International Partners for Global Challenges

International ringmaster suits Kenneth Holland and rolls off the tongue a little easier than his official title: dean of the Rinker Center for International Programs and director of the Center for International Development (CID).

 Participants of May 2011 workshop in Erbil, Iraq.

Holland’s international venues include Iraq and Afghanistan. Consider the partnership between Ball State and University of Tikrit. Mary Theresa Seig, director of the Intensive English InstituteLucinda Van Alst, chair of the Department of Accounting; and Fred Kitchens, associate professor of information systems, teach remote classes in English, accounting, and computer science, respectively, to Iraqi students. (For more see Ball State Business and the September 2010, January 2011, and March 2011 issues of The Alumnus.) The three-year partnership is funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs.

“The U.S. Embassy, which administers the grant in Baghdad, told us that when Ball State taught its first computer science class, live to the students via direct video conferencing, that was actually historic because no other U.S. university had done that,” Holland says.

Holland is active in arenas in the Middle East and South Central Asia, where he seeks opportunities to improve quality of life and education. Along with Mary Theresa Seig, CID will be providing consulting services for the Republic of Iraq through the English Language Institute, Higher Committee for Education Development. The busy ringmaster helps faculty get into the act by consulting with them about their own project ideas.

 Kandahar University faculty and students.

The U.S. Department of State currently funds several of these faculty projects, including a grant that allowed 20 Ball State faculty members to spend eight weeks at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the summer of 2011.

The Center for International Development also partners with Kandahar University in Afghanistan, where Ball State faculty work with both the English and Economic departments to help develop the university’s entrepreneurship curriculum, instilling a free market approach to economics.

Meanwhile, back in Indiana, Ball State’s Indianapolis Center hosted a two-day international conference in January 2011 that included representatives from more than 20 U.S., Canadian, and Afghan universities. Participants discussed partnerships between higher education institutions in Afghanistan and North America. The Canadian government cosponsored this event with the U.S. Department of State. (See article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

 Computer science session with University
 of Tikrit students in Erbil, Iraq.

The center’s efforts expand beyond academia. A NATO grant funded a pilot study of Afghan courts, and NATO has shown an interest in expanding to evaluate and improve local government systems throughout Afghanistan.

“One reason we were awarded the contract was because we offered a new methodology. NATO had been sending soldiers to assess the courts, and it wasn’t working well,” says Holland, who recommended instead sending out Afghan law students, former police officers, and former judges familiar with local governments. “This way is far more cost-effective, and evaluators get much more accurate information.”

The U.S. government is shifting from a military focus to an institutional focus in Afghanistan and Iraq, Holland said, and he is confident in Ball State’s contributions toward helping create self-sustaining democracies. “We’re on the cutting edge to help stabilize these two countries,” he said.