Iraq, Ohio partner for education

Kristyn Soltis

100 students set to attend state universities in fall

Eric Fingerhut, chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signed a memorandum of understanding July 25 at the Academy for Educational Development creating an education partnership between the University System of Ohio and the Republic of Iraq as part of the Iraqi Education Initiative.

The Iraqi Education Initiative has set a goal of sending 300 students abroad to the United States as a pilot study group for the 2009-2010 school year, funded by the Iraqi government.

“There are supposed to be 300 students coming the first year to the United States and of those students, Fingerhut managed to get 100 of them,” said Mary Anne Saunders, executive director of International Affairs at Kent State. “Do that math, that’s amazing.”

The partnership will put into practice Ohio’s 10-year strategic plan for higher education by increasing the number of international students studying and graduating from Ohio universities.

“It’s going to impact both the student and the institution because the student, of course, will have a life-transformative experience, will come to another country and take advantage of the excellent Ohio university system,” Saunders said. “On the other hand, (Kent State) will benefit because there will be students here that can interact with Iraqi nationals and be able to ask them about their experiences and will be able to learn from them.”

The memorandum of understanding expects 10 students to enter the medical education community, successfully complete the United States medical licensing examination and be accepted to residency programs and institutions affiliated with Ohio medical schools.

“The additional 10 students to Ohio medical schools were separated out because those admission requirements differ from those of the other programs,” said Michael Chaney, Ohio Board of Regents chief communications officer.

While the international affairs office has not been informed of any Iraqi students attending Kent State for the upcoming fall semester, Saunders anticipates the university will receive anywhere from two to 10 students by spring 2010.

“I figure that the universities that are capable of absorbing larger numbers will get students,” Saunders said. “Technically, we may only end up with two or three because if most of those students want to go to community colleges or if their English scores or whatever are just sort of borderline, they may end up at what I would consider a ‘transitional institution’ before they come here. I can’t predict, I mean this is a country that’s been a state in chaos for several years, so we can’t guarantee that their educational system has adequately prepared them.”

Chaney said no specific agreements have been made with institutions yet, but it will be worked out in the coming weeks.

Saunders said if Kent State is asked to make special arrangements to enroll the students for the spring, the Office of International Affairs would accommodate to their needs.

“If someone says to us, ‘we need you to stop everything and process these applications and get them in,’ guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to do that,” Saunders said. “We are very, very anxious to welcome them here.”

Contact principal reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].