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 Kurdistan: American University of Iraq AUIS celebrates its graduation

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Kurdistan: American University of Iraq AUIS celebrates its graduation  18.6.2012  

New graduates of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS). Photo: AUIS-Facebook. See Related Links

New graduates of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS). Photo: AUIS-Facebook.

A number of dignitaries attended the commencement. Photo: AUIS-Facebook.
June 18, 2012

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — As the sun set on the campus of American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS), looking over the mountains and the city below, hundreds of friends, families, and distinguished guests gathered to celebrate the graduation of undergraduate and graduate students.

But this particular ceremony was a little different: it was the first undergraduate class to graduate from the new institution.

“We are the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani, but we are also the university of choice for the entire country,” said Dr. Athanasios Moulakis, President of AUIS.

In his commencement address, Dr. Moulakis implored the graduates to undertake intellectual and professional endeavors not merely for their material benefits, but to do so in a dignified manner.

“President Woodrow Wilson, who by the way is one of the first to have entertained the idea of an independent Kurdistan,” Moulakis said to ovation from the crowd, “said this: ‘When you plan your journey, it is not the direction you take which is the of the first and most vital consequence, but the object with which you trade…the most trivial occupation may be dignified by the spirit in which it is undertaken, and the manner in which it is pursued.’”

Thirty-seven students graduated with Baccalaureate degrees in Information Technology, Business Administration, and International Studies, while thirty-seven students earned Masters degrees in Business Administration.

AUIS was founded in 2006 by its current Chairman and former Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Barham Salih, and it is the only private, non-profit university in Iraq. It conducts all instruction in English, and has a stated mission of offering a “student-centered, American-style education that encourages the critical thinking skills necessary for shaping the region’s future leaders.”

Students are required to take one year of intensive English language instruction before proceeding on to four years of Baccalaureate studies. Since it first opened its doors to students from around Iraq and the world, AUIS has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most rigorous and highest quality institutions of higher education in Iraq.

Raval Zaroof, a graduate in the Masters of Business Administration program, said that AUIS has impacted more than just the graduates themselves. “I think what [AUIS] has already done is that it has created an example of how good higher education can be,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of other public and private universities try to match AUIS and its success. That in itself is a big achievement for the university.”

A number of dignitaries attended the commencement, including former Prime Minister Barham Salih, former Vice President of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi, former KRG Representative to the US Qubad Talabani, KRG Minister of Higher Education Dlawer A. Ala`Aldeen, former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and the US Consul General in Erbil Alex Laskaris.

The commencement address was given by Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute for International Education, an organization in charge of overseeing the Fulbright Scholarship program.

The Institute is also home to the Iraq Scholar Rescue Program and the Iraq Scholars and Leaders Program, initiatives that provide Iraqi professors and students with the means to study in the United States.

“Here we are on this beautiful campus overlooking Sulaimani witnessing the graduation of our first undergraduate class. It is happening; dreams do come true,” said Barham Salih, Chairman of the AUIS Board of Trustees. “I want you to know that we will continue to be committed to this venture, and I hope that the local and international business community investing in Kurdistan will continue to help us move forward.”

“Investment in education is an investment in our future,” he noted.

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dlawer A. Ala`Aldeen, announced a new policy shift the Ministry is undertaking for universities throughout the Kurdistan region.

“The Ministry is currently operating quality assurance procedures for public and private universities to promote excellence in teaching and learning,” he said. “All public and private universities will be required to follow the regulations of this program.”

“This is an obvious reflection of hard work of university officials and standards of the teaching and learning process,” the Minister stated.

Kurdistan Fahti, a magna cum laude graduate in Business Administration, gave one of the student speeches at the ceremony. In fluent English, she described the long process of rigorous studying she and her cohorts endured to arrive at graduation day.

“It was almost five years ago when we wanted to give our trust to a newly established university. At that time, it was only an idea. None of us was sure where this institution would lead us,” Fahti said.

“But still, we decided to continue despite the challenges we faced. We used to study in very small portable classrooms—very small. But isn’t that where all dreams start, in very small places?” she concluded.

By Christian Chung - Rudaw

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