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Middle East partnerships explored

Jan. 3, 2004

By Marisa Long

Recently returning from a tour of the Middle East, Josep Rota, associate provost for international programs and director of the Center for International Studies, says he is eager to build stronger relationships and work toward developing partnerships with leaders and institutions in the region.

Photo by Rick Fatica"There is a sign of opportunity in this region for Ohio University to make a contribution to peace, understanding and national development," he says. "Establishing these ties is very attractive and significant for Ohio University and not many American institutions are doing it."

Rota says developing partnerships with the Middle East will help fulfill the goals set forth by Ohio University President Roderick McDavis.

"Increasing diversity is a goal of the university and becoming a key player in an international arena that is underrepresented is important because it will strengthen the national reputation of our institution," he says.

The recent trip to the Middle East is one of the many steps Ohio University has taken toward improving relationships and establishing new partnerships with institutions in the region. The tour, which included visits to the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Lebanon, was organized by Ohio University in conjunction with Universal Knowledge Solutions, one of the leading education services in the Middle East.

"This deals with an area of interest because Ohio University's current ability to represent the Middle East is limited," Rota says. "We are trying to carve out opportunities for our faculty and students to be exposed to one of the most important regions in the world and strengthen the university in the study of this area."

Tom Shostak, dean of lifelong learning, made the trip with Rota. They met with various government, U.S. Embassy and education officials in the region to discuss ideas regarding university professor exchanges, partnerships for teachers and students to work collaboratively with Middle East institutions, study abroad opportunities, Web/media communications ventures and e-learning development.

"There is a tremendous need and desire in the Middle East for post-baccalaureate training and education," Shostak says. "Through the division of lifelong learning, Ohio University can help meet some of these educational goals. Lifelong learning will work with the academic colleges here at the university to design and deliver, using a variety of formats, and various learning programs that can help meet the needs of these unique markets."

Ohio University already has established some ties with the Middle East. The university provides e-learning technology and services to Syrian Virtual University, which is the largest online university in the Middle East. And recently, leaders from Lebanese International University visited campus to discuss possible partnerships.

Ohio University is working with Universal Knowledge Solutions on developing more e-learning technology and Rota says they expect a number of agreements to be made between Ohio University and universities in the Middle East. A number of sources, including U.S. government grants from the department of state and private grants, are being explored to help fund the initiatives.

Marisa Long is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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