Baylor Professors Dedicate Center For Democracy And Diplomacy At Iraq's Dohuk University

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    Dr William Mitchell, Larry Lehr, Dr. Brad Owens and Dr. Bill Hair discuss their recent experiences in Iraq.
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    A Christian church stands across the street from Dohuk University in Northern Iraq.
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    Participants in the conference at Dohuk University.
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    The mountain goats standing in the waterfall are stone in this new park in Northern Iraq.
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    The tomb of a beloved Emir in the ancient city of Amidea.
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    This sign encourages Iraqi citizens to vote in their elections.
Dec. 15, 2005

by Julie Carlson (254) 710-6681

Video of the news conference is available on demand at BaylorTV.com.

See related stories:

Aug. 26, 2003 - Baylor Poised To Help Rebuild Higher Education In Iraq

Dec. 23, 2003 - Baylor Professors Tell Of Jubilation In Iraq During Successful Higher Education Workshop

April 22, 2004 - Iraqi University President Outlines Higher Educational Reform For Iraq

As Iraqi citizens headed to the polls to vote in historic elections, four Baylor University professors returned to Texas soil, after helping their colleagues at Dohuk University in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq establish and dedicate Dohuk's Center for Democracy and Diplomacy.

The Baylor faculty delegation included Dr. William A. Mitchell, The Jo Murphy Chair of International Education, professor of political science and director of the Center for International Education; William Hair, associate dean and director of the University Libraries; Dr. Larry Lehr, senior lecturer in environmental studies; and Dr. Brad Owens, associate professor of journalism.

Furthering Baylor's already established presence in the rebuilding of the Iraqi higher education system, the four professors visited Dohuk on Dec. 6-11, which marked the university's third journey to the region since 2003.

During his remarks at the Center's dedication, Mitchell stressed Baylor's role in assisting Iraq as an important humanitarian and educational endeavor that helps "our global neighbors" and educates Iraqi students, in keeping with Baylor's mission and 10-year vision known as Baylor 2012.

"The world has traditionally regarded a country's global stature by measures of power, such as its military, its territory, its institutions, its natural resources and its population," Mitchell said. "Today we wish to expand that outdated definition of national power to include the most essential component of all, a country's democracy with peace and prosperity for all people. Your country is immensely rich in its people and your spirit is strong, in its culture and in its traditions and heritage - as well as its natural resources - but deserves democracy throughout Iraq."

Mitchell noted that Iraq needs assistance to reconstruct its economy to generate employment and deliver basic services, including stabilizing and strengthening the country's oil production. He also addressed the political debate in the United States over troop withdrawal from Iraq, which Mitchell said would have several negative consequences, such as civil war, a rise in terrorist activities and worsened relations with neighboring Middle East counties.

In his speech, Mitchell stressed that education and information are the basis for respect, understanding and tolerance, and emphasized the Baylor delegation's desire to share innovations in teaching and research, scholarship and academic publication to reinforce a global perspective and responsibilities of a well-educated society. He endorsed the goals of the Center for Democracy and Diplomacy, which aspires to share knowledge to develop responsible citizens and educate leaders, dedicated scholars and skilled professionals who appreciate an enriching cultural diversity.

The overall goal of rebuilding the Iraqi higher education system is to enable Iraq to once again be at its height culturally, educationally, economically and politically; that "there is truly a light in the darkness that can extinguish evil, and that light is kindled and kept alive through education, by giving students tools and knowledge to understand, and thereby tools and knowledge for peace and justice for all," Mitchell said.

Mitchell ended his speech by thanking the audience for inviting the delegation to Dohuk and for their warm hospitality, and by conveying the Baylor family's greetings, good will, and warm wishes.

Plans for the current journey began months ago. Dohuk President Asmat Khalid extended another invitation to Mitchell to return to Iraq and assist with the establishment of the Center for Democracy and Diplomacy. In preparation, Baylor's faculty delegation conducted extensive research into relevant topics pertaining to higher education and its role in a democratic society to present to Dohuk faculty and administrators, as well as government officials, NGOs and education leaders.

Baylor has had a statement of cooperation in place with Dohuk since 1996, although Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime did not allow the universities to accomplish any part of their initial agreement. That changed more than two years ago when three Baylor professors traveled to northern Iraq at Asmat's request.

In August 2003, a Baylor faculty delegation of Mitchell, Dr. Mark Long, director of Middle East studies, and Professor Bill Baker, lecturer in Arabic, conducted a preliminary assessment of Dohuk's educational and instructional needs. While in Iraq, they also witnessed the devastation caused by Saddam's authoritarian rule on Iraq's higher education system, primarily extensive damage to university buildings, computer facilities, technology networks and libraries.

Then in December 2003, Mitchell led a multidisciplinary team of 23 Baylor professors - at the time the largest academic group from a U.S. university to travel to Iraq - to present seminars at Dohuk. Adding to the historical significance of this trip was the fact that the Baylor delegation departed for Iraq on the day of Saddam's capture by U.S. forces. The delegation returned to Waco nine days later with stories of the celebratory atmosphere in Iraq, the warmth and hospitality the group experienced, and the striking depletion and devastation of resources.

Highlighted by the inauguration and dedication of the Center for Democracy and Diplomacy, Baylor's most recent journey to Iraq included presenting seminars and workshops for Dohuk faculty and other higher education leaders on curriculum development, the role of higher education in civil society, web-based and distance learning, teaching and research in comparative politics, and the role of the news media in civil society, among other topics.

Each of the four professors has unique qualifications that have proven valuable in Baylor's third visit to Iraq.

Dr. Bill Mitchell

Mitchell has taught national security decision-making, international education, political geography, world ethno-political conflicts, and other courses revolving around international studies. During his long Air Force career, Mitchell served in Vietnam and also was base commander of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Izmir Air Base during the first Gulf War. During this time he assisted with emergency aid to the Kurds after their attack by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Mitchell lived in the Middle East for more than 12 years.

Mitchell also has served as director of international cultural awareness and head of the geography department at the U.S. Air Force Academy and professor of National Security Affairs at the Air War College. He has published extensively in both national and international journals, including wide-ranging research on the earthquakes in Turkey and disaster mitigation. He is the author of "The Republic of Turkey and Earthquake Disaster Management," which was published in 2004, as well as a book on water management of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, published in 1991. His current research focuses on longitudinal assessment of disaster mitigation.

Professor William Hair

Hair came to Baylor in 1994 from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as theology and philosophy librarian. He was also acting head of the social science and humanities reference department. He has attended Vanderbilt, Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of San Francisco and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Hair was among the 23 Baylor professors who visited Dohuk in December 2003.

Dr. Brad Owens

Owens serves as professor of journalism at Baylor and also is a veteran newspaper reporter and editor. He served as foreign correspondent and covered the collapse of the Soviet Union, has worked with independent journalists in the Republic of Tartarstan, and is uniquely familiar with the nationalist movement among the Tartars of Russia. He received his doctorate in government from Georgetown University. His focus of interest is democratization and independent news media, and his most recent work deals with how media development can work more effectively in fledgling democracies.

Dr. Larry Lehr

Lehr teaches in Baylor's department of environmental studies and holds degrees in business, environmental studies and rangeland management. His current focus is related to mercury loading from atmospheric deposition originating from coal-fired generating plants. He has organized volunteer monitoring efforts in Belize and Costa Rica, which were designed to empower, educate and engage local communities in surface water resource management, and identify sources of pollutants to reduce and manage pollution.

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