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University Professors and Alumni Praised for Work to Rebuild Afghanistan

Posted 03/07/2014
Posted by Meagan Fazio

Professor Saleh Keshawarz stands with six engineering graduate students from Afghanistan at their Commencement in 2009.

Herat University in 2008

As U.S troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year, University of Hartford professors and graduates are being praised for helping to shape the future of the country. A partnership between UHart and Herat University in Kabul is giving Afghan engineers the training they need to rebuild the war-torn cities. The story behind this partnership is featured in this month’s edition of Prism, the official magazine of the American Society for Engineering Education.

It all started in 2006, when Professor Saleh Keshawarz returned to his native Afghanistan to look for ways to improve engineering education at Herat University. Keshawarz and his colleagues, Professors Ivana Milanovic and Hisham Alnajjar, discovered most of Herat’s faculty only had bachelor’s degrees and could benefit from a master’s-level education. A lack of technology made distance learning impossible, so the team applied for grants to bring Herat’s faculty to Hartford. Less than three years later, six of these faculty members graduated from UHart with master’s degrees in civil engineering. Several others graduated the following years.

Beth Richards, director of UHart’s Department of Rhetoric and Professional Writing, has also contributed to the partnership. She made two trips to Afghanistan in 2008 to teach English to engineering students at Herat.

“The faculty’s English skills were quite good,” Richards told Prism, “but their students’ abilities varied wildly.” Richards developed a textbook to try to help the faculty address this gap. Once she returned to Hartford, she acted as a mentor to female engineering students.