In less than a week Mary Baldwin College will host a unique group of men and women. On November 10, nine educators from Iraq will be touring campus, visiting classes, meeting students, and learning about what it means to be a “Boldly Baldwin” woman.
The MBC visit is part of a two-week study tour sponsored by the Academy for Educational Development (AED), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education, health, and economic opportunities for disadvantaged populations in the United States and in developing countries throughout the world. In 2009, AED received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to develop the Iraq Higher Education Advising Network. Through this program, Iraqi educators can participate in workshops in Iraq and the United States to learn how to best advise and prepare students for study in an American college or university.
“We chose Mary Baldwin specifically to display the full breadth of the American higher education system, including [its] long tradition of high quality all-women’s institutions,” said Stacey Bustillos, one of the consortium members of the Iraq Higher Education Advising Network.
MBC joins a select group of colleges chosen by AED to represent the American higher education system. Other universities to be included in the study tour include George Washington University, University of Maryland, James Madison University, and Blue Ridge Community College. The group also will visit an elementary and high school in Northern Virginia and will attend an international educators’ conference in Richmond.
“During the war, many university faculty and students left Iraq, so opportunities are limited now for students there to pursue higher education. Through the Iraq Education Initiative and other sponsored programs, thousands of Iraqi students are beginning to enroll at U.S. institutions,” said Heather Ward, MBC director of international programs. “This is a transformative time for Iraqi society. Institutions of higher learning are critical to a well-functioning democracy, and those must now be repaired and strengthened.”
The visitors, who hail from Baghdad, Diyala, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah, have a full day scheduled. They will visit either Edward Scott’s Introduction to Philosophy or Geraldine Geniusas’ English as a Second Language class, have lunch with the Health Care Administration faculty, and meet with several other professors throughout the day. They will be given a campus tour by a member of President’s Society and round out the day by attending a basketball practice.
“The study tours have proven to be an invaluable experience for advisors in making meaningful contacts and truly understanding the full breadth of the U.S. higher education system,” said Bustillos of the two previous tours AED has sponsored. Earlier in the year, they traveled to Missouri and Washington, D.C. “This will be the first time traveling to the U.S. for most of these Iraqis and they are eager to take advantage of this opportunity.”