By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
University students in Iraq are benefiting from instruction their professors are getting at Oklahoma State University.
Seven department heads and faculty members from the University of Basrah have concluded a 10-day visit to OSU as part of the Universities Linkages Program, a federally-funded, three-year initiative that is intended to update and modernize curriculum and instruction in Iraq.
When the program began three years ago, university officials in Iraq identified three areas of instruction that needed to improve — petroleum engineering, computer engineering and finance/banking.
“The idea was to give universities in Iraq the assistance they need to function at the best level possible,” said Khaled Gasem, chairman of the OSU chemical engineering department. “The idea was to upgrade the educational system, colleague to colleague, university to university. What is it that we can do to bring your curriculum and your approach and your educational experience up to world standards? ... The idea was to see how we could lend a helping hand to bring their capabilities and their capacities to produce competent professionals in engineering, finance and computers at a level to compete on the world stage.”
Gasem said the program has several goals, among them to enhance and modernize curriculum at the University of Basrah.
Other goals included identifying and resolving issues with the university’s library and laboratories. Another goal was developing plans to create graduate level programs. Gasem said another goal was faculty training.
“They need to enhance the skill- set of their faculty,” Gasem said.
Gasem said the program is an example of the land-grant mission of OSU.
“Ours is to educate,” Gasem said. “It’s to educate in the state and in the nation and at the level of the global community. Ours is to enrich the lives of others. ... All of our (OSU) presidents have believed that our assistance to other countries that have not had the fortune that we have is a necessity and a noble calling as educators. It is our tradition to be of assistance and to lend the expertise that’s required. Human beings are at their best when they are educated and intellectually stimulated.”
The program, funded by a $1 million grant by the U.S. State Department, ends in June. The University of Basrah has sent three different delegations to OSU.
Mark Weiser, associate dean of the Spears School of Business, said the program will give educators in Basrah the skills and training they need to most effectively prepare students.
“We think the program is very useful, and we hope it will be extended for a longer period of time,” said Abduladhem Abdulkareem Ali Modhfar, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Basrah. “I will take many things back to my students. For example, group work and collaborative learning.”