Baghdad, Columbia linked by engineering schools

The College of Engineering will help University of Technology, Baghdad rebuild its engineering program.

Last fall, MU was approached to submit a statement of interest to the IREX University Linkage Program, allowing MU’s College of Engineering to create an important tie with the University of Technology in Baghdad.

“IREX is an international nonprofit organization providing thought, leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally,” according to the IREX website.

After MU responded with a statement of interest, the engineering department was found to be a match for UTB. MU and UTB set up a one-on-one partnership following the match.

“The overarching goal is to help Iraq with rebuilding their higher education system,” said Vlad Likholetov, director of International Partnerships and Initiatives in the engineering college. “We want to help them restore their educational capacity.”

In October, five faculty members from the engineering department traveled to Kurdistan to meet with partner faculty members from UTB. Professor Linsey Steege was one of the professors who made the journey.

“Our primary purpose there was to participate in a workshop for IREX linkage partners,” Steege said. “During the workshop, we spent most of our time meeting with our collaborators and partners at the University of Technology, Baghdad to identify areas of focus and activities for our linkage.”

Likholetov said Iraq used to have a respected education system, but violence and the war have been detrimental to the structure.

“Traditionally, Iraq is advanced education-wise, with a solid theoretical education in science and math like many other socialist countries,” Likholetov said. “There is not as much focus on applied areas, open-ended problems, experiential learning, practical or hands-on work.”

The program will allow MU faculty members to travel to UTB to help train and teach faculty members. Iraqi scientists and researchers, along with UTB faculty members, will be traveling to MU’s campus to work and train with MU’s machinery and technology.

The program focuses on four main areas: industrial engineering curriculum review and education, energy-related course development, nano-/microfabrication course development and career center and professional development.

“The first area is the biggest focus and includes program review, accreditation and quality control,” Likholetov said. “The second two have a lot of hands-on training associated with them. The fourth utilizes the career services and professional development center within the college [of engineering].”

Although the program has not officially begun, a proposal for curriculum has been submitted and only administrative aspects need to be worked out.

Likholetov said he has high hopes for the future of the program.

“We are hoping for less violence [in Iraq],” Likholetov said. “We hope the situation will improve and help us achieve our goals.”

There is also a possibility of having Iraqi students come to MU and graduate with an MU diploma.

“I am interested in continuation of activities beyond the project term,” Likholetov said. “It would be great to try to expand into other areas, geographically, to other institutions, and ultimately exploiting multiple collaborative opportunities in Iraq.”

Kifayah Alsaffar, a visiting professor from Iraq, has been working at MU since July 2011.

“I worked at the college of engineering at Almustinyra University in Baghdad,” Alsaffar said. “Iraq has a program that allows all faculty to take a one-year leave to work in one of the respective universities. I was accepted into the Department of Industrial Engineering at Mizzou because they thought it would be a good chance to have people from different places.”

Alsaffar said she knows all too well the difficulties that Iraq has gone through in all respects of life. She said Iraq need to work with good American universities to rebuild the higher education system.

“Knowledge has to be accumulated,” Alsaffar said. “You have to have a lot of passion and love for your country and your work. You have to try your best to fix the system back home.”

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