College to collaborate with Kosovo university

by Jenny Che | 1/4/11 11:00pm

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American University in Kosovo president Chris Hall and Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim shake hands after signing a letter of agreement on Oct. 29.
by Courtesy of Joseph Mehling / The Dartmouth

Established in 2003 and located in the capital city Pristina, AUK is Kosovo's first undergraduate institution taught entirely in English. Its relationship with Dartmouth stemmed from work performed in the region by Dartmouth Medical School faculty over the past twenty years, Stavis said.

Members of both DMS and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have worked with colleagues in Kosovo over the past decade to provide resources and help the nation reconstruct its health education and health care systems after its 1991 war of independence with Serbia, according to former DMS Dean James Strickler '50 DMS '51, who led the work in Kosovo in the aftermath of the war.

One of the first goals of the new partnership is to help AUK become accredited in the United States and expand its focus to include disciplines other than research and medicine, Stavis said.

"What we're doing is working with them to build the kind of liberal arts education that Dartmouth is known for," she said.

AUK especially hopes to build a strong humanities program, according to Strickler.

Although AUK is adopting many Dartmouth models, it is impossible to merely "transplant" Dartmouth's liberal arts education to another region of the world, Stavis said.

"You have to reimagine that liberal arts curriculum so that it's appropriate to the nation and culture it's going to take root in," she said.

Students who go to Kosovo will have the opportunity to interact with various academic and government representatives due to Kosovo's status as a newly independent country, Stavis said.

"Kosovo is an unusual place to be because it's just emerging from major conflict and there are major multinational players working with new government to form a new nation," Stavis said. "Students who go there could talk with top officials from the U.S., United Nations, [The North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the European Union, and to see that process as it unfolds."

Stavis said she anticipates the Kosovo partnership will become a multi-faceted program that is similar in nature to the existing partnership with the American University in Kuwait, which was the nation's first private liberal arts university. Students will have the opportunity to not only study abroad at AUK, but also pursue internships at the University, according to Stavis.

"I envision the internships [through AUK] evolving in same way as those in Kuwait, which have included working in admissions and alumni relations, and collaborating with faculty on joint research," Stavis said.

Living in Kosovo presents numerous learning opportunities for students outside of the AUK campus, according to Curt Welling '71 Tu '77, president and CEO of AmeriCares, which provided airlift medicine to Kosovo during the conflict.

"I think it's about enlarging your perspective and world view, and Dartmouth has and continues to find ways to put students in real-time learning environments," he said. "I think Dartmouth is fortunate to have [College President Jim Yong Kim], who is firmly committed to this international learning and taking the initiative to make a dramatic change."

The new collaboration is a chance for students to study the liberal arts in a completely different environment and to pursue areas related to international understanding, Kenneth Yalowitz, director of the Dickey Center, said.

"To be in an environment where people are trying to reconstruct their lives, their institutions and their national states is a tremendous learning experience for Dartmouth students," he said. "There are very important lessons to be learned about why a state disintegrates, why these horrible conflicts occur and how you deal with aftermath."

Yalowitz is currently working with Stavis to find faculty members interested in teaching in Kosovo.

Lindsay Whaley, a linguistics and classics professor, is confident that the AUK program will expand and continue to present even more student opportunities in the future.

"There are all types of opportunities to grow in the social sciences, the health care sciences and the humanities," Whaley said.

The new partnership between the College and AUK is representative of the globalization of undergraduate education, Stavis said.

"Higher education is no longer the product or province of one country anymore," she said. "People all around the world need and want access to higher quality education in their own country, and nations want to create their own infrastructures."

Dartmouth is an appealing partner for overseas collaboration due to its unique commitment to liberal arts education and its many research and graduate opportunities, Stavis said.

Despite the university's collaboration with Dartmouth, AUK will remain an independent institution.