GW may add Mid-East programs

The University may expand academic programming for GW students wishing to study the Middle East on campus or abroad, following a recent administrative trip to the region.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Timothy Tong returned from a 10-day trip to Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait Wednesday. The administrators conducted fundraising efforts and met with foreign university officials to collaborate on joint academic programs.

“The trip was to reconnect with our alumni, meet new friends and see what the environment is like in terms of education,” Tong said.

Lehman said GW might have an opportunity to collaborate with the University of Kuwait to boost Arabic instruction at GW. The University could receive additional faculty from Kuwait to instruct the University’s short-staffed Arabic classes. Lehman said GW does not have enough professors to teach some Arabic classes, and the demand for Arabic instruction cannot be met as enrollment increases.

For example, GW does not have staffing to open another section of Arabic 2. There are currently 130 students who take classes in GW’s Arabic program.

“Kuwait might send someone to teach on a Fulbright scholarship,” said Lehman, who added that plans are only in the discussion stages. “We would give them the experience of being in our University and in Washington, D.C.”

Trachtenberg said there is a growing interest at GW in Arabic language and that Kuwait might be a good place to set up a study abroad program to learn the language or other fields of study. Many classes taught at the universities there are taught in English.

“We have no apprehensions, but these are daunting times,” Trachtenberg said. “When people travel, you have to be concerned.”

Lehman also said Kuwaiti educational system officials are “very interested” in expanding professional studies and continuing education. GW’s College of Professional Studies might collaborate with education ministers in Kuwait to improve the country’s continuing education programs.

Education ministers in Bahrain, a small island off the Arabian peninsula, have also requested GW’s help to establish a new university in the country. Lehman said GW could provide logistical help in setting up academic programs and the infrastructure, which includes creating a registrar’s office, admissions and other departments involved in the day-to-day functions of a college. But GW would not provide financial backing for the university.

Lehman said Bahrainian ambassadors requested help from GW because of their interest in engineering and interior design programs, which are offered by GW.

“They’re interested in having GW as a partner because we have a good reputation in that part of the world,” Tong said.

Administrators said they are not sure whether GW will be able to participate in the Bahrainian endeavor. Trachtenberg said most of the academic prospects investigated during the Middle East trip are possibilities and that decisions may not be reached for several months.

“Things always start with dating and then you might eventually decide to get married,” he said.

In Jordan, administrators met with officials from the University of Jordan and Hashemite University to discuss the country’s vision for the future of education. Tong said improving science education is high on the University of Jordan’s agenda, and officials there want to close the “digital divide.”

“There are still people who haven’t gotten used to the Internet or computers, and they want to bring a higher proficiency to the people in the country,” Tong said.

Trachtenberg said part of the trip was also dedicated to fundraising; administrators met with alumni to ask for donations. Money collected would be used to fund scholarships and faculty chairs.

He declined to release specific figures.

“Meeting alumni, knowing they’re successful – that’s very satisfying to me,” Tong said, noting that meeting almuni was one of the highlights of the trip.

The Jordanian Minister for Works and Housing, with whom administrators met, graduated from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the mid-1990s.

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