I still remember the one question I was able to answer from the ten minute interview I had with Adam Hubley, the Manager of the Testing Center at the AUIS. The interview was done to place me in one of the Academic Preparatory Program (APP) levels at AUIS. My English understanding was limited then, and I could hardly understand the questions Mr. Hubley asked me. After the interview, I was accepted in level two. Once admitted, I soon realized that there was no space available in level two, so I went ahead and moved up to level three. The first two days of attending APP were difficult because I could hardly understand the instructor. Once, the instructor told all the students go to the computer lab. I didn't move from my desk until most of the students left the class and headed to the computer lab because I didn't get it. Five years ago, we managed to attend classes and learn in a ten square meter cabin made of wood and metal. We felt the coldness of the winter season and the brutal heat in the summer. As soon as class started, we would fight over whether to turn off or to keep the AC on. I recall coming to the cabin during the break, setting the AC at the temperature reading I preferred, and hiding the remote control in one of the cabinets. Most of the people at AUIS used to know each other; students totaled less than 200, so you could manage to become a popular friend very easy. There was one sidewalk to the main building that almost everybody took to work. The university has progressed so have I. Today, in my fifth year at AUIS, I have the language skills to ask or answer hundred questions. Professors often require us to write a four page essay about a book we read or a subject matter we discuss in a matter of 24 hours. They assign chapters of forty to sixty pages twice to three times a week. My colleagues and I manage to handle all of these assignments and tasks in English without major problems or difficulties. The university moved to a new campus that is truly ' state of the art' as they describe it on the university webpage. A single building on the new campus is as twice as big as the old one and there are three of them so far. The cooling and heating systems are centrally controlled so the classes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer without any student's interference or disagreement. Every time I go to a restaurant or a café around Suli, I see somebody from AUIS. The new campus now houses more than one thousand students, staff and faculty. Over the last five years, I grew from somebody who could hardly say a few words and make simple grammatically wrong sentences to an undergraduate student who feels confident writing five to ten major papers every semester. AUIS has grown tremendously over the last five years from a small campus that housed a little more than 200 students into a university that has astonishing buildings and a population of more than a thousand people. All this progress is done thanks to all the committed people who strongly believe in preparing students to become better citizens for a better Iraq.
During my final exams last month, I thought about how I should spend a month of my summer break before my trip to Greece. I knew it would be really boring to do nothing for a whole month. However, thanks to the AUIS Admission Office, I was offered the opportunity to serve as a student instructor at the Summer Honors English Program (SHEP). I received an e-mail from the AUIS Admission office stating that, “this summer AUIS’s Admissions Office will be teaching its first ever AUIS Summer Honors English Program! The program is free opportunity for top English-speaking 12th graders to get free English lessons and learn more about AUIS!" I found the course really interesting and wondered how I could be involved. Happily, the e-mail also indicated that the Admission Office would hire active and experienced students from among the AUIS student body .Luckily, I was selected to assist one of the instructors and work as a student instructor. Now, I am experiencing some of the most beautiful moments of my life. An AUIS APP instructor and I are leading a section of the course. We have about thirty 12th graders. It is worth mentioning that SHEP is a chance for the best English-speaking high school students in Sulaimani to improve their language skills. We have a lively mixture of fun English group activities, group work, and some English projects every day. SHEP not only provides me with an opportunity to enjoy my summer break, but also gives me work experience for my future careers. What could be more interesting than being both an instructor and a student? It is a great feeling when you have the chance to be called a "teacher" while you are too young to have the title. SHEP dramatically increases my teaching and leadership skills. Every day, I learn something new as I work with wonderful students who are truly in love with the English Language and new ideas. More to the point, SHEP allows me to implement what I was taught in the Georgetown University last year. I spent last summer at Georgetown University in Washington DC. We had various academic and leadership training programs for three weeks. I would never be able to recall all the necessary skills I was taught during the program. However, one of my Georgetown professors said something at the end of the course that is always in my mind. He said, "Try to implement whatever you have learned over this course when you return home." Now, I am happy to be able to contribute the knowledge I achieved during the program in the States. I am so happy that I could keep the promise I made to my professor. SHEP reminds me so much of the great moments I spent in Georgetown. We do a lot of same activities and English projects here at AUIS. One thing that really brought tears to my eyes today was a statement that a group of the students wrote on their posters to me. They wrote, "We dedicate this to you dear Mr. Mahdy. We hope you like it." I was almost crying when I read the message. It was very similar to what I used to write on several posters I did last summer in Georgetown. The only difference was that I wrote for my professors last year, but this time some students wrote it for me. Last but not the least, I am grateful for all the contributions and enthusiasm that the students have shown during the course. I will never forget the great moments I shared with you all and will continue to share in the coming days this summer. You all bring more fruit to my life every day as we talk, walk, and do activities with each other.
“APP is always looking for ways to improve the quality of English instruction at AUIS and this language lab is going to be a great resource for our students,” said Rachel Laribee, deputy director of APP. “With the establishment of this new resource, we’re ensuring that every student can receive one-on-one instruction that might be hard to get in a classroom setting with twenty or so other students.” Merit, the software installed in the lab, is state-of-the-art and comparable to those used in the top language institutes across the world. It allows students to create their own account where they can track their progress and hone in on specific grammar and reading problems. It also provides information for APP teachers on how their students are progressing and where they are still having trouble. The goal of the lab is to allow APP students who feel overwhelmed by their class work, or who simply want further challenges, to develop their English language comprehension at their own speed. “The language lab is really useful because it has grammar and reading,” said Mina Bassam, a level four student from Sulaimani. “The grammar tests punctuation and pronouns. I’ve been there six times and I plan to continue going.” The software was installed over the course of January and February and launched on March 1. While some minor technical issues are still being ironed out, the program is up and running in lab 44 on the second floor of the Main Administrative Building. Twenty-five computers are available to accommodate students who want to use the lab. The new lab is just one of several projects the APP program is pursuing to enhance the quality of English instruction at the university. APP currently offers after-school help for struggling students and is in the process of selecting new textbooks for next year’s classes in order to give instructors a wider variety of teaching material to choose from. APP is also transitioning to a trimester schedule to allow students to study English year-round and avoid losing ground over the long summer months. The program is also establishing a library specifically for APP students, many of who do not have a strong enough command of the English language to avail themselves of the reading material currently available in the University’s library. The lab is currently open to all APP students from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, and from 2:00p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
April, 2015 - The American University in Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) is proud that the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) has granted the University’s Academic Preparatory Program (APP) a five year accreditation, from April 2015 to April 2020. CEA is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accrediting agency for English language programs and institutions in the U.S. APP Director Rachel Laribee has been leading the accreditation process since 2012. She emphasized that “For APP, the news for accreditation was wonderful. But the real gift of accreditation was the process that we have gone through the past three years, to make sure our program really is giving the quality instruction that we say we are giving.” She continued, “I hope our students realize that this process is for them. So that when they decide to come to AUIS, they are enrolling in a program that not only strives to follow best practices, but works to deliver quality instruction.” APP operates with a high level of quality, with an approved program of study, qualified instructors, adequate resources, and approved recruitment and admissions policies. And through the hard work of the APP staff and instructors, APP has acquired public recognition with this accreditation which indicates that it fully meets US and international standards set by the US Department of Education. “For APP students, accreditation ensures that they receive a high standard of education. This also gives them a competitive advantage in jobs requiring English skills,” explained Laribee. “For AUIS, this represents a first step towards accreditation for the university as a whole. University accreditation is important for the acceptance and transfers of credits earned, and is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.” Talking about some of the trials they faced during the accreditation process, Laribee said, “The main challenges we faced were finding the time to write the self-study and to formalize all of our policies and procedures, while still having to run the day to day functions. During this time, our program also doubled in size, so it was quite challenging to get everything finished within a few years.” Although she was leading the process, Laribee acknowledges the hard work of the APP staff and instructors in ensuring accreditation for the program. “Without the work of all APP teachers, this could not have been done. Stacie Long was a great help in writing the self-study, and along with the program’s Deputy Director, Katherine Yaw, all APP Faculty - those currently here and those who have since left- were a huge part of the process,” she said. The Interim President of AUIS, Dr. Esther E. Mulnix, was delighted to hear of the accreditation. She stated: “AUIS strives to implement its mission and live its vision to deliver quality education at every level. The community of trustees, faculty, staff, and students have all come together to obtain the accreditation of the English Program that APP delivers.” The Director of Enrollment Paul Craft added, “AUIS focuses on quality. APP’s accreditation by CEA certifies that our program is equal in quality to English language programs in the US, Europe or the Gulf States. Students can get a high quality education at Iraqi tuition rates and without leaving Iraq, the KRG or Sulaimani!” For further information about this accreditation, please contact CEA, 801 North Fairfax Street, Suite 402A, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 665-3400, www.cea-accredit.org.