For nearly a decade, the American University of Kurdistan (AUK), located in Duhok, has been unwavering in its commitment to the pursuit of excellence. This commitment isn't solely directed toward its students but extends to the entire region. The challenge of implementing an American-style education system in the country comes with its known difficulties, but year after year, the dedicated team at AUK has managed to overcome these hurdles.
Realizing any vision of higher education requires support and trust from international education programs, particularly when it comes to securing grants. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recognized this need and initiated the Support to American-Style Higher Education in Iraq grant program. AUK has received a total of four grants amounting to $15 million through this program.
AUK has consistently demonstrated remarkable progress in its American curriculum programs, thanks to its partnerships with several U.S.-based universities, including James Madison University, Wayne State University, University of Florida, and Middle Tennessee State University.
In October 2020, AUK was awarded its first DOS grant of $4 million. The announcement took place at the Mustafa Barzani campus in the presence of the former U.S. Consul General of Erbil Rob Waller and AUK president Dr. Randall Rhodes. In September 2021, a second grant of $4.75 million was bestowed upon AUK.
Shortly after, the university hosted the first International Nursing Conference in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The funds were used to focus on the U.S. accreditation process, establish the Grant Management Office, and develop the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab to meet the standards of the American-Based Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This lab played a pivotal role in the Nursing Program, which had begun in the fall of 2020.
In December 2022, AUK was granted a third DOS grant of $2.55 million, which enabled the university to provide 44 student scholarships, with a specific focus on female students and those from minority groups. The multimedia lab and campus radio station were also established, enhancing the campus environment with elements typical of American universities, promoting freedom of expression.
Investing in the future
AUK's latest endeavor is the introduction of the country's first Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technological Lab, which is expected to be instrumental in research and development for upcoming projects in the KRI. The university will also receive support from the recently awarded fourth grant from the ongoing DOS program, totaling $3.75 million. This grant will primarily focus on 49 new student scholarships, female empowerment programs, and further collaborations with U.S.-based universities.
The Support to American-Style Higher Education in Iraq grant program, offered by the U.S. Department of State, has been an invaluable source of support not only for AUK but also for other local higher education institutions. As seen over the years, AUK remains steadfast in its mission to adopt and adapt U.S. practices, delivering American-style professional education to all students in the country.
AUK has declared its dedication to preparing future generations of leaders through curricular and co-curricular excellence, emphasizing American-style education that focuses on transformative knowledge, innovative research, ethical community service, inclusion and diversity, global connectedness, and lifelong learning. This mission aims to drive economic, environmental, social, and political advancement at regional, national, and global levels.
Moreover, AUK has gained recognition as the host of the First Middle East Peace and Security Forum, which held its first meeting in November 2019. The MEPS Forum has established partnerships with prestigious institutions such as the United States Institute of Peace, Oxford University, the Carnegie Corporation, the Crisis Response Council, and the Middle East Institute. This year marks the fifth gathering of the forum, further solidifying AUK's commitment to fostering dialogue and understanding in the region.
Aveen Howrami is Kurdistan Chronicle's Liaison.