Category Archives: Politics

Repair America. Go, vote. 

November 2nd, 2018

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In 2004-2005, I was working in a bookstore near my college in New Delhi. Every day after classes, I would ride my motorbike and take over the shift at the store until almost midnight. During those shifts, I sold a lot of books and I read a lot of books. I also met a lot of new people. One of them was an American professor, Marie from Dallas, who strolled into the bookstore with her walking cane and her two wonderful kids. All three of them got immersed in the books, flipping pages, chatting with each other, and making their reading selections.  I could tell they loved being in the bookstore. A few minutes passed by, and Marie and I also started talking about specific readings. I think we discussed Manju Kapur’s “Difficult Daughters” and that got us started. I don’t think I had such a long conversation with an American family before. We discussed many things: education, culture, readings, travels, and more. I had read that open, informed conversations build lifelong bonds. That’s what happened on that late evening in South Delhi’s New Friends Colony Community Center. Who could name it better! I have known Marie and her family since then. Through her, I met Sandy and her family. And then many more friends and families.

After college, I got a fellowship that allowed me to study anywhere in the world on a full ride. My choice to study in the US was strongly influenced by that curious, welcoming, and smiling American family who walked into the bookstore and spoke comfortably about the nuances of culture and social experiences. For a communication major, those things mattered a lot more. Three years later, I went to Appalachian Ohio to pursue a master’s degree in International Affairs. During college, I went to Dallas to celebrate Christmas with Marie. We bought the Christmas tree together, we went door-to-door singing Christmas carols with many friends in the neighborhood. Sandy lived almost next door. A few days later, Marie and her family had to travel while I still had a couple of days to stay in Dallas. So, I stayed with Sandy. That night of 2009 was the first night of Hanukkah. I devoured on latkes that Sandy made and served with sour cream. To have Sandy’s family around was deliciously amazing!

Fast forward three years: I picked up a career in public diplomacy. Fast forward five years: I founded a company on a simple idea of connecting people with people.

Spool back in Delhi in that bookstore: I got interested in another country whose people I had met, trusted, and enjoyed talking with.

That, to me, is the highest form of citizenship and patriotism: stuff you do and words you utter that gets people to look up to your country with a sense of positivity and trust. And you end up taking life decisions based on that positivity. No foreign policy can do it. No IMF can do it. It requires a human decency to appeal to another human decency. So, folks, go out and vote this November. Vote for someone who represents your decency, and who can walk into a bookstore in a foreign land and can make the bookseller fall in love with your nation. You deserve it. America needs it. More than ever.

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Syed K Jamal is the CEO and Founder of Branta. He first came to the US as an international student before moving back to India. Since 2015, he has been living in the Seattle area with his wife, a 5-year old son, Ibru, and three cats who also came with him from India. Syed loves chai and storytelling, would love to host you for both. Email him at syed@goBranta.com.

 

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China and Africa…Building Bridges, Not Walls

September 7th, 2018

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Hello friends,

It’s been a while since I posted a blog and it hasn’t been because of a lack of material. Au contraire. Blame it on ennui, lethargy, world-weariness. I’ve been feeling disenchanted with the state of the world, especially, how overnight the U.S. went from welcoming and embracing international students and scholars, to one that is imposing even stricter visa requirements, blacklisting some countries by placing them on a travel list, and spewing rhetoric that is seen as unfriendly and inhospitable by potential students around the globe who have looked at the U.S. as the beacon of higher education. Yes, long sentence, my apologies, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve a lot on my chest and all I can think is that while we see the numbers of international students dropping at our institutions, one country is forging right ahead with its agenda of winning the hearts and minds of students in African countries. You may already know the savvy country that is ahead of the economic and diplomatic game, but in case you don’t, here is it, drum roll please….it’s CHINA!

Just this week, China pledged 60 billions US dollars to Africa with no political strings attached. Yes, you read correctly. No strings attached. You don’t believe me? Click here.
While we were celebrating our three-day Labor Day weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on Monday, September 3rd, that his country would “give $60 billion in aid and loans to Africa over the next three years without asking for any political concessions in return.” Wow!

China’s pledge involves a combination of grants, low-interest loans, financial investment and trade finance. China’s state media added on Tuesday that these types of overseas commitments were presented as “aid” or “support”, which is their way of implying that the country would make no profit.

The bottom line is that this is part of China’s “soft power” drive to anchor its geo-political and economic influence throughout Africa. According to Chinese state media, in just the first half of 2018, China has spent more than Rmb270m ($40m) on “Silk Road scholarships” for students from developing countries, according to state media.

Here is a sample of some of the countries (there are plenty more, but need to keep this blog brief) that are enjoying the financial aid offered by China supplemented by opportunities in education:

Angola

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China is thinking of projects that could contribute to the development of Angola in the areas of industry, agriculture, health and education. China and Angola established diplomatic relations in 1983 and since 2002, China has become more proactive when it comes to helping Angola by financing projects to recover and build roads, railways, airports, strengthen health and education and other infrastructure that is a priority for the country’s development. In the first quarter of this year, trade between the two countries grew 22.4% to US$6.8 billion. To read more, click here.

Kenya

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China and Kenya have established many education schemes, and one is the China-Kenya Vocational Education program designed to help train students and teachers for mechanical engineering. To read more, click here.

Rwanda

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In Rwanda, Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Musanze (IPRC Musanze) is playing an important role in training technical persons in Rwanda. The college which was constructed by China Geo-Engineering Corporation based on funds received from the Chinese government, is the largest polytechnic in northern Rwanda and it is contributing to technical training in the country. To read more, click here.

Sierra Leone

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If you speak to Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, he will tell you that China has always been “a reliable friend and brother” that has stood by the country at all times. This says it all, but if you want to learn more, click here.

Tanzania

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The Ministry of Energy recently announced that it was inviting applications from candidates to qualify for Chinese scholarship opportunities for postgraduate studies in “one of China’s best Oil and Gas Universities – the China University of Geo-sciences (Wuhan).”

Uganda

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On the recent launching of a project sponsored by China that provides digital learning to rural regions in Uganda, the country’s Minster of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, said: “This is a project that has several benefits, it will support education and encourage digital learning in rural schools by providing learning aids in form of projectors and televisions. These will be utilized to implement lessons plans and demonstrative education through videos and pictures.” To read more, click here.

Zambia

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The appreciation for China’s supports is also shared by Zambia where the country’s Higher Education Minister, Nkandu Luo, has praised the Chinese Government for supplementing government’s efforts in the education sector. For more, click here.

Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe has been sending students to study in China because it is affordable and gives the graduating students the chance to develop business connections. It makes sense, since China is Zimbabwe’s largest overseas trading company. And, as China’s visa rules don’t allow international students to remain in the country after graduating from university, the students return to Zimbabwe which prevent brain-drain. To read more, click here.

China-Africa: Soft Power Diplomacy

These are just a handful of the countries in Africa, where China has established bi-lateral relations through its “soft power” approach. China continues to award education scholarships to various African countries allowing students to study at its institutions of higher education and to return to their native lands on graduation. It’s a win win situation for all sides.

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I recently saw the big box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, a film about a super wealthy Chinese family in Singapore whose son is returning home to attend a friend’s wedding. He brings with him his Chinese-American girlfriend, a college professor who has absolutely no idea of his extreme wealthy origins. The film is billed a rom-com, but for me, it was a reflection of where we are today and what the future holds. Today, the number of Chinese billionaires exceed those in the United States. This is a major turning point for China which now boasts 596 billionaires – 60 more than the U.S.-  after a staggering 242 Chinese people became billionaires for the first time in just one year, according to a new survey.  There may be more Chinese billionaires, but according to the survey, those in America are richer and dominate the list of wealthiest people on the planet with Americans making up seven of the top ten. Regardless of who is the richer billionaire, at the rate China is expanding its reach into Africa, through education, manufacturing and trade agreements, it will not be for long that it will truly be a super power with Africa by its side.

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Frustrated Evaluator

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

Related Links:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnXLOm0Bdd8/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=e883epcfuvxk

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/may/13/china-educating-africa-what-means-west

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/what-chinese-investment-means-for-african-higher-education

https://www.news4jax.com/news/international/chinas-president-xi-pledges-another-60-billion-for-afri

https://www.newsweek.com/why-china-giving-africa-60-billion-no-political-strings-attached-investment-1104360

https://macauhub.com.mo/2018/08/24/pt-china-estuda-novas-formas-de-investimentos-e-financiamentos-a-angola/

https://www.newsghana.com.gh/china-africa-education-scheme-helps-train-students-teachers-for-mechanical-engineering/

https://www.lusakatimes.com/2018/08/21/nkandu-luo-commends-china-for-support-in-education/

http://nilepost.co.ug/2018/08/31/more-zimbabwean-students-seek-education-in-china/

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The Plight of Liberal Arts Institutions in an Era of Nationalism, Spotlight: European University at St. Petersburg, Russia

August 31st, 2018

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The European University at St. Petersburg (Yevgeny Asmolov/TASS)

A headline in a recent article in the New York Times reads “In Russia, a Top University Lacks Just One Thing: Students.” Said institution is the European University at St. Petersburg.

Like it’s counterpart, the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, the European University at St. Petersburg, founded in 1994, is experiencing similar problems. In the case of the European University, it is the target of attacks from Russia’s reactionary, nationalist forces. As was the case for CEU in its early years, the European University received generous funding from the George Soros Open Society Foundations. It also received funding from the Ford and MacArthur Foundations. And, besides their large endowments and top-notch faculty, the European University is recognized for its outstanding reputation as a research institution. (For more on the CEU, click here)

The troubles for the European University started in mid-2017 when it lost its license over minor building code violations, specifically, plastic windows which were temporarily left outside the building. The building, known as the Small Marble Palace, was built in the 18th century in the Italian Renaissance architectural style and designated a historical landmark. In late December 2017, the university was forced to vacate the premises and moved to a less than impressive building across the street. Critics say the university is being targeted for political reasons because of its liberal curriculum in social sciences and humanities.

Having lost its teaching license, the next obvious casualty were the students who were forced to leave and continue their education elsewhere. In the meantime, the university set off on a frantic search for top-level officials in the Russian government to plead its case and have its teaching license reinstated. Even with support from President Vladimir V. Putin who signed three resolutions ordering officials to support the university, the doors of the campus remain shut and the lecture halls empty of students.

The European University is not the only institution targeted by the nationalists. According to the New York Times, “Last month, the Russian government revoked the accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, another highly regarded Western-oriented institution.” The growing influence of Russia’s nationalists has spelled trouble for the European University and any institution seen an intolerable outpost of Western liberalism.

In the New York Times article, Vladimir Y. Gerlman, one of Russia’s leading political scientists is quoted as saying: “The European University’s problem is that it is European. The set of principles followed by our school — academic freedom, self-organization, and international openness — is the opposite of the one followed by today’s Russia: centralized control, power vertical and isolationism. We are not compatible with these principles.”

Immediately following the collapse of the Soviet regime, the European University was set up in 1994 in an effort to stop the brain drain and bring together Russia’s leading scholars in social sciences and humanities with a style of teaching modeled after Western universities which encourage critical thinking and freedom to choose their fields of study.

The university built an impressive cadre of Russian academics who had been teaching at leading universities in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom. Alongside its permanent faculty, the university regularly invited guest lecturers from abroad. In 2016, it was even named the school the top research university in the country, surpassing the highly respected Moscow State University.

Even with the appointment of a new education regulator who after a survey of the building concluded that the university had not violated any building codes and approved to have its teaching license granted this month so that it can reopen in October, the European University’s troubles have not disappeared. Promises of having its teaching license reinstated were made on and off in the past year and a half and each time it led to disappointment.

The future of the European University at St. Petersburg is uncertain. The question will be if students will return in October, that whether the teaching license will not be revoked just when the University prepares to open its doors.

You may ask what has become of the Small Marble Palace, the university’s former home? The Moscow Times reports that the vacated palace will house a new digital technology academy.

For more detail on the Kafkaesque treatment of the university by the Russian authorities, we highly recommend the links to articles provided below:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/dmitry-dubrovsky/closure-of-european-university-at-st-petersburg-dead-cert

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/authorities-take-over-european-universitys-building-in-st-petersburg-60163

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/26/world/europe/european-university-st-petersburg-russia

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Canada and Saudi Arabia: The Tweet that Sparked a Diplomatic Feud

August 24th, 2018

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Image Credit: Alexander Glandien

We recently learned of news that Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador from the country and has decided to recall its students from Canada.

What caused this diplomatic spat between the two countries? The short answer is: a tweet. It started with a tweet sent by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticizing the Saudi government over the detention of human rights activists.

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In response, Saudi Arabia responded by taking the following retaliatory steps:

• expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced that it would pull out more than 15,000 Saudis studying in Canada on government-funded courses or grants at colleges and universities;

• ordered a suspension of patients being transferred to Canada for medical treatment;
announced that it is suspending Saudi state airline flights to Toronto;

• on Monday, August 6th, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, a division of the Ministry of Education, announced on its website that by the end of the Islamic calendar year in September it will suspend all training and scholarship programs Saudi students are enrolled in at Canadian institutions;

• any accompanying family members of the Saudi students are also expected to leave Canada which according to The Business Insider could bring the number of Saudi nationals departing up to 20,000.

The Saudi government intends to place the Saudi students and their tuition in programs in other countries with similar education systems, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

No sooner had the Saudi government announced its plans to withdraw its students from Canadian institutions that we hear of a US university announcing its plans to ease admissions process for the Saudi students. Regardless of this offer, relocating so many students to other countries so close to the start of a new academic year is going to be very problematic.

Academicians also see an agenda in this latest move by the Saudi government. According to an interview in Times Higher Education with Dr. Chris Davidson, professor in Middle East politics at Durham University, he sees the transfer of students from Canada to the UK or elsewhere as complicated and costly. Dr. Davidson adds: “I don’t believe that’s their [the Saudi government’s] intention. They want to trim their bloated higher education budget by reducing the amount of students they pay to send to the West.” The Saudi government’s actions are also seen as a warning to other countries to refrain from publicly criticizing Saudi Arabia as done by the Canadian minister.

Canadian universities, especially the smaller institutions, will feel the effects of the financial loss, but they will recover since they continue to be one of leading top countries in attracting and receiving international students. It’s the Saudi students that are going to be affected the most. In an age of political overreaction, we can see that higher education is affected as much as any other entity and blameless students used as pawns.

Source Links:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/saudi-removal-students-canada-warning-shot-us-and-uk

https://www.businessinsider.com/saudi-arabia-canada-human-rights-students-2018-8

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-saudi-arabia-to-withdraw-all-saudi-students-studying-at-canadian/

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/us-university-welcomes-saudi-students-canada

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/saudi-arabia-canada

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Facts on the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), Iran

July 27th, 2018

bahai
Artist: Caňo image source: link

From time to time, we are asked about the status of the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), Iran, and how to evaluate the credentials of its graduates.

The Baha’is are members of a persecuted religious minority in Iran. The BIHE is not recognized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Iran as the Iranian government does not recognize the Bahá’í faith. The followers of the faith face daily persecution and denied access to higher education. The BIHE was formed by former faculty/professors of universities in Iran who were dismissed from their posts and began offering instruction privately. Since one of the key elements of evaluating international credentials is determining the recognition/ accreditation of the institution by the appropriate official body, e.g. MOE, BIHE graduates continue to face challenges.

We came across this excellent white paper, by Mina Yazdani at Eastern Kentucky University. Mina is of the Bahá’í faith and had been a 4th year medical student at Shiraz (Pahlavi) University. She was, like all Iranian Bahá’ís expelled from the university after the victory of the Islamic revolution.  Mina’s article is deeply insightful and discusses the history of Bahá’í faith, the persecution of Bahá’ís and origins of the BIHE.

There is a 2014 documentary To Light a Candle, produced by Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist and the subject of Jon Stewart’s film Rosewater that focuses on Kamran and Kayvan Rahimian, brothers who studied and later taught at BIHE. Their father was imprisoned, tortured and killed by the regime at the beginning of the 1979 Iranian Revolution for sheltering other Bahá’ís and for not converting to Islam. The story of the Rahimians is emblematic of the wider Iranian Bahá’í experience.

To Light a Candle has already been screened for the public several hundred times around the world, at locations such as public libraries, university campuses and community centers. The trailer to the documentary is available in this link on YouTube.

The following list of facts is sourced from the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education’s website:  Source: http://www.bihe.org

BIHE at a Glance

  • BIHE was founded in 1987
  • In the first year of its establishment, 1987, students were accepted in two fields of studies, namely sciences and humanities
  • BIHE has five faculties with 5 associate programs, 18 undergraduate degree programs and 14 graduate programs
  • BIHE offers over 1050 courses ranging from Persian Literature to Applied Chemistry.
  • BIHE has a combined faculty and administrative staff of over 955 members
  • An average of 1000 students apply to BIHE every year
  • BIHE greatly benefits from its Affiliated Global Faculty (AGF) – an increasing resource of volunteer professors from around the world that assist with the development, implementation and instruction of the BIHE courses
  • BIHE uses a unique combination of online and offline learning
  • BIHE currently accepts about 450 students into its first-year programs
  • BIHE applicants must conform to the same rigorous academic standards as other students in Iran. They must pass the national entrance exam, and meet all the BIHE academic requirements
  • BIHE graduates have been accepted at more than 87 different university graduate programs outside of Iran (for a complete list of universities accepting BIHE graduates, please click here)
    BIHE Email: registrar.office@bihe.org

Although the Iranian government does not recognize the BIHE and its degree programs, BIHE has been able to ensure that universities outside Iran accept its students and recognize their studies. Please read the article published by Quartz that shares the story of one Bahá’í graduate who sought admission to the University of California Berkeley’s graduate school which requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. The University’s Dean of graduate studies chose to make an exception for BIHE and decided “that the requirement would not be held against student applying to be a student in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley.” The student was admitted and later graduated with the Master’s degree, making her the first BIHE to be admitted to UC Berkeley.

We look forward to hearing news of more BIHE graduates having similar success stories.

Additional Reading & Links:

CNN “Iran Bans Underground University”

https://www.cnn.com/2011/11/10/world/meast/iran-bans-bahai-university/index.html

https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1253&context=jec

Higher Education under the Islamic Republic: the Case of the Baha ’is, by Mina Yazdani

https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1253&context=jec

Closed Doors, Bahá’í World News Service

http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education/bihe/

Baha’i Blog

http://bahaiblog.net/site/2016/05/notacrime-campaign-a-collection-of-street-art-part-2/

http://bahaiblog.net/site/2012/12/some-background-to-whats-been-happening-to-the-bahais-in-iran/

The Economist: The Bahá’í Faith

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2017/04/19/the-bahai-faith

Why Yale and Columbia are accepting students from a university that holds classes in a basement in Tehran.

https://qz.com/934700/a-clandestine-university-has-been-educating-bahais-in-iran-for-30-years/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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UC Davis Launches Digital Tool in Lebanon to Help Refugees Reclaim Right to Education

July 6th, 2018

ucdavisdocs

We wish to thank Professor Keith David Watenpaugh, Director of Human Rights studies at the University of California, Davis, for granting permission to share this post originally posted by Julia Ann Easley on June 12, 2018 in UC Davis’s Society, Arts & Culture News. Where necessary, ACEI has refreshed the post to include updates and new developments.

Jihad Qusanyeh, imprisoned and tortured as a student, will be among the first Syrian refugees to assemble a virtual “backpack” in a new project to help them reclaim their right to education. Article 26 Backpack, which uses face-to-face counseling and cloud-based technology to help refugees document and share their educational accomplishments, was launched in Lebanon beginning Friday, June 15.

The international consortium behind the project is led by Keith David Watenpaugh, a professor and director of Human Rights Studies at the University of California, Davis. Consortium members include the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, or AACRAO, and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, or AUB.

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Jihad Qusanyeh – Qusanyeh, a fourth-year student of applied chemistry at the University of Damascus when he was taken prisoner for five years, wants to complete his studies. “I always aim to learn more and more for when I return to Syria,” he shared in a video recorded to include in his backpack. “I’ll use what I learn for rebuilding Syria.”

Help to overcome challenges

About 36 percent of global youth have access to higher education but only about 1 percent of eligible refugees do, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The ongoing Syrian civil war has internally displaced or made refugees of more than 12 million people, and hundreds of thousands among them were — or should have been — in university, Watenpaugh said.

Article 26 Backpack, a part of Global Affairs at UC Davis and supported by a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, is named for the article that established the right to education in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nearly 70 years ago.

Watenpaugh said the tool will help refugees overcome significant impediments to re-entering academic life or applying for employment — from problems accessing their own documents to little clarity about the transferability of their credentials.

backpack
Source credit: UC Davis

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More About the Technology Behind the Backpack – “A lot of what we do is important, but this was another level of helping our fellow human,” said Shawn DeArmond, who supervised the UC Davis web development group.“

Watenpaugh envisions broader implementation of Article 26 Backpack throughout the Middle East, particularly in the areas most affected by the war in Syria, and beyond. Moreover, he sees the Backpack’s potential to help not only refugees of war or those fleeing civil conflict, but also students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status in the United States and climate refugees.

The Lebanon launch
The first stage of the implementation was from June 15 through July 3. Watenpaugh and a team — including AUB students and faculty and AACRAO staff — visited refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley and hosted refugees elsewhere to help about 300 create backpacks.

A comic book will help introduce the Backpack to refugees. Trained students will help refugees set up backpacks at article26backpack.ucdavis.edu and upload documents including images of diplomas, transcripts and resumes. Backpackers have the option to record a video to serve as an oral statement of purpose. They control what they put in the backpack and with whom they share it.

Video Journals
Professor Watenpaugh has documented his recent Backpack Journey reflections in Lebanon through a number of videos. In this video, he asks: “What role can education play in the face of discrimination and prejudice? How can Article 26 Backpack as a humanitarian tool address this challenge?” For more, click here.

Future work
After nearly a month in Lebanon leading the initial implementation of Backpack, Watenpaugh returns to UC Davis Global Affairs to oversee the development of the next phase of this project. Work this summer will create an Arabic-language version of the tool, and in the early fall the project will be back in Lebanon to help more refugees set up backpacks.

In the future, Article 26 Backpack will integrate credential evaluation, academic counseling and job placement assistance through a feature called Compass. AACRAO, the higher education association, is building a cloud-based pool of international credential evaluators to assist refugee students and, in some cases, reconstruct academic histories that have been lost due to war.

A historian of the modern Middle East, Watenpaugh has seen up close the need for Article 26 Backpack. He has led a multidisciplinary research team that produced several major studies on Syrian students and scholars who are refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey. His most recent book is the award-winning Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism.

To stay abreast of the Article 26 Backpack project, please follow Professor Watenpaugh on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Media contact(s)
Keith David Watenpaugh, Article 26 Backpack, +1 530-574-0815 cell (speaks English and Arabic), kwatenpaugh@ucdavis.edu
Mona Finucane, Article 26 Backpack, cell +1 707-673-7043 (speaks English and Arabic), mfinucane@ucdavis.edu
Annetta Stroud, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, strouda@aacrao.org
Hana Addam El-Ghali, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB, +961 71037300, ha58@aub.edu.lb
Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, cell 530-219-4545, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

Media Resources
Press kit with photos and more
Video: Jihad Qusanyeh shares his story (3 min, 44 secs)
Comic Book Explains Project With Refugee’s Story
More About the Technology Behind the Backpack
Article 26 Backpack

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Give Me Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses…

June 15th, 2018

liberty

My heart is very heavy as I write this blog.  Doing what I do, keeps me on the front of lines of the immigration crisis.  And, even though I’m dealing with those who are here in the U.S. through legal channels, I sense their angst, working under duress to make sure their documents get processed correctly and quickly.  Their stress is contagious.  No matter how much of a jaded international education professional you may have become, you’d have to be made of stone, if you are not concerned about their plight and don’t empathize.  I’m seeing the negative anti-immigration rhetoric of our government cast such a dark cloud over our nation that even those who want to come to America legally–whether to study, immigrate or work–are too afraid, and frankly turned off, to do so.

If you’ve been watching, reading or listening to the news, you can’t say that you are unaware of the latest steps the US Border Patrol is taking against immigrants entering the U.S. illegally.  They are separating children from their parents and literally placing them inside cages for an indeterminate time while their parents are kept in detention cells awaiting hearings before an immigration judge.  U.S. Border Patrol officials saying they’re following orders from the Justice Department and the Justice Department says it’s enforcing the law.

We’ve also now learned that about 1,500 children who had arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied a couple of years ago, and were assigned to foster care or some form of care, are now “lost” in the system and cannot be accounted for by the U.S. immigration.

If we don’t speak up and against the callous treatment of these immigrants and demand more humane measures, we will be spiraling into a very dark and fetid place, and it will happen much faster than we’d like to think.

For a minute, put aside your political party affiliation, and imagine yourself as neither a democrat or republican or independent, but a small child arriving inside the borders of the U.S. to be immediately separated from his or her parents. For a minute, imagine yourself as the father or mother whose child was taken away under the guise that he was going to be bathed and fed but to never see your child again and not be told of his whereabouts or welfare. Let this image sink in.

Now, imagine you live in a country where law and order are seriously compromised by crime, where corruption and a weak legal system and ineffective law enforcement is the norm, where you fear for your life and the lives of your loved ones and where you cannot turn to the police and the law for protection and justice. Imagine that this situation is further compounded by a dysfunctional economy, where you struggle to eke out a daily wage to feed your family and keep a roof above your head, where you are a victim of extortion by those very criminals who promise to offer you and your family or your neighborhood protection who take away from you the meager earnings you have made. Imagine living under a totalitarian system where you have no civil rights and can be arrested for reading a book, a pamphlet, a newspaper article or listening to a radio broadcast, or following sites on social media which the authorities consider unpatriotic, subversive, anti establishment.  Imagine living under a constant state of fear and threat for your life and your loved ones.  Imagine living in a country that’s under siege of a civil war or war with another country or countries.  Imagine bombs falling and exploding around you every day.  Imagine seeing your friends, a sibling, a relative, a parent, next door neighbor, a classmate, killed by gun fire or explosives.  Imagine food shortages, or the absence of food and fuel.  What would you do? How long would you be able to tolerate this existence?

Now imagine gathering what meager belongings you may have and what little money, if any, you may have saved to flee the violent conditions in your homeland with your spouse and child. Imagine going through one obstacle course after another, paying off those who have promised your escape, battling the elements as you and your family cross harsh terrains whether over land or sea, by foot, or on boat to finally reach the country you have heard will receive you and offer you shelter, protection, and the promise of a new life.

Imagine crossing the border into the land built on the backs of slaves, illegal and legal immigrants, which prides itself on its rich immigrant and multicultural history.  No sooner have your feet touched the soil of this promised land, imagine being split apart from your spouse and child and taken away without a goodbye or embrace and kept in a cell in a detention center along with others sharing your same predicament.  You sit and wait without news of your child’s welfare for days, weeks, and months.

This is what is happening today, in the USA.  Thousands of immigrant children cannot be traced by the system that was supposed to watch over them, and hundreds of immigrant children are being taken away from their parents by US border patrol officials and kept in caged cells. Let this sink in.

This is not the America that drew to its shores the hungry, the poor, the wretched, the seekers, and prospectors, the explorers and wanderers, the men and women who came from all corners of the world in search of a better life and new opportunities.

Let’s remind ourselves of Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet “The New Colossus,” written in 1883 for an auction to raise funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 – Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus’s sonnet was inspired by the Statue of Liberty for its optimistic message to the world’s disenfranchised people. Let us be the beacon of light she wrote about. Let us be the Mother of Exiles.

Stay Informed!

  • Do you want to know what happens when children are separated from their parents by US Border Patrol Officer? Click here and find out.
  • Do you want to know what happened after the children of a Honduran man were taken away from him and he was separated from his family? Click here and find out.

 Take Action!

  • Do you want to be informed and know what you can do? Click here and find out.
  • Do you want to help? Click here and find out.
  • How to help migrant parents and children who are separated at the border? Click here and find out.
  • And, don’t forget to CALL YOUR SENATORS! Click here and you’ll be directed to your representative’s office.

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

President & CEO, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)
President, Association of International Credentials Evaluators, Inc. (AICE)
Chair, International Education Standards Council (IESC), AACRAO

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit http://www.acei-global.org.

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Filed under Human Interest, Politics