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AUIS Students Spend Summer Break in the US with IYLEP

  This summer, five students from American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) were among 84 undergraduate students from different provinces of Iraq who spent their summer in the US as part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP).   IYLEP is a four-week exchange program funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that provides both high-school and university students with the opportunity to spend one month in the United States. As an exchange program, IYLEP presents an opportunity for students from all over Iraq to experience living and learning in American communities. The program also aims to bring diverse Iraqi communities together, and to break stereotypical ideas of American people about Iraq and vice versa. Since 2007, IYLEP has created a generation of young Iraqi leaders who have taken their experiences back to their communities.   AUIS students Zryan Ibrahim, Tara Burhan, Rand Salahuddin, Shlova Jabar, and Ismael Jamal began their summer program in Dearborn, Detroit, where they, along with other participants, spent their orientation week at Wayne State University. The students were then divided into groups and spent 18 days at host universities, which included the University of Arkansas, California State University - San Marcos, the University of Texas - Austin, and Washington State University. Each university hosted leadership workshops on particular themes including the environment and cultural preservation, public health, public administration, and public affairs.   Tara Burhan: “I can honestly say that IYLEP is a once in a lifetime experience. Before the program, you think that you are going to America and you are going to learn about American culture only, but we finished the program knowing more about our own diverse Iraqi culture. We learned to love our differences and the fact that we all come from diverse and different backgrounds, and we embraced them with love. I personally got to know myself more and I ended up realizing that I’m capable of doing many things I never thought of. IYLEP shows you your weaknesses and it helps you overcome them to become a young, inspirational leader to yourself before others. I would happily repeat this experience every year if I could!”   Zryan Ibrahim: “IYLEP is an amazing program, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the journey. Throughout the program, I was able to build many connections and deal with people that I have not met or worked with, and most importantly, I was able to enhance my knowledge and improve my skills including, in leadership and critical thinking.The program brings future leaders of Iraq together, and almost everyone has the same potential for leadership and making changes in their community.”   Ismael Jamal: “It was the first time for me to do something outside of my comfort zone. Before participating in IYLEP, I was only able to work with the people with whom I was comfortable; however, during the program, I got to work, share a room, eat, have conversations, do team work, and exchange resources with many different kinds of people. Indeed, I was not comfortable with many of them, but I had to do it no matter what. At the end of the program, I learned that I am capable of working and doing something even if I am not comfortable with it. That was the best lesson I learned in the program.”   Rand Salahuddin: “Before IYLEP, I knew I would come back with greater knowledge and skills. But, what I didn’t expect was learning about myself! I realized that I’m capable of many things that I didn’t know and at the same time that I have negative sides too that I wasn’t aware of. Knowing your weakness and strengths is very important when you want to build your personality. I’ve always wanted to be independent and couldn’t be more independent than when I was in the US because I was on my own without my family for the first time! Living for a month abroad with people from different backgrounds is greater than one thinks.”   Shlova Jabbar: “I would say that IYLEP was a very different experience in the sense that we had to adapt to new places and new people in a very short time, it was not easy but we tried to make the best out of it and thus it was a very beautiful journey.”  

AUIS students attend Hult Prize start-up accelerator in the U.K.

  AUIS students Shady Atef (Engineering), Mohammed Nasih (Business), Medya Zana (IS alumna), and Shavin Hiwa (IT) are among a group of 50 teams spending some eight weeks in the U.K. this summer at the Hult Prize Start-Up Accelerator. Hult Prize bills itself the “world’s biggest engine for the launch of for-good for-profit  platforms” and brings together leading young innovators from around the world. At the summer start-up program, this entrepreneurial and multidisciplinary group of AUIS students will participate in workshops, team building activities, networking opportunities, and coaching and mentorship from business and innovation experts. Atef, Nasih, and Hiwa hope to use their experiences from the accelerator to grow their business, an energy-focused start-up that hopes to solve one of Iraq’s leading issues -- insufficient electricity. Check back for updates on the team’s progress this summer.      

Students raise nearly $700 in business class challenge

  Students in the Small Business Management (MGT-299) summer course raised nearly $700 (827,750 IQD) as part of the $5 business challenge, Prof. Ramazan Uctu announced July 12, 2018.   Twelve teams were given just $5 (6,000 IQD) as an initial investment and two hours to complete the first phase of the challenge. Students developed plans before the start of the two-hour time limit and then raced to sell as much product as they could. Teams were encouraged to then take their initial profits and reinvest them the next day to grow their business. Students had to take marketing into consideration for their businesses with some groups using door-to-door sales, unique advertising, and even eye-catching packaging. Teams mostly focused on food and beverage stands that sold  popcorn, juice, waffles, watermelon, tea, sunflower seeds, and more. Some students devised ambitious plans for their businesses, venturing off campus to avoid a crowded market created by other competing teams. In the end, one team that sold a traditional Iraqi lime drink reported the highest profit (128,000 IQD).  

A Poetry Workshop in Istanbul

Literature students from AUIS and Koç University, Istanbul, came together for some creative writing at a poetry workshop earlier this month. The workshop came at the end of a joint poetry course taught by Professor Marie LaBrosse.   “The workshop was held in Turkey to help foster international partnerships and connections between our students and faculty,” said LaBrosse, professor and former chair of the English department at AUIS. Around 20 students from both AUIS and Koç University attended the workshop in Istanbul. The forum was mainly instructed by LaBrosse, with assistance from fellow professor from the English department, Loren Higbee, and three Turkish faculty members. The course was offered to selected students, who had earlier applied for a slot in the poetry course. “The students were selected for the course based on their commitment to, experience with, and talent in writing poetry.” said LaBrosse. Sara Jabbar, an English student and participant of the course from AUIS, found it exciting and challenging. “This was no doubt the best course I've taken during the two years I've been here. I would definitely enroll in other classes similar to this.” Talking about the joint workshop, she said, “The unexpected trip to Turkey was a bonus. I had heard great things about Koç University, and it was interesting to be part of this new collaboration.” She felt that working in groups during the workshop was a real ice-breaker between the students from the two universities as it “gave way to introductions and new friendships.” English literature major, Lana Jabbar, has always been interested in writing poetry and thinks that the intensive course really helped her. “This was the first time I took a poetry-writing course and it made me feel a lot more capable,” she said, “On the second day (of the workshop) we actually got to work with the Turkish students by translating each others’ works into our own languages. It was nice to interact with them, and the Turkish professors too were very welcoming.” One of the Turkish faculty members, Nazmi Ağıl, believes in the benefits of bringing students from different cultures together and exposing them to new ideas. “It was nice to see how willingly students cooperated and how soon they made friends. If one purpose of the gathering was to create this friendly atmosphere I believe it was achieved.” he said. Professor Higbee thinks the joint workshop was a wonderful experience for the students and the faculty members. "The weather wasn't great, but everything else about the workshop was wonderful. The students put a lot of effort and thought into their work and showed an impressive amount of energy. Koç University has a beautiful campus, and their faculty members were extremely courteous and engaged,” he said. “I was also impressed by their students, who interacted actively and enthusiastically with our students on both an intellectual and social level. Most importantly, Professor LaBrosse helped the workshop participants develop their interpretative and feedback skills and create some very good poetry." Although it was a one-time event, LaBrosse feels that it could be used as a model for other low-residency teaching options in the future. “The amount of focus, creativity and growth that I have seen occur through our correspondence and through the workshop has been incredible. These students are learning to forge art from their personal and shared experiences. They are finding language for the most elusive ideas.” she said. “In Turkey, among peers, they were intelligent and respectful leaders of the conversation. The grounding they have received from the English Department in foundational texts, theoretical approaches, critical thinking, literary translation, and creative writing has positioned them well to be part of a global academic environment.”

Undergrads Demonstrate Basic Data Collection Methods to APP Students

A group of undergraduates presented their findings from data collected on genetic traits of the AUIS community for a statistics project to an audience of Academic Preparatory Program (APP) students and their instructors, as part of Discovery Week. After the presentation, the undergraduate students held small workshops on basic statistical data collection methods for APP students. Deputy Director of APP, Katherine Yaw, said the collaboration was a good idea. “We tried to combine some things that the students are doing in Dr. Nasseer’s statistics class with the skills that we’re trying to build in APP students like language learning skills,” she said. “The idea was also to just introduce them to basic scientific methods.  How to develop a hypothesis, and then to test it out, and how the results can be interpreted.” Seth Voytek, an APP instructor, said that as part of science and discovery focused activities for the Discovery Week, their students had been learning about genetics and will be conducting some experiments about that. “The students have come to the presentations with some background knowledge on the subject already," he said. “ This (collaboration) is not something we do traditionally. It’s new for us but the nice thing about this is that the students have learned some nice subject matter that is going to be useful for them when they go into life sciences or science in general, when they start their academic program.” The undergraduate students in Dr. Nasseer Idrisi’s statistics class had taken up a small project to test general hypothesis about the dominant to recessive genetic traits using a sample from the AUIS community. “This collaborative workshop was a great opportunity for me to see how well the students understand the topic. It’s one thing to write a report and another thing to actually instruct others how to do it. I’m very pleased with the way they’ve done it,” he said. Al-Hamzeh Muhammad, a business student, enjoyed the experience of collecting and interpreting the data, and teaching APP students how to do it. “I really think that we learned more about statistics by doing this than we would have done from just writing a paper. This was a more practical thing, and what we instructed the APP students with will help us with our second exam,” he commented. Yaw would like to see more academic collaborations between the undergraduate and APP classes in the future. “I think such collaborations are very good for our students so they can see that the things they learn in their APP class have a purpose. We would definitely like to continue things like these. It would be interesting to try other topics as well.” More photos of the workshops on our facebook page.

AUIS Students Build Digital Microscopes

Discovery Week at AUIS kicked off with a microscope building activity by students and faculty members. The low cost digital microscopes were built using easily available material, and included smart-phones and tablets for digital imaging. The students have now been divided into teams and will use the microscopes to photograph and record water and cells samples taken around the campus for a competition. The best photos and videos will be exhibited at the AUIS Research Symposium on 9th December, and the winner will also be announced at the event. Students were fascinated to observe microscopic samples using their smart-phones. “This is so impressive and easily done. We feel like scientists. It’s so cool to use such basic stuff and mobile phones to see things that can’t be seen with a naked eye,” said student Gardinya Jutyar.  IT student Shko Shwan decided to enter the competition when he saw a video of a sample included in the invitation. “I loved the video. We just built a microscope – right here! This can go to so many schools. It’s cheap and everybody has mobile phones now.” His teammate, another IT major, Bezy Bahzad, was excited by the prospect of using tablets and phones. “All you need to do is get an ordinary webcam and plug it into a screen to project the photos and videos of these amazing samples,” he said. The microscope was built at AUIS by Dr. Maria Saldarriaga, associate professor in the science department, with help from Snoor Kamal, science lab assistant.  Saldarriaga was inspired by an article published in the USA by a school teacher who had built microscopes for his students and posted free instructions online. “Dr. Mazen (chair of science department) shared this article with me, and I got excited about the idea as well. I realized that we only have two digital microscopes at the university that allow you to take photographs,” said Saldarriaga.  “After building a first prototype, we had to make several improvements to it. But, when it worked, we decided to turn it into a competition for Discovery Week.” “We had an Academic Preparatory Program conference recently, and I built a few microscopes with some high school science teachers from Sulaimani. Now, we have heard that two geology professors from Sulaimaniyah University also want to build them to study rocks and minerals,” Saldarriaga said, mentioning the usability, cost-effectiveness and ease of building these microscopes. “It’s a way of creating lots of microscopes for high school students in the region,” she added. When asked whether these microscopes will be used at AUIS, Saldarriaga said, “We plan to use them in class next semester. I have a class on water in Iraq, so I am also going to be looking at water quality using these digital microscopes.” The following images of different microscopic samples were taken by Dr. Saldarriaga using the hand-built digital microscope at AUIS. Image 1: Heretochromatin structure in human DNA from a cheek swab sample isolated at the AUIS science lab Image 2: Two-year-old Tilia tree Image 3: Ovulate in a pine tree. This will become the seed of the plant. Image 4. Freshwater rotifer from sample prepared at AUIS. Brown and spirogyra algae can also be observed in the image. Click here to see the photos of the mircoscope building activity on our Facebook page.
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