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auis faculty

AUIS Professor Wins DAAD Research Fellowship

Sulaimani (KRG), Iraq - June 8, 2016 - Dr. Atheer Matroud, chair of the Department of Information Technology at AUIS, will visit Professor Stoye Research Group at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, as part of a three month research grant beginning this June. During this time, he will work on a research project that focuses on building phylogenetic trees* for closely related species using DNA sequences that contain repetitive elements. This project is a continuing work on the analysis of tandem repeats. His research visit is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Dr. Matroud worked on a similar study several years ago with a group of researchers at the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution and at Massey University where they observed a complex repetitive structure in the ribosomal DNA of Colocasia esculenta (tropical plant also known as taro). The nested tandem repeat can be used as a phylogenetic marker for studying populations genetics. A preliminary analysis suggests that changes in the ancestor tandem repeats (NTR) in taro have been occurring on a 1000 year time scale, so a greater understanding of this NTR offers the potential to date the early agriculture of this ancient staple food crop. Dr. Matroud's thesis on nested tandem repeat computation and analysis at Massey University can be found here. He also co-authored a paper on detecting the repeat structure in DNA sequences with a software tool, NTRFinder. “I am aiming to publish a software tool that can be helpful to analyse DNA sequences.” said Dr Matroud about his plans after completing the fellowship. “This software may be used to study population genetics in the Kurdistan region by using repeated elements as markers.” ----------------------------- *A phylogenetic tree or evolutionary tree is a branching diagram or "tree" showing the inferred evolutionary relationships among various biological species or other entities—their phylogeny—based upon similarities and differences in their physical or genetic characteristics. (Wikipedia)

AUIS professor attends water conference in Istanbul

Experts: Women must be involved in water management Daily Sabah MidEast  Assistant Professor at the AUIS Mathematics and Natural Sciences department, Maria Saldarriaga, recently attended the "Women, Water and Peace" conference in Istanbul on March 18-19, 2016. Highlighting the challenges that must be faced to overcome the mismanagement of water resources, Saldarriaga said: "Gender-sensitive policy implementation must be bottom up, but there is no time for it as the country [Iraq] is always in a state of emergency." Read full article.  Saldarriaga recently contributed a chapter on water scarcity in the refugee camps in Iraq in the report, "Women, Water and Peace: Crisis of Survival in the Middle East, 2015", published by the Strategic Foresight Group. 

Pedagogical Training for Iraqi Faculty on Critical Thinking Skills

The week-long pedagogical training course, entitled “Critical Thinking Skills in the Academy: A Path to Interactive Learning,” ended on October 20, 2015 with the awarding of certificates of completion. The faculty members became interested in taking part in such a training course after Dr. Akeel Abbas delivered a lecture at al-Mustansiriyah University back in April 2015. Dr. Akeel specifically designed the training course to meet the needs of the faculty members and students of the two universities’ English and translation departments, to help move the teaching and learning paradigm from its current static, hierarchal, information-based emphasis to a dynamic, interactive, skill-based emphasis where students become active agents in the production of knowledge under the supervision of teachers. The English and translation classes at these two universities are taught based on rote learning, not critical thinking. Moreover, students who must memorize vast amounts of information in textbooks, generally outdated, in order to pass their exams are not actively engaged in the learning process. As the Baghdad faculty trainees themselves indicated, this does not promote analytical engagement on the part of the students. This five-day training course aimed to equip the trainees with conceptual tools and pedagogical skills to help them move teaching and learning from rote learning to critical thinking. The course focused on the meaning of critical thinking and how it can be used in the classroom and academic learning. The training also emphasized ways to develop courses based on critical thinking skills and help students use their life experiences as material for academic learning. The training course involved Lecturing sessions with different faculty members of AUIS English Department; Application sessions that covered designing course syllabi; Classroom observations where trainees attended classes taught by AUIS English Department faculty members; Faculty and student interaction where trainees observed how students and faculty members at AUIS interact to highlight how the humanistic pedagogical values differ and run counter to the hierarchical and strictly formal interactions between Iraqi faculty and students; Teaching and learning demonstration where trainees used what they had been taught throughout the course to produce syllabi, assignment sheets and other teaching materials based on the courses they teach at their universities. All trainees successfully completed the course and received a certification from AUIS to be acknowledged in their academic records at their respective institutions. In the final day of the training, each trainee had to pass a teaching demonstration test based on the critical thinking skills method. Trainees talked about their gratitude for what they learned during the five-day extensive training. One trainee said “this training is a turning-point in my career as a teacher. Thank you AUIS for doing this training.” Other trainees expressed similar sentiments and hoped for more future cooperation with AUIS. The certification is evidence of continuing professional development for the Iraqi faculty members.

AUIS Professor Dedicates Award to Women Fighters in Kobane

Sulaimani, Iraq - November, 2014 - Dr. Choman Hardi, professor of English literature at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) was presented with the Woman’s Award in recognition of her achievements as a creative writer and academic as well as her work on women’s issues, in particular Kurdish women. The award was presented by Andesha – an independent cultural center and publishing house based in Sulaimani – during their second annual cultural festival in Kurdistan. While receiving her award at the ceremony, Hardi announced her decision to dedicate her prize to the brave women fighting in Kobane. “Throughout history in this region there have been moments when women have challenged the stereotypical view of woman as a passive, inactive, domestic person who cannot lead, who cannot be brave; who cannot fight. Most recently I think that was done in Kobane.” The award was officially handed out to the representatives of the women’s military wing in Kobane at a separate event hosted at the Cultural Café in Sulaimani. On her decision to give away her award, Hardi said, “They have challenged the definition of women again and they’ve proved to the community that women can do the same things that men do. And that’s why I thought it’s just fair to give the prize to them because they have become the symbol of resistance, of power, and of empowerment.” When asked about how the women felt on receiving the award, she said, “I believe they were very pleased. Of course, it’s a symbolic gesture. The award didn’t involve anything substantial but its recognition. And, it’s nice to be recognized especially at times like this – in times of crisis and division between the communities.” On receiving the Woman’s Award herself, Dr. Hardi felt pleased on being recognized for her achievements in Kurdistan. “This is the first time that I receive an award in Kurdistan. This may be partly because I have written mostly in English. I have written poems in Kurdish but those collections came out during the civil war in ’94 and ’96, and I was living in the UK so they didn’t really reach the audience here. Some people think of me as a British writer even though all my subject matter is very Kurdish.” she said. “I think one can have a dual identity and one can re-create ‘Kurdishness’ or any other ethnicity in a different language. I hadn’t even been invited to do a poetry reading here until last year when the British Council held Niniti Literature Festival in Erbil. So, for me it’s a big thing because it’s the first time I received​ acknowledgement from the community itself.”

Love of Teaching Math

Mathematics is the foundation of all sciences, but most students have problems learning mathematics. Although students’ success in life is related to their success in learning, many of them would not take a course in math if they didn’t need to satisfy the university’s core requirement. Teaching mathematics doesn’t depend on geographical regions or gender; it depends on good math teachers. Based on conversations with hundreds of students over many years from different regions, I have observed that poor understating of mathematics begins when a student goes two or three years in a row without an excellent math teacher. Many students can survive bad teaching for a year, but very few can go longer. Students who have continued to enjoy math can remember excellent teachers and describe their lessons, usually back to the mid-elementary years; I certainly can. I believe that any educative adult can do mathematics and that everyone can learn but may learn differently. There is no difference in understanding mathematics between males and females, and as a female, I must say that once all chances are given and barriers are removed, females can show themselves to be equal, and perhaps even better, to men in quantitative reasoning. I love mathematics and I love teaching students courses from elementary algebra to differential equations. I have often found myself filling napkins with computations while discussing math over dinner or lunch. I do talk a lot about math, think and write about math, but students rarely do. For this reason and many others, I advise you, as students, to not let unpleasant experiences in mathematics prevent you from understanding mathematics. Keep positive attitudes towards math, ask questions, practice regularly, and not to just read over notes but actually do the math. I hope that my knowledge, my love of math, and my love of teaching mathematics will result in students who will appreciate studying and understanding mathematics. Seeing the smile on my students’ faces when they finally understand mathematics is my reward.

AUIS Past & Present

When I first arrived on the AUIS campus in the fall of 2009, I saw a sort of greenish-black, three story administration building on one side of the campus, and on the other side, forty or so metal buildings that were plopped down in neat rows. All were enclosed within a formidable blast wall. The metal buildings served as classrooms and offices, and were divided by what must have been a very thin wall that, while it did not let light through, was completely ineffectual in keeping out sound from the other side. Virtually every noise making activity that took place on one side of the wall could be heard on the other.  When it rained, the small grass area in the center of the pods turned into a lake.  The sidewalks could hold as much as an inch of water at times, forcing us to be imaginative in taking the least wet route from office to classroom.  I ruined a perfectly good pair of leather-soled shoes during the winter of 2009-2010, as I had no boots.  The administration building was crowded, the cafeteria was noisy, the toilets were “fragrant,” and the power supply was frequently interrupted.  By any measure, the facility was make-shift.  No matter how much effort was put into it, the rapid expansion of numbers of students made it difficult to keep up with demand for space.    Today, of course, we now go to classes in the new campus.  The sidewalks are dry except for the moments shortly after they have been washed by the effective, and greatly expanded, custodial crew.  The hallways are broad and clean.  The classrooms are spacious and insulated from each other.  The cafeteria is such a far cry from the one it replaced.  The administrative offices are large and welcoming to those who need the services of administrators.  What’s not to like?  This feels like a real university.  In a few years, when the current generation of students graduates and moves on to make their way in the world, and new students come, students who know only this building, the memories of the old campus will fade. And yet, for me, I will remember the old campus with some fondness.  Not the frustrating and unpleasant parts of it, to be sure.  But rather, I will remember when the number of students was small enough that it was easy to remember most of them, if not by name then at least by face; when walking from office pod to teaching pod allowed for interaction with a lot of people; when all of the faculty could sit around a conference table; and when it felt like we were quite literally a part of the creation of an institution of higher education.  I am grateful that I had the opportunity to serve in one of the early, formative years.  Yet, I know that the institution has to “grow up,” so I am also grateful that I can serve here as this institution evolves.  I wish only the best for AUIS in the coming years, and would very much like to come back in five years to see what changes have occurred.   

AUIS Honors Faculty with Teaching Excellence Awards

Sulaimani, Iraq – April 6, 2014 – AUIS awarded Benjamin Boyce, Rachel Ramey, and Bilal Wahab teaching excellence awards during a special ceremony on campus. The awards recognize quality teaching practice and outstanding contributions to student learning, as well as  encouraging recipients to continue their efforts in bringing about systemic changes in teaching and learning. Boyce won the distinguished educator award, which recognizes faculty members with a distinguished service record who go above and beyond the call of duty to promote a first-rate learning experience for AUIS students and colleagues. Boyce was chosen for his passion for teaching, integration of cutting-edge content knowledge in courses and materials, and thought leadership within the AUIS community.  He is a senior lecturer in the social sciences department and also serves as the faculty advisor for AUIS’s Student Ambassadors for Peace Organization. Ramey won the outstanding Academic Preparatory Program teacher award, which recognizes the commitment of instructors in delivering exceptional English language instruction. Ramey was chosen for her mastery of teaching English, deep interest in and concern for student learning, and contributions to the AUIS learning community while maintaining the highest professional standards. Ramey has been a member of the APP faculty since the fall of 2012. She earned her master's degree in TEFL from the American University in Cairo and taught English as a second language at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is involved in numerous student clubs and teaches Zumba classes to female dorm residents. Wahab won the most promising professor award. This award recognizes outstanding faculty members who are committed to promoting excellence in teaching and learning and to enhancing the quality of the classroom experience. Wahab was chosen for his demonstration of up-to-date knowledge of his field and exemplary teaching skills that encourage student engagement. Wahab joined AUIS in September 2012 as a lecturer in the social sciences department. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in public policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia and will soon defend his dissertation titled Iraqi Oil Policy Since 2003.
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