Scott King on The Iraq Education Initiative Aug. 26

King to discuss pioneering Iraqi Education Initiative at Aug. 26 ICFRC

By Lois Gray | See the original press release

After more than one year of planning and traveling some 12,000 miles round trip, Scott King is seeing the hard work pay off.

scott king and Zuhair Humadi
Scott King (photo, left) with Dr. Zuhair Humadi, executive director of the Iraq Education Initiative near the city of Sulymania in the Kurdish region of Iraq during a January 2009 visit at the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki

King, assistant dean of International Programs for International Students and Scholars (OISS) at the University of Iowa, will discuss how the UI is one of the first Big Ten universities to welcome Iraqi students this fall as part of the Iraqi Education Initiative. He will share his insights at the debut of the 2010-11 Iowa City Foreign Relations Council luncheon-lecture series, which begins at noon Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, at the Congregational Church, 30 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City.

The cost is $8 for members and $9 for non-members. Catering is by Oasis Falafel. Reservations are due by noon Wednesday, Aug. 25, or people can e-mail an RSVP to icfrc@uiowa.edu or call 319-335-0351.

"The pioneering pilot program will cultivate the next generation of Iraqi leaders who will help stabilize the country and help solve pressing issues facing Iraqis," King said.

The students' arrival is the outgrowth of a January 2009 trip that King took to Baghdad, together with representatives from 21 other universities, at the invitation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, to attend the Iraq Education Initiative Symposium.

King has served as OISS director at the UI since 2003, and he was also recently named an assistant dean of International Programs. He has worked with international students since 1979, and during his career has served in a number of national and regional leadership positions in the organization known as "NAFSA: Association of International Educators." One of his UI responsibilities -- leading the university’s international recruiting initiatives -- resulted in King’s trip to Iraq.

"This has been a long, difficult journey, but it's exciting to finally see these students arriving on our campus and in our community," King said, who will share what led up to the students' arrival and why this is significant during his luncheon lecture.

The students -- all graduate students -- are arriving on the UI campus this week and will begin taking intensive English classes through the UI Intensive English Program. King said the first student arrived this past Saturday, Aug. 21, and five more students who have already obtained U.S. visas are expected this week. A few more students are still awaiting receipt of visas.

Eight students have been conditionally admitted to different graduate programs including mathematics, geosciences, biology, immunology, chemical and computer engineering, pharmacy and dental public health, King said.

These Iraqi students are part of an estimated 80 nationwide who were selected through a highly competitive process and who represent the "cream of the crop" of Iraqi students who are arriving this fall on U.S. campuses, according to King.

"The goal of this program is to help Iraq educate some of their best and brightest to help rebuild this warn-torn nation," King said. "With many of Iraq's young professionals having fled the country, there is a pressing need to educate others to cultivate new leadership, which will begin to stabilize the country’s economy and secure its future as a democratic society."

Al-Maliki's plan, once fully implemented, will educate 10,000 Iraqi students abroad per year; with five full years of scholarships planned. Though the Iraq government originally hoped to launch the initiative last fall, challenges in communication and other infrastructure delayed the program, which is committed to equal access across Iraq's complex regional, ethnic and religious lines.

Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of UI International Programs, said that not only does this benefit the Iraqi students and their nation, but it also enriches the UI campus and community by enhancing diversity on the UI campus and providing another opportunity to build cross-cultural understanding.

"We are thrilled to welcome these talented students to our campus to receive a word-class education here at UI," Thomas said. "This also provides a wonderful opportunity for UI domestic and other international students to learn more about Iraq firsthand instead of through news reports from wire services. This truly will contribute to long-term diplomacy and peace."

This will help to increase the diversity of the international student population at the UI, King said, adding that there were six students enrolled in fall 2009.

Before the students start taking intensive English classes this fall, King said all the students are receiving an extensive orientation to all facets of U.S. higher education and culture as well as ongoing support and services to ensure a smooth transition to a campus and culture vastly different than their own.

King said that John Mikelson, an adviser with the UI Veterans Center, has also reached out to his office to explore opportunities for the Iraqi students to get to know UI domestic student veterans who have served in Iraq through activities and programs.

The students will study only in the United States and the United Kingdom initially, but Canada and Australia may eventually join the program, King said. The students receive scholarships from the Iraqi government, which covers tuition, room and board, medical insurance and other benefits.

"There is a realization that Iraq universities cannot meet today's needs, that there is a need for professionals educated in English speaking countries, and that the scholarship program can be used as a method of engaging U.S. universities in creating linkages to existing schools like the UI," King said.

The ICFRC is a non-profit community organization that seeks to promote understanding of international issues by hosting community forums with informed speakers from around the world. ICFRC is housed within and supported in part by International Programs at the UI.

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