick O'Meara, dean of International Programs at IU. "By opening our doors and lecture halls to international students, we broaden the world perspectives and knowledge base of our students and our communities."