Kennesaw State students launch dialogue with Iranian counterparts
Georgia (Feb 1, 2009) — College students in the U.S. and Iran share common concerns about grades and getting a good job‚ a group of 14 Kennesaw State University students discovered last week in the first video teleconference with about 40 students from the University of Kashan in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Hanging out with friends and listening to American rock‚ rap‚ hip−hop and R&B music also seem to bridge the geographic divide between students attending college at the Northwest Georgia university and those in Kashan‚ located in Northwestern Iran.
In a step towards “academic diplomacy‚” professors at Kennesaw State and the University of Kashan have launched a series of contacts — including teaching classes via teleconference‚ frequent telephone discussions and engaging students in dialogue — that they hope will lead to more formalized relationships.
Kennesaw State encourages faculty and students to “Get Global‚” a key theme in the university’s strategic plan. Over the past five years‚ the number of Kennesaw State students participating in study−abroad programs has grown by a dramatic 142 percent‚ and 142 countries are represented among the university’s 21‚500 students. Global learning has been integrated across the curricula of the university’s eight colleges.
The exchanges between KSU and Iranian faculty and students are the brainchild of Chris Smith‚ a KSU sophomore and political science major who served in the U.S. Air Force in Iraq‚ Kuwait and Abu Dhabi‚ and Ken Hill‚ a lecturer in the university’s First−Year Programs department. Smith was a student in Hill’s first−year seminar class during fall 2007.
“There was such a disparity in the reality of who and what 90 percent of the people in the Middle East are and what most Americans perceived from the activities of insurgents in the urban areas‚” said Smith‚ who said he came into close contact with locals throughout his service in the Mideast.
As a project for the class‚ Hill urged Smith to explore a way to change the perceptions. “I challenged him to do something about it‚ and he did‚” Hill said.
Smith searched the Internet and identified about 30 international studies and English department chairs at universities in Iran‚ since it was a “hot spot in the news” at that time. The first response to his e−mails came last March from Amin Alipour‚ a computer science professor at the University of Kashan‚ an engineering and technical school with about 5‚000 students.
After meeting with top administrators‚ Hill got the green light to respond to Alipour and begin the dialogue. Since then‚ as many as six faculty members from each university have shared phone calls‚ e−mails and videoconferences.
In October‚ KSU students in a globally focused section of the first−year seminar course heard a video teleconference lecture on Iranian culture and history by Abbas Farahati‚ a University of Kashan theology professor. Anne Richards‚ assistant professor of English at Kennesaw State‚ began delivering a series of technical writing classes to graduate−level Kashan students majoring in English.
“I see a real willingness for students and faculty to put aside political and cultural differences to cooperate on building a relationship and achieving mutual academic goals‚” Hill said.
While Smith has moved on with his studies and is no longer involved in the process‚ he is “very excited” about the prospects for a relationship between the two universities.
“On a narrower level‚ I wanted to generate a chance for more understanding among students from two diametrically opposed cultures‚” Smith said. “But on a broader strategic level‚ I’m hoping to demonstrate that these kinds of conversations can serve as an alternative to military solutions to resolving our differences.”
To view a portion of the students’ video conference‚ visit:
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.