UW May Partner with Iraqi School [The Badger Herald]

Teleconference to be held this morning with Tikrit University, northwest of Baghdad

by Signe Brewster, Thursday, February 12, 2009, The Badger Herald

The University of Wisconsin is considering a formal relationship with a university in Iraq, which officials hope will create academic opportunities in multiple disciplines across UW.

UW representatives and U.S. Embassy officials in Iraq are scheduled to hold a teleconference at 7 a.m. today to discuss the possible partnership between UW and Tikrit University in Tikrit, Iraq, about 90 miles northwest of Baghdad.

According to Masarah Van Eyck, director of communications for the Division of International Studies, the teleconference will most likely lead to another later this month with Tikrit University President Maher Saleh Allawi.

“Iraqi universities right now are really trying to ameliorate their pedagogical abilities because they’ve been kind of shut off from other parts of the world for the last 20 years or so,” Van Eyck said.

She went on to say Iraqi faculty members are currently looking to connect with other faculty members in the United States to learn about current teaching philosophies and pursue research collaboration.

Division of International Studies Assistant Dean Marianne Bird Bear said both universities stand to profit from the relationship, but the program would have a national influence for Iraq.

“For Tikrit, it will be the first of its kind program and it would be investing in their study abroad resource centers. For the future of their country it is critically important to send not only students but scholars abroad,” Bird Bear said.

Van Eyck said an agreement would eventually lead to study abroad opportunities for Iraqi students, but UW has no plans to send its own students to Tikrit.

“While they are setting up a study abroad resource for both faculty and students, we are not sending our students over there because safety is first,” Van Eyck said. “Eventually, UW students will begin to see Iraqi students and scholars on campus and the collaboration both of teachers and scholars will impact the quality for the better of the education they receive.”

Van Eyck said the next step for the two universities is a memorandum of understanding, which is essentially a diplomatic agreement to work together on the project.

The chancellor’s office was originally approached about the collaboration by Brett Bruen, a UW alumnus who works with the U.S. Embassy.