United States Air Force Colonel (Retired) Dr. William A. Mitchell is a man who has seen the kinds of extremes our world has to offer, from the deserts of Iraq to the classrooms of Central Texas. His experiences in pursuit of the highest ideals of education in some of the most dangerous parts of our world are the background material of his book, Baylor in Northern Iraq During Operation Iraqi Freedom: Journeys to Dohuk for Higher Education, Democracy, and Voices for Survivors. Dr. Mitchell and a panel of experts will discuss the book and much more in this week’s lecture, “Education Goes to War,” Thursday, September 14 at 3:30 PM in the Cashion Academic Center.
“Education Goes to War” will feature Dr. Mitchell and four of his Baylor University colleagues discussing their experiences in Northern Iraq between the years 2003-2007. The panelists are:
- Cindy Fry, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science
- Mark Long, Associate Professor of BIC, Director of Middle East Studies
- Brad Owens, Senior Lecturer, Journalism, Public Relations & New Media
- Lyn Prater, Clinical Professor, Louise Herrington School of Nursing
Dr. Mitchell’s book recounts five different journeys into Northern Iraq in the volatile years following the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and into the year 2007. In his book, Dr. Mitchell outlines these journeys and their impact on the people involved.
Journey One: A Reconnaissance for Assistance
Three Baylor professors and Dick Hurst make the first journey into Iraq and discover that in the combat environment and chaos, Mosul University is devastated, it was impossible to travel to Baghdad University, and the northern Iraqi Kurdish area is the logical choice for assistance. Mitchell promises to return with assistance by the end of the year.
Journey Two: Delivering on a Promise
A large team of professors, teachers, graduate students, and the President of the Consortium on Global Education volunteer to prepare an academic workshop for three northern Iraqi universities and travel to Iraq in December 2003. This largest delegation of the five journeys conducted an extensive workshop for three universities, faced challenging travel conditions, and made personal observations. Publicity about this effort was in print, radio and visual media and included an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Opportunities Between Journeys to Iraq
During 2004 and most of 2005 many projects related to Iraqi higher education were addressed at Baylor. A Fulbright American Studies Program, a Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leaders Study of the USA grant, the Al Sharaka Program for Higher Education in Iraq, a book collection drive and delivery to a depot at Oklahoma University, a team journey to Afghanistan, and an opportunity to work with and host at Baylor University, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, son of the president of the UAE, were examples of why Baylor has become a leading USA institution recognized for helping to rebuild higher education in Iraq and provide other much needed services.
Journey Three: A Center for Democracy
Mitchell, Owens, Hair and Lehr accomplished the third journey to Dohuk, Iraq to assist with Dohuk’s Center for Democracy and Diplomacy. The team brought hardware, software, and books to help equip the new Center for Democracy with appropriate assets for professors and students to address how the university functions as a free institution in a civil society, critical thinking in a free society, accreditation issues of higher education, and other important subjects. Their intensive workshops demonstrated the seminar process and how to use the data and knowledge now available to them.
Journey Four: Oral History, Grieving, and the Future of Kurdistan
Just over a year after the third journey, Mitchell and Hurst conducted the fourth journey as part of an oral history project for Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Christians, students, and professors. Dr. Dick Hurst participated with presentations on grieving and humanitarian assistance for Christians. Interview snippets provide insight into discrimination and persecution against Iraqi minorities. Personal reflections on the oral histories along with comments from the refugees provide an accurate and stark picture of events. Dr. Mitchell conducted an international TV presentation on the USA and the Future of Kurdistan.
Journey Five: New Agreement, Interviewing, and Refugee Support
This journey in February 2007 was Mitchell’s first trip alone. Objectives accomplished included: a new five-year Statement of Cooperation between BU and DU from 2007 to 2012; assisting a stranded teacher at Dohuk with great promise as a potential Ph.D. candidate; additional oral history interviews, for the first time, in Erbil; delivered a $1500 donation from Mitchell’s church for food and supplies to the Christians (and some Muslims) who recently forced out of Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra by Shia and Sunni Muslims; an invitation for Prof. Dr. Odeat to visit Baylor; and an update for Dr. Asmat on a documentary film and evaluation of Dohuk University. Personal reflections and faculty observations for BU’s overall effort on assistance to Iraq provide another first-hand account of the challenges and opportunities.
We encourage you all to come to the “Education Goes to War” event this Thursday to hear first-hand accounts of these journeys and the impacts Baylor educators made – and are still making – on the educational future of Iraq.
Special thanks to Dr. Mitchell for his assistance in creating the synopses of the journeys described in Baylor in Norther Iraq During Operation Iraqi Freedom. You can purchase Dr. Mitchell’s book via Amazon.com.