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President McDavis and Afghan Minister of Public Works Najibullah Aoudjan sign a Memorandum of Understanding.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and Afghan Minister of Public Works Najibullah Aoudjan sign a Memorandum of Understanding on March 7 establishing a formal relationship to share engineering resources and information.

Photographer: Rebecca F. Miller

Russ Professor of Civil Engineering Shad Sargand tours the Russ College concrete lab with Aoudjan and other members of the delegation.

Russ Professor of Civil Engineering Shad Sargand tours the Russ College concrete lab with Aoudjan and other members of the delegation.

Photographer: Rebecca F. Miller

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Ohio University and Afghanistan partner on engineering training


Ohio University has established a formal relationship with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to share engineering information and resources as the country addresses the rebuilding of its infrastructure.

Afghan representatives visited Ohio University on March 7 to sign a memorandum of understanding, in which OHIO President Roderick J. McDavis and Afghan Minister of Public Works Najibullah Aoudjan agreed that Ohio University will help the government train engineers, develop construction standards and advise on establishing the Afghan National Construction Laboratories (ANCL) to build engineering capacity within the Afghan government for infrastructure construction and maintenance.

"Afghanistan is a poor country that is actually very rich in natural resources. In order for the country to begin to prosper, its transportation infrastructure must be developed," said Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering Technology Dean Dennis Irwin.

The agreement lays the foundation for the Public Works Ministry to send its engineers to the Russ College for advanced studies in civil engineering and secures the university's assistance with establishing best practices for the ANCL. In setting up the lab, OHIO will assist with training of technical staff and advising on technical activities.

Roadway construction, geotechnical engineering and transportation systems will be the initial focus of projects in the ANCL, expanding to include hydraulics and environmental engineering in the future.

Joining McDavis and Aoudjan for the signing ceremony were Irwin, Russ Professor of Civil Engineering Shad Sargand, Interim Executive Director for International Studies Ming Li, Afghan Railway Authority Director-General Mohammad Yamma Shams, and Hashim Pashtun, an environmental engineering master's student.

A native of Afghanistan, Sargand has served as a volunteer liaison with Afghani universities and development officials to promote civil engineering education and encourage rebuilding of infrastructure in the country's major cities. He has consulted extensively on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan over the past decade.

"We have already trained eight university faculty that have returned to teach in their premier engineering programs," Sargand said. "The success these faculty have had has generated more interest there in working with Ohio University in building the nation's infrastructure."

The university has similar agreements with Kabul University and Kabul Polytechnic University to offer advanced training to faculty and students in those institutions. This memorandum marks OHIO's first such partnership with a government entity in Afghanistan.

In 2008, the Russ College hosted a cohort of seven master's students from the two schools in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering under the Afghan Merit Scholars program operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Afghan Merit Scholars from Afghan universities also work toward master's level degrees at Purdue University in agriculture and at University of Nebraska at Omaha in education under the USAID program.

Now that the formal agreement is signed, Sargand and Shams will work together to develop the details of the training program and laboratory setup.

"Given ORITE's long and rich history in pavements and other ground transportation infrastructure and the Russ College strategic focus on transportation, we are uniquely equipped to prepare the next generation of Afghan civil engineers that will accomplish the huge task of establishing a modern, reliable roadway system," Irwin said.