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Collaboration will Help Iraq Students, Faculty Attend Texas Tech

It includes incentives for doctoral students to complete their degree and return to Iraq to improve curricula.

Written by John Davis

Texas Tech scientists previously spent time in Iraq, helping to dismantle old uranium enrichment plants, gaining a better understanding of the public health impact of the contamination and helping train Iraqi scientists to safely continue the dismantling process.

Texas Tech scientists previously spent time in Iraq, helping to dismantle old uranium enrichment plants, gaining a better understanding of the public health impact of the contamination and helping train Iraqi scientists to safely continue the dismantling process.

Texas Tech University entered an academic collaboration agreement with Iraq’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to pave the way for students and faculty from Iraq to attend Texas Tech. 

The agreement includes incentives for doctoral students with high qualifications to complete their degree at Texas Tech and return to Iraqi institutions to improve their curricula in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

“Iraq is really struggling, and that’s the reason why they’ve set up special funds for education,” said Ron Chesser, director of the Center for Environmental Radiation Studies and one of the coordinators for the agreement. “The country has lost a generation of science and technology training. Going back to the Iran-Iraq War in the mid-1980s, the education infrastructure suffered a great deal. Most of these highly educated people in these STEM fields are of retirement age. Now they’re trying to rebuild their country and scientific infrastructure. Getting this new generation trained is a top priority. In a lot of ways, they have to almost start over.”

Chesser said Texas Tech University has agreed to pay for four highly qualified doctoral candidates in STEM disciplines to get a degree at Texas Tech. These candidates also receive a $20,400 stipend in addition to the fees and tuition.

“The reason for this is we want to improve the curriculum of universities there,” Chesser said. “We will educate the students here. They will go back to the universities in Iraq and improve the Iraqi curriculum by taking what they’ve learned here and incorporating it into their universities there. It’s more of a technology and educational transfer.”

The Logistics

The Iraqi government will pay for four-week training workshops for Iraqi professors that will explore principals of teaching and learning as well as create a positive learning environment. It also will pay for a faculty development leave for visiting professors from Iraq to research and teach while at Texas Tech. This longer visiting professors program has a goal of inviting up to five professors with more possible during the next three years – from 2013 to 2016.

Finally, Iraq will pay to help doctoral students already working on their dissertations but in need of assistance with some critical technology or analytical tools unavailable in their country to come to Texas Tech for a one- to six-month period and finish their degrees. The students’ faculty advisors also will accompany these students.

“The root of this agreement stems from our years of working in Iraq and realizing they simply didn’t have the technology base to move forward,” Rodgers said. “This new generation of students has been isolated from lager scientific community for more than 20 years now, and they really need to come up to date in terms of techniques and technology. Through interactions over the years with young Iraqi scientist, we see a lot of potential there and lots of eagerness to learn and willingness to build their educational community. This is a win-win for both sides. We’re going to get some very good students out of process. They’re ready to learn and move their country forward at this point.”

Provisions for the agreement were negotiated in June 2012 meetings with Ali al-Adeeb, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Baghdad, Chesser and Brenda Rodgers, an assistant professor at Texas Tech’s radiation center.

The final document was prepared in collaboration with Interim President Schovanec and was modified and approved by the Office of International Affairs. 

The agreement was signed by TTU Provost Bob Smith, Vice Provost for International Affairs Ambassador Tibor Nagy, and Interim President Lawrence Schovanec

“This agreement will certainly help Iraq in their ability for young scientists to come here, earn their doctorates and go back to Iraq and become educators,” Schovanec said. “In terms of Texas Tech, this agreement will help us to attract visiting scholars and grow student base. Both students from Iraq and Texas Tech students will have this new opportunity for cultural exchange to create better understanding between two very different cultures.”

Chesser anticipates that Iraqi applications to Texas Tech will begin in Spring 2013, and students will start arriving on campus by Fall 2013.

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