Tag Archives: politics

Greece: Teachers’ strike, attacks on public education & privatization

September 26th, 2013

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the events in Greece unfolding from the sidelines. We have all been following the economic breakdown of the country and threats by the EU to rescind Greece’s EU member status. As Greece’s economy continues to spin out of control, giving rise to right wing fascist movements proudly expressing their xenophobia by blaming the country’s economic collapse on immigrants, another target and casualty has been the country’s public education. Political unrest and economic instability in Greece has led the government to impose draconian measures that have severely impacted the country’s public education system. The drastic steps taken by the government has led to ongoing strikes by Greek teachers since September 16th protesting attacks on public education.


The situation in Greece is dire. Teachers and education staff as well as students in Greece are facing a situation that has dramatically impacted the quality of education in the country.

According to International Education, the following are some of the highlights of the situation:

• There are 16,000 fewer teachers in secondary education, a 20 per cent reduction since June 2013
• Over 100 Vocational Education Schools are closing down http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/2624
• 2,500 Vocational Education Teachers are being suspended, just one step before dismissal
• In 2009, there was 33 per cent reduction of spending on education which is expected to reach 472 per cent in 2016
• There is a compulsory transfer of 5,000 teachers to primary education and administration posts
• The government has passed a new law on education without a dialogue establishing a harsh, examination-centered system in all forms/grades of upper secondary education forcing students to seek private tuition outside school and leading to school dropouts.

Strong words from ETUCE:

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) has been observing the developments in Greece and has issued some harsh words to the government. On 19-20 September, 2013, the Director of the EI region, the ETUCE, Martin Rømer, went to Athens to support Greek colleagues. The ETUCE issued a statement on September 18th that the “Greek education system (is) on the brink of collapse”. The ETUCE declared that by 2016, Greece will cut its education spending by 47% and called on the government of Greece to be more inclusive in its dialogue with social partners in the education section and abandon its authoritarian approach by encouraging an open forum for discussion.

There has also been a surge in privatization of vocational education in Greece which is another subject protested by the ETUCE. The absence of free, high qualify public education with equal access is seen by the ETUCE as an obstacle to bettering the lives of the people and promotion of a prosperous society. The government’s sweeping privatization plans is not only affecting the country’s education system but also its public radio and television media. According to a report by EI: “Last June, Greece woke up without public radio or television services. On 11 June, the government announced it was going to shut down the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT, sacking 2,500 employees, and becoming the only member state of the European Union to abolish the public service of broadcasting.” This is similar to waking up one morning here in the U.S. and finding NPR, PRI, and PBS have been shut down.

Interesting to note is that virtually all the top-performing countries on international education measures have strong teacher unions, including Finland, Japan, Canada, and Australia. However, in Greece, the government is working toward dismantling the teachers’ unions threatening teachers and school administrators with imprisonment if they choose to exercise their right to strike. The EI is calling on its members to support and “actively show their solidarity” with the Greek educators. The world is watching.

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Iran: Elections and Academic Credentials Under Scrutiny

June 20, 2013

Iran Grunge Flag

As you must have heard by now, Iranians had an election last week and cast their votes in favor of Hassan Rouhani (or Rowhani), ending the eight- year term of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What has caught my attention is not the President-elect’s victory but the news surrounding his academic qualifications, which only a week ago had been brought under scrutiny.

It appears that in a campaign ad promoting Mr. Rouhani’s experience and credentials, the advert reported him as having earned a PhD in Law from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. When news of this said degree reached Scotland, the University checked its archives and found no record of his enrollment or having granted him the Doctorate. A spokesperson for Mr. Rouhani has since said that he had enrolled under a different last name, but the University of Glasgow was unable to verify its accuracy. His representatives submitted another amendment correcting the University’s name to Glasgow Caledonian University (formed after a merger in 1993 between Queen’s College and Glasgow Polytechnic) and also indicating that the newly-elected President had enrolled at the University under the name of Hassan Feridon.

On June 16, 2013, Glasgow Caledonian University confirmed that in 1995 it conferred upon a Hassan Feridon the degree of MPhil and the Doctor of Philosophy in 1999. Mr. Rouhani’s website indicates that he received the Master’s in Law and Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, however, dates of their awards were not listed at the time of investigation by Iran’s Election Watch. But the student Feridon’s dates of attendance appear to coincide with Mr. Rouhani’s tenure as President of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) in Tehran a position with responsibilities that would have made post-graduate study very difficult. In a recent article in The Telegraph, Meir Javendanfar an analyst with the Inter-Disciplinary Centre in Hezliya in Israel says the following about Mr. Rouhani’s university credentials: “He would need to have herculean multi-tasking skills to write a PhD thesis while heading the national security council.”

On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, The Herald reported that Glasgow Caledonian University confirmed Hassan Feridon aka Hassan Rouhani as a graduate of the institution and holder of the Doctorate in Law (Thesis: The Flexibility of Shariah [Islamic Law]) with reference to the Iranian experience).

Verification of the validity of academic degrees is not unique to Mr. Rouhani. The out-going President, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s academic degrees too were scrutinized in newspaper reports and even on the PBS newsmagazine Frontline. It seems that his attendance and graduation dates of when he received his engineering degree and Doctorate in Traffic Management or Transport Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology don’t quite corroborate with historic timelines.

Given that I’m an international credential evaluator by profession, scrutinizing a person’s academic credentials is what I do by nature. I can’t help it. I see a diploma on the wall, and my brain quickly assesses the typeface, the name of the institution, the logo, dates, degree title, etc.

I don’t know about you, but an authoritative credential evaluation at the onset of presidential campaigns, or for that matter qualifying for any job, would have settled the confusion and alleviated doubts. But it is not too late; the two gentlemen need only submit their official transcripts for a comprehensive verification and evaluation.

Respectfully submitted,

The Frustrated Evaluator

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20 Facts About Turkey

June 07, 2013


In light of the protests that have erupted in Turkey against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we wanted to share a few facts about this country situated at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. North of Turkey is the Black Sea and on its west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country.

The history and culture of Turkey is such that coming up with 20 facts out of thousands was an incredibly difficult task. We know that so much has been omitted for the sake of brevity. The list below is a primer to this country’s rich heritage.

1. Turkey is officially known as the ‘Republic of Turkey’.

2. The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

3. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary and constitutional republic.

4. Ankara is Turkey’s capital while Istanbul is its largest city.

5. It has a population of 71.1 million.

6. Of the 87% of the population that is literate 95% are male and 80% female.

7. The major religion of Turkey is Islam, while its official language is Turkish. Kurdish, Dimli, Zaza, Arabic, Armenian, Greek and Azeri are also spoken in the country.

8. Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents and has been the capital of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman for more than 2000 years.

9. The part of Turkey in Europe is called ‘Thrace’ (an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts), while the part in Asia is called ‘Anatolia’ (an area about the size of the state of Texas).

10. Anatolia is the birthplace of historic legends, such as Omar (the poet), King Midas, Herodotus (the father of history) and St. Paul the Apostle.

11. Julius Ceasar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

12. The oldest known human settlement is in Catalhoyuk, Turkey (7500 BC).

13. Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the two of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are in Turkey.

14. Turks introduced coffee to Europe.

15. Turks gave the Dutch their famous tulips.

16. Turkey has 94 State universities and 45 Foundation (Private) universities

17. Approximately 55,000 Turkish students go abroad annually for educational purposes.

18. Turkey has been sending more than 10,000 students a year to the U.S. since 2000 exceeding other European countries such as Britain and Germany.

19. Istanbul’s Robert College (established in 1863), is the oldest American school outside the United States.

20. Turkey provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts; the nut in your chocolate bar was most probably grown in Turkey.

Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL
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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America’s Jazz Ambassadors

May 16, 2013

Louis Armstrong

During the cold war in the 1950s and 60s, when America was worried about Sputnik, ICBMs, and building bomb shelters, there was a quiet but determined cultural diplomacy going on behind the Iron Curtain. The U.S. State Department around the mid-1950s started sending American jazz musicians into Russia, newly-independent African nations (whom the USSR was wooing), Yugoslavia, Hungary, Pakistan, India, and other developing nations. The State Department first thought of sending a top US ballet company such as Martha Graham’s or the American Ballet Theater. The great U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, who was the first African-American to be elected to the Congress (his district was Harlem), proposed a better idea: send top jazz musicians abroad to represent American democracy. After all, isn’t jazz the most democratic of artforms?

And so it was that Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck Duke Ellington toured the world spreading the infectious musical joy of jazz to people in countries where jazz was either little known or forbidden.

A recent show at the UCLA Fowler Museum was dedicated to this wonderful chapter in musical diplomacy. I led a panel that included Quincy Jones, who was on the very first tour in 1955. There is a picture of him near the Sphinx , a country being courted by the Soviet Union because of the Suez Canal’s strategic location. Another pictures shows Q at the Acropolis, posing as Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.

In one funny incident, perhaps apocryphal but I think not, Louis Armstrong was sent to Ghana. Upon his return to the States, he landed at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.. Vice President Richard Nixon was there to meet him, and was in the limousine that went out onto the tarmac to greet him.

Nixon asked Satchmo if there was anything he could do for him. Louis said yes, please can you carry my trumpet case through customs? Satchmo was a regular pot smoker and had some fine Ghanaian weed in his case. And the Vice President got it through customs without a hitch.

Jazz was certainly the great cultural ambassador of America back then. Hip hop has now joined and shared that distinction. The great LA band Ozomatli was dispatched to tour the Middle East, Burma, and other places recently.

Check out this video of Satchmo’s arrival in Ghana 1956: it’s great!

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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International Student Visas in the News, Again

May 09, 2013

Lecture Hall I, UMBC, Wednesday night, fall semester, 2010

The recent tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, signifying yet another senseless act of violence and loss of innocent lives has spawned a wave of anti-immigration sentiments, in particular concerning student “visas.” According to the online blog Politico: last Wednesday on Fox News, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “student visas are not a right…that the nation needed to be open to changes that provided more security…I don’t like profiling anybody, I don’t like singling out anybody or generalizing anything. On the other hand student visas are not a right. Student visas are something this country does out of generosity, student visas are something this country does because we figured out it’s in our national interest, but you don’t have a right to a student visa. Therefore we can place whatever restrictions we want on student visas.”

Before we demonize all international students and even the process by which student visas are issued and tracked, we need to be reminded that we already have an effective system in place known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), the Homeland Security database, that was created after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Chuck Olcese, the director of international student services at the University of Kansas: “international students are actually watched more closely than other people visiting the country…the student visa system is the most-watched system in the immigration process.” http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/may/03/ku-other-universities-monitor-status-international/

One of the three 19-year old men, Azamat Tazhayakov, charged last week with interfering with the investigation into last month’s bombing was admitted back into the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. Turns out that the visa for Tazhayakov had been terminated since he’d withdrawn from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. This information had been reported by the University and Tazhayakov’s status had been updated in the SEVIS database. Had the border agent at the airport checked the SEVIS database, he/she would have seen that Tazahayakov did not have a valid student visa and could have denied him/her entry, but the agent did not have access to the SEVIS database. Under existing procedures, border agents can verify a student’s vista status through SEVIS only when the person is referred to a second officer for additional questioning or inspection, “U.S. to tighten border checks on foreign students”. Having acknowledged the glitch in the procedure, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all border agents must have access to SEVIS by this week.

Creating more stringent requirements on granting visas to international students, as declared by Senator Rubio, is not the answer. Due diligence is already being carried out by the U.S. institutions admitting these students. Clearly, the SEVIS database is populated with invaluable information; it is access to this information that hindered the apprehension of Tazahayakov when he arrived on U.S. soil in January. Hopefully now that all border agents have been given authorized access to SEVIS, the likes of radicals like Tazahayakov can be stopped and denied entry before they can wreak havoc.

For more on this breaking new policy check out this piece: “US orders new visa reviews for arriving students”

The Frustrated Evaluator

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China: Taking steps to ensure academic document legitimacy

Cooperative Agreement between CDGDC and ACEI

April 18, 2013


According to a recent IIE Open Door report “International Student enrollment increased by 5% in 2010/11, led by strong increase in students from China.” The report cites a 23% increase in the number of Chinese students of which 43% are studying at the undergraduate level.

According to the US Department of Commerce, international student contributes more than $21 billion to the US economy, through their expenditures on tuition, living expenses such as room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance and covering the financial cost of their accompanying family members.

In the same breath, a 2010 report published by Zinch states that in China “the cultural norm is that there is no harm in creating false documents.” As credential evaluation professionals, we recognize the importance of supporting the U.S. position as the number one destination for international students and are always striving to find ways we can help bolster and improve our service to complement the needs of the U.S. institutions requiring international transcript evaluations. We are also cognizant that doing our due diligence by ensuring the legitimacy of documents is, first and foremost, an integral component of evaluating academic credentials.

One step we have taken to address the growing number of Chinese student applications for college/university admission and even professional licensing is through our cooperation with the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) in Beijing. CDGDC is the legal entity, authorized by the government in China that provides verification of degrees, certificates, diplomas and other related educational document conferred by Chinese colleges and universities as well as secondary credentials.

I had the good fortune of being introduced to the CDGDC Director, Mr. Wang, through our contact Mr. Chenguan (Alex) Lu with EducationUSA in Beijing. Through this introduction, I was able to secure a meeting in San Francisco on April 14, 2013 with Mr. Wang and a delegation from CDGDC where we signed the Cooperative Agreement between our two organizations to carry out comparative studies of Sino-U.S. degrees and other educational credentials through verification and evaluation.

photo (1)

For the past two years, ACEI has been referring its Chinese students seeking an evaluation of their academic credentials to the CDGDC for document verification. By signing the Cooperative Agreement, ACEI will continue to use CGDCD’s educational credential verification services in its educational evaluation work. Chinese applicants are advised to contact the CDGDC and request the verification of their academic transcripts, certificates, diplomas and/or degrees. CDGDC in turn submits its verification directly to ACEI certifying the legitimacy of the academic documents. The verification of academic documents from China will further ensure that the evaluations prepared by ACEI are based on educational documents that have been properly vetted by a legal entity.

We can continue to be the number one destination for international students and we can do so without loosening our requirements and lowering our standards.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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Understanding the Institutes of Chartered Accountants in India and Pakistan

April 11, 2013

Filing Taxes - 1040 Form

For institutions in the United States, accounting credentials from India and Pakistan can be especially difficult to interpret. Typically, comparative education researchers and credential evaluators in the U.S. seek to determine the comparability of foreign studies to domestic equivalents based on several criteria including:

• admission requirements for the academic program in question;
• course content covered via classroom instruction;
• specific knowledge base and skills tested via examination;
• the nature of the program in the source country.
– Do partial studies transfer into other academic programs?
– Does the completed program provide eligibility for higher academic programs?
– Does the completed program allow eligibility for professional registration, etc.?
– Is the completed program terminal?

Official accounting credentials in India are issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) http://www.icai.org/ and official accounting credentials in Pakistan are issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) http://www.icap.org.pk/web/index.php .

Both the ICAI and ICAP programs inherit much of their structure from the British system, which frequently uses a “Qualifications-Based-Assessment” approach in which all program requirements are based on examination results, and students become eligible for examinations through either academic studies, professional experience, or some combination of both. Another aspect of the British “Qualifications-Based-Assessment” method is that examinations may be graded as “pass-fail” and thus have no grades or marks associated with them.

From a comparative education perspective, the ICAI and ICAP credentials do not fit very well into the traditional mold of a U.S. educational program. ICAI and ICAP programs have very flexible “admission requirements” since eligibility for examinations can be derived from both academic and professional qualifications and classroom instruction is not necessarily a central component in every case.

Despite the fundamental differences between ICAI/ICAP and U.S. programs, the comparability of ICAI/ICAP examinations to U.S. academic levels is well established. Some of the best research done on this topic is available through NAFSA (the Association of International Educators) in the PIER Workshop Report on South Asia published in 1986 and the PIER World Education Series published in 1997. Both publications are based on research performed by a hand-picked group of experts who conducted in-country investigations and site-visits to many institutions. It has been documented and confirmed that ICAI/ICAP examinations do provide “transferrable credit” into other academic programs in India and Pakistan, and much of the comparative education research since the PIER reports has concluded similarly that the following “placement recommendations” be made for ICAI and ICAP examinations:

• Passed ICAI/ICAP Foundation Examinations are comparable to one year of undergraduate coursework in business administration and accounting in the U.S.;
• Passed ICAI/ICAP Intermediate Examinations are comparable to an associate degree in in business studies and accounting (two year of undergraduate coursework) in the U.S.;
• Passed ICAI/ICAP Professional/Final Examinations with membership are comparable to a completed Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or another similarly named degree in the U.S.

For U.S. institutions seeking to understand and process ICAI and ICAP qualifications, it is important to be aware that many details we expect to see in most academic documents might not be available. ICAI/ICAP usually issue credentials that prove completion of the program, but not individual examination titles, grades/scores, and other information that would be included in a “transcript” or similar document. Additionally, ICAI and ICAP do not typically include a description of how individuals become eligible for or exempted from certain examinations. Thus, we recommend that U.S. institutions ask applicants for the following documentation along with any official ICAI/ICAP credentials:

• Descriptions/Titles of the ICAI/ICAP examinations during certain years (similar to a curriculum) and preferably descriptions/titles of exams taken and passed by an individual – this will allow a better comparison to specific U.S. courses*;
• Documents for any previously completed academic coursework – this may provide a straightforward academic basis for exam eligibility or exemption;
• Resume and other professional experience documentation – this may add details for any exam eligibility or exemption derived from experience.

*Samples of ICAI and ICAP exam descriptions are available along with other comparative education data in Credential Consultants’ GRADE™ Database http://www.credentialconsultants.com. Additionally, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) compiles CPA examination results taken in the U.S. for a given year, including breakdowns of performance by country of residence, educational institutions attended, etc. The 2012 Candidate Performance Book is can be found here https://nasbareport.com/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=6&products_id=61

Although the nature of ICAI and ICAP accounting programs may differ from typical collegiate accounting programs in the U.S., they can be compared to each other in meaningful ways for both academic and professional purposes.

Authored in collaboration with the Association of International Credential Evaluators http://www.aice-eval.org (AICE) by:

Drew Feder
President of Credential Consultants, Inc.

Hany Arafat
Senior Comparative Education Specialist at Credential Consultants, Inc.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.

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Dispatches from the 2013 AIEA Conference in New Orleans

February 21, 2013


It’s been almost a decade since I last visited New Orleans. I have to thank the AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators) http://www.aieaworld.org/ for hosting its annual national conference in the Big Easy this year. No visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at the world famous Café du Monde for a plate of its freshly baked powered sugared confections and cup of café au lait. Given that most of my days at the conference were booked with meetings and sessions, I still managed to enjoy the city’s culinary fare (charbroiled oysters at Dragos, bananas Foster’s at the Palace Café) and even took a 45 minute cruise on the Natchez Steamboat with colleagues from various universities in the U.S. and around the world.

This year the conference theme was “Re-imagining Higher Education in a Global Context,” and several of the sessions I attended attempted to address this issue in roundtable or speaker settings. The keynote speaker, Eric Liu http://guidinglightsnetwork.com/bio, former White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, set the tone for the conference by emphasizing that innovation begins with imagination.

I attended sessions on topics like “Using Accreditation Standards to Internationalize,” “Global Changes and Challenges: Is the United States Doing Enough to Stay Competitive as a Study Destination.” But the session that I found most relevant was one about the “Pursuit of Academic Diplomacy in Iran: Challenges and Opportunities.” Gregory Sullivan and Kristen Cammarata with the U.S. State Department and Sara Kurtz Allaei from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis presented the session. According to the session’s presenters, it appears that the number of students from Iran seeking visas to study in the U.S. has risen from the low 1000’s in 2007 to the high 6000’s in 2011/12. The number of Iranian students enrolled at US institutions prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution was about 45,000. The EducationUSA https://www.educationusa.info/ advising center focusing on Iran reports an increase in the number of Iranians querying about studying at U.S. institutions. Sullivan mentioned that 14 specialists at the State Department are dedicated to the Iranian student project.

Specific conditions are in place for granting visas to Iranians planning to study in the U.S. According to Sullivan (paraphrased in this report): “visas are not granted to students or exchange programs relevant to sciences with a clear military, nuclear/energy component” or to groups or agencies with ties or affiliations to the Iranian government, terrorism or human rights abuses, or programs with commercial value that will benefit the Iranian government.” At this time, Iranian students accepted to U.S. colleges and universities must leave Iran for Dubai or Istanbul, Turkey to apply for their U.S. student visas, since U.S. and Iran do not enjoy diplomatic relations and have no embassy presence in their respective countries. We can look at the number of visas reportedly issued in 2011/12 as an indication of the U.S. State Department’s willingness to exercise openness in the visas granted to Iranian students and the Iranian government’s loosening of its hold on the youth.

Another interesting fact shared by Kristen Cammarata was that since the SAT is not offered in the region, many Iranian high school graduates instead take the GRE (Graduate Records Examinations, a test taken by students intending to apply for graduate school admission in the US) and scoring very high on the math section; further proof of how seriously motivated these young Iranians are in their pursuit of higher education in the U.S. Cammarata indicated that her office receives much of the inquiries from young Iranians via email and Skype. She also commented that the Iranian population in the U.S. has proven to be one of the most educated and successful of immigrants in this country’s history.

Sullivan mused that perhaps the government in Iran recognizes its shortcomings in satisfying its youth population with education and job opportunities by relaxing its grip and releasing the pressure valve and allowing some exchange through education (studying abroad in the U.S.). The pressure valve may be temporarily tightened during Iran’s upcoming Presidential elections, but to be relaxed once again after the new President has been elected.

Sullivan also noted that the US in turn will grant specific licenses to U.S. institutions wanting to engage in education, cultural, and sports exchange programs as well as topics concerned with human rights, the environment, health and medicine. Perhaps through academic diplomacy we can begin to see a thawing of the icy relations between Iran and the U.S. But I can’t help wonder how concerned the Iranian government may become when its youth heading west to the U.S. returning not only armed with their university degrees but an arsenal of information.

Partnering with my colleague Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC (www.cgacc.org), we held joint meetings with representatives from Washington State University (USA) http://www.wsu.edu/, Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey) http://bilgi.edu.tr/en/university, and Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) http://www.swinburne.edu.au/. We discussed how the U.S. community colleges serve as a viable route to the four-year institutions for international students and the added benefits of international credential evaluations in the admission and transfer credit processes. With more exchanges on these topics, we feel community colleges can begin to become a significant venue for higher education in the international market alongside the four-year institutions.

The exhibit hall showcased exhibitors from China, South Korea, Italy, and companies like Zinch http://www.zinch.com/ a website connecting students with colleges, and Mezun http://www.mezun.com , an educational portal for Turkish students studying abroad.

Stay tuned for next week’s dispatch from Atlanta, Georgia where I’m co-presenting a workshop on “Best Practices in Recruitment and 2+2” at the CCID (Community Colleges for International Development) https://programs.ccid.cc/cci conference.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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Sounds Like…Geisha!

January 31, 2013


I grew up in Los Angeles, where the oldest standing building, the Sanchez Adobe, reportedly dates back to the early 1790’s. Therefore I am astonished on a daily basis, by the structures I see here in Bremen, Germany. Some of the oldest date back to the 11th century—really. Their Gothic and Renaissance facades seem to somehow confer and convey the weight of historical fact by their stubborn persistence. So it was with that particularly American, grew-up-with-Disneyland, naïve ability and desire to accept a good fairy-tale, that I experienced my first of many on-going, trans-cultural misunderstandings.

The center of town is the Marktplatz, the main market place, ringed with buildings that look so impossibly old; they appear to me as made-for-the-movies, scenic facades. Set into the cobblestones on the north side of the 13th century Cathedral St. Petri, is a 30 x 30 cm dark granite plaque, etched with a cross. On one of my first “walking tours” into the Marktplatz, my father-in-law regaled me with a bit of “graveyard glee,” like one pointing with morbid fascination to a house haunted by angry, murdered ghosts, “This marks the spot where the infamous Geisha Gottfreid was hanged!” He said with a glint in his eyes.

He went on to tell me that although he never did it himself, people often spit on the stone cross. I was horrified. Why would people in the 21st century spit on the spot that marked the hanging of a Geisha—how absolutely awful!

“When was that hanging, and why was she hanged?” I asked him, my mind racing with images of a beautiful Japanese Geisha swinging from the gallows.

“Oh, she was a serial killer who murdered 15 people, most of them her family, before finally being publicly executed herself in 1831,” he said. “She was the last person to be publicly executed in the city.”

I still do not understand the cathartic act of spitting, but it opened up a doorway in my mind—Hmmm, I didn’t know that the Japanese were here in Bremen in the 1800’s. Of course, I was later to find out that she was not exactly Japanese, she was German, and her name was spelled Gesche, sounds like Geisha. Oops.

But I was soon to be surprised by an exhibition in one of the Bremen’s many museums, The Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum titled; Japan und der Westen, Japan and the West. Walking through the exhibition, full of beautiful Japanese woodblock prints depicting the life and the seaports of Germany, I again found myself confronted with the same thoughts about the history of Japanese-German relationships. Later, while touring some of the many fairy-tale castles in Germany, I was struck by the large number of Japanese tourists, pouring out of busses, beside themselves with joy, while standing in front of the real life edifices. Why are they so fascinated by German culture? How long has this been going on?

The actual history of that relationship dates back to the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868) when Germans arrived in Japan to work for the Dutch East India Company. From that point forward, the relationship was to take a decidedly on- again-off again course. Things went O.K. for a while but between 1635 -1853, the Tokugawa shogunate enforced a policy which it called kaikin. The policy prohibited foreign contact with most outside countries, however the Netherlands was one of three countries with who trade remained open. Despite the national seclusion policy, which the emperor had put into place, a German physician, Philipp Franz von Siebold was allowed to travel freely throughout Japan in the 1820’s. Throughout his journey, he wrote one of the first Western accounts of life in Japan, “Nippon: Archive for The Description of Japan.”

Hot and Cold
However, the relationship ran hot and cold over the ensuing century. In 1861, Prussia and Japan signed a treaty to facilitate goodwill and commerce, and in the ensuing years diplomatic missions moved freely back and forth between the two countries, though the “unequal treaties” were later revised during the Meiji period (1868-1912). During this time many Germans went to Japan as advisors to the new government, and were known as “oyatoi gaikokujin,” hired foreigners. The German industrial company Siemens opened an office in Tokyo in 1887, to enable Japan to enter the industrialized world. It helped them set up their first hydro-electric power facility, supplied power generators to copper mines, and gave them all the railway equipment for an electric railway system. Getting warmer.

Then, things cooled off at the end of the 19th century, as competition between Europe and Japan grew rapidly over territory in China. Japan grew further estranged when Germany decided to support Russia during the Russian-Japanese War of 1904. As a result of the Japanese victory over Russia, Germany became fearful of Japan’s growing power as the leader of a United Asia, prompting Wilhelm II’s colorful coinage of the term “Yellow Peril.” Nice. Definitely cold.

WWI ushered in a new arctic front between the two countries when the British asked Japan for help in destroying the ships the German Navy had stationed in Chinese waters. Japan was keenly interested in reducing European colonial power in South-East Asia, and decided to take the opportunity to declare war on the German Empire. In 1914, acting as an ally of Britain, Japan engaged in battle with the Germans in the Chinese port of Tsingtao. This eventually led to Germany having to relinquish its Southeast Asian territories to Japan. Very cold.

In the aftermath of WWI economic pressures grew in both countries and somehow, through diplomatic efforts, relations were strengthened once again. A re-establishment of cultural alliances developed through the founding of several cross-cultural societies beginning in 1926, and a Japanese-German Research Institute was created in 1934. With the rise in militarism in both countries throughout the 1930s, the relationship grew warmer still, as Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, or the Anti-Communist pact with the Empire of Japan in 1936. The following year, Italy joined the pact, creating the historical alliance known as the Axis Powers. In a chilling gesture, Adolph Hitler even bequeathed the title Honorary Aryans on the entire populations of Japan, which was primarily politically motivated, but creepily, also served to acknowledge their racial “purity.” He sent a boatload of Hitler youth to Japan in 1938 for a seven-month friendship tour. Uncomfortably hot.

This was unquestionably a fragile alliance, and what might be seen as a shifting coalition of political/economic interests. In the Journal of Japanese Studies Mark R. Peattie wrote,”…the Tokyo-Berlin connection, from its beginnings, faced unprecedented difficulties: national selfishness; enormous distance; radically different values, culture, languages, and political institutions…”

Beer, Cameras, and Industry
As in all relationships, there are the good and bad, the light and the dark and sometimes just the sheer tenacity to hold on. Despite the differences, and though often at odds with each other, these two enterprising countries have found ways to focus on a number of rewarding and fruitful collaborations.

Take Beer for example. It is by far, hands down, the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan and Germany. Both countries export their brews around the world with great success. In the 17th century the Dutch opened up a beer hall, The Holland Merchant House, in Japan for sailors working their trade route between the two countries. It was obviously a big success; so much so that when early pioneers in Japan found Hops on Hokkaido, they took action! In August 1875, an intrepid young man named Seibei Nakagawa, directed the construction of the first beer factory, having just earned his Beer Brewery Engineering License in Germany. It opened in Japan in 1876 under its symbol, the North Star and is now known worldwide as Sapporo.

In 2004 a classically trained brewer from Bavaria and his Japanese wife, opened a brewery at the base of Mt Fuji. He adheres to the strict German purity laws of brewing, uses the fresh water from a nearby stream, and actually imports his malt from Bavaria. There is even a Bavarian Representative Office in Tokyo, which celebrates Beerfestival (Oktoberfest) in the Bavarian tradition, with Bavarian beer, culinary specialties, and music. http://yokosonews.com/travel/german-beer-festival-nagoya-2012/ This is definitely a successful/hot aspect of Japanese and German unity!


Apparently, once Japan had created a thriving beer industry, other large German companies began to feel right at home. Although Siemens http://www.siemens.com/about/en/worldwide/japan_1154631.htm had its first contact with Japan in 1861, when a delegation presented the Edo government with a telegraph developed by Werner von Siemens, it was not until 1887 that it opened up it’s first office in Tokyo. This relationship continues today in a very special way. Beginning this year Siemens is slated to begin supplying northern Japan with 23 wind turbines, part of a power project designed to help Japan move away from nuclear power to more renewable energy in the wake of the terrible Fukushima disaster. Definitely cool, I mean Hot!

Japanese companies apparently feel right at home in Bavaria as well, where hundreds of companies have set up subsidiaries, making it one of the largest Japanese communities in Germany. However the largest Japanese community in Germany— actually in Europe—is in Düsseldorf. Beginning in the 1950s, Japan was on the lookout for raw manufacturing materials such as steel and chemical products. They found them in Germany, in the Ruhr region, resulting in the growth of the Japanese community in the city of Düsseldorf. The Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf currently offers a Department of Japanese Studies.

The industrial giant now known as the ThyssenKrupp Group, also has long-standing ties to Japan. In 1894 two Princes from Japan visited Krupp’s steel plants in Essen, Germany, launching a spate of reciprocal visits and a successful strengthening of business relationships. Japan received: rails, locomotives, coking plants and rolling mills, all made by predecessor companies of today’s ThyssenKrupp Group.

Currently ThyssenKrupp Group supplies Japanese customers with a wide variety of industrial products such as; components for the Japanese auto industry, parts for large wind turbines, engineering of production plants and recycling centers.

Of course it would be impossible not to mention the bond of photography shared by Japan and Germany, although in the beginning the technology to develop cameras was not exactly a mutually agreed-upon collaboration. In 1932-33, Leica in Germany introduced its first high-end camera models. They were so good and became so successful that they became immediately popular worldwide. The Japanese called them takane no hana, or something far beyond reach for ordinary people. This is where the not-exactly part comes in: A man named Goro Yoshida, decided to “study” the Leica Model II by disassembling it. He wanted to create a camera that would be more affordable to customers in Japan. At this time, Germany continued to lead in the sophistication of its precision instruments, so, using available technology, Yoshida and two partners developed a precision engineering research laboratory in Tokyo, using German cameras as models. They eventually accumulated valuable ideas, which led to the Kwanon, the nation’s first 35mm focal plane camera, equipped with a range finder. The company is now known as Canon, and on their website they share this interesting fact; “…The prototype camera was named “Kwanon” because Yoshida was a believer in “Kwannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy…” I would say this particular aspect started off rather frigid and evolved into a warmer relationship.

Bio-Med Technology and Healthcare
Japan and Germany are both very strong in research, development and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Obviously a good match, they signed an intergovernmental agreement of cooperation in scientific and technological endeavors, in 1974. At the same time they created a youth exchange program called “Youth Summit” which is held annually. With German Re-unification in 1990, Germany has become Japan’s largest trading partner within Europe.

Both Germany and Japan have large Bio-Med Clusters, or areas of the country, where hundreds of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, start-ups, and research institutes are accumulated. These clusters participate in world business forums such as Bio Med in Europe and BioJapan, in Japan, where they strive to create new business relationships, and strengthen existing alliances. These events allow pharmaceutical and chemical companies to create new networks, mixing entrepreneurs, academic researchers, venture capitalists, and other supporting agencies. One of the largest in Germany, the Munichm4 Biotech Cluster and their Japanese counterpart, the Northern Osaka Biomedical Cluster, recently signed a transnational biotech and life-science agreement on close collaboration between the two regions, with the aim of paving the way for industry-industry and industry-academia cooperation between the two regions.

One final and noteworthy connection which deserves mentioning, is the spill over into popular culture. As a fan of animated films, I have been surprised by the European/Old World styling and scenic design occasionally used in contemporary Japanese animated films. I never really understood it until now. One great example is the way acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki uses Germany as a reference in his wonderful film, Howls Moving Castle. http://www.cinemagia.ro/trailer/hauru-no-ugoku-shiro-castelul-umblator-al-lui-howl-1993/

I swear I’ve been to that village!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com


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Heroes, Activists, and Martyrs: Lending their names to the streets of Tehran

January 24, 2013


When I heard the story of Granada, Spain planning to approve a measure to name a square in honor of the British punk band The Clash’s Joe Strummer http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/spanish-square-to-be-named-in-honor-of-the-clashs-joe-strummer/ I was reminded of the battery of street name changes that Iranian cities underwent immediately after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The changing of names applied not only to streets and boulevards but to schools, colleges, universities and any building or organization that carried a name resonant of the former regime and all those it supported.

Besides serving as a practical guide to find one’s destination, street names and place names in general, create symbolic connections with the past, or recent past by commemorating and honoring the contributions of historical figures, military heroes, political leaders, inventors, industrialists, and athletes. According to the cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky in Nation into State, “the United States has a long history of naming places, especially streets, after patriot heroes and other notables.”

I first came across the term “commemorative landscape” a term referring to “a wide range of material sites devoted to remembering the past,” in an essay entitled “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina,” by Derek H. Alderman. We can safely agree that one of the most common of commemorative landscape types is the street name. In most cases, reasons to rename a street, monument or building are primarily politically motivated, reflecting the mood and sentiments of a new regime and its antipathy or respect for the past. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its satellites quickly set about a mission of de-Stalinization by renaming streets and building that once honored Stalin.

Though my recollections and understanding of Iran are memories frozen the moment I’d left the country in June 1978, I still remember those streets in Tehran named after American Presidents like Kennedy Square, Eisenhower Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue and British heads of state like Elizabeth Street and Winston Churchill Boulevard. Yet soon after the revolution these streets were renamed to honor martyrs of the Islamic Revolution and religious leaders. Kennedy Square is now Tohid Square, Eisenhower Avenue (named after the American President who helped the Shah topple Mossadeq) is Freedom Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue has been renamed Mofateh Avenue. Winston Churchill Boulevard, the site of the British Embassy in Tehran, was renamed Bobby Sands Street after the Irish Republican Army IRA member who went on a hunger strike and died in prison in northern Ireland in 1981. Apparently the British Embassy changed its entrance to another side of the building as they didn’t want the address to be Bobby Sands Street.


But not all American names have been censored in Iran. I read an LA Times article about Tehran’s decision to name a street in honor of Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed while protesting against the demolition of Palestinians homes in the Gaza strip. The photo below is proof of the street sign, which also includes a brief profile of Rachel Corrie.

“Tehran street sign named after American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie”

Iranian colleges and universities weren’t exempt from the name changing fever that had gripped the country following the 1979 revolution. Autonomous colleges, like the College of Surveying, or College of Statistics and Computer Science, or College of Mass Communication were phased out, merged and consolidated into university complexes named after revolutionary martyrs and religious leaders. Universities too saw their names changed, especially those that were named after the Shah or his family. Aryamehr University, known as the MIT of Iran, is now Sharif University of Technology, named after a former student who was killed in 1975. Melli (National) University was renamed Shahid Beheshti University. Farah Pahlavi University was renamed after the prophet Mohammad’s daughter as Al Zahra University. And the list goes on.

I haven’t returned to Iran since I left in 1978 but what I hear from friends and relatives who travel back and forth is that the old street names seem to still exist in people’s memories and used colloquially. It’s not unusual for passengers hailing a taxi to give their destination with the current name but also add its former name as backup. “Take me to Freedom Avenue, formerly Eisenhower.”

There’s a strange sense of belonging that happens when one sees and recognizes a familiar street sign. The main street leading to our home on Lane 8, off of Pakistan Avenue in northern Tehran, was Abbas Abad Avenue. That’s how I remember our ethnically diverse neighborhood of small mom and pop shops, the bakery, dry cleaners, and a vast empty dirt lot soon to be a large housing development. Our next door neighbor was a French diplomat. Across the street lived an American family from Maine whose eldest son was my brother’s best friend and attended the Tehran American School. A few houses down were a Japanese family whose patriarch would take strolls up and down our quiet street in the afternoons in his kimono and wooden shoes.

Abbas Abad Avenue has since been renamed as Shahid Beheshti Avenue. I have no connection to this new street and all that it represents, but one thing that seems to have not changed is the international flavor of the district that has carried on. Today, Shahid Beheshti, aka Abbas Abad Avenue, is home to embassies and foreign firms. Do you have any stories to share of the street names in your neighborhoods?

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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