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Fit for a King

The emir of Kuwait passed his hand along an antique view of the Dartmouth campus, engraved in 1851 by Christian Meadows in Windsor, VT. Outside the palace it was 115° (Fahrenheit) which was, according to Provost Barry Scherr, "a little unusual for this New Englander." Scherr had carried the engraving to Kuwait wrapped in Dartmouth Green silk specially prepared by Baker Library's preservation services staff.

Dartmouth print

Provost Barry Scherr (left) explains the origins of an 1851 engraving of the Dartmouth campus to the emir of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (right) (Photo Courtesy AUK Public Relations)


It was a rare audience with Kuwait's ruler, occasioned by the renewal, until 2013, of Dartmouth's advisory agreement with the American University of Kuwait (AUK), the Persian Gulf nation's first private liberal arts university. Scherr was in Kuwait to publicly sign the renewal agreement, attend a meeting of the university's board of trustees, and address graduating seniors in AUK's Class of 2008.

Dartmouth and AUK began working together in 2003 under the terms of an agreement that allows Dartmouth to play an advisory role in helping to build the new university. In the past five years the two institutions have developed a flourishing relationship that involves faculty, students, and staff.

"At Dartmouth, and at AUK, we recognize that higher education knows no national boundaries," said Scherr at a press event where the signing of the agreement took place, "and we understand how important it is to prepare students to deal with the issues of a global society."

"We admire Dartmouth's commitment to the liberal arts and want to emulate that in our own country," said Sheikha Dana Nasser Al-Sabah, chairwoman of the AUK Board of Trustees, "and we look forward to a deepening partnership with our friends in New Hampshire."

Silver plaque
American University of Kuwait (AUK) President Marina Tolmacheva presents Dartmouth professor Dale Eickelman with a silver plaque during the university's commencement ceremony in June. "No one," she said, "has been more instrumental in building this extraordinary collaboration." (Photo Courtesy AUK Public Relations)

Scherr paid special tribute to one of those friends, Dale Eickelman, The Ralph and Richard Lazarus Professor of Human Relations at Dartmouth. Eickelman was instrumental in preparing the original agreement and serves as Relationship Coordinator for the two institutions. "Higher education in the Middle East and North Africa is one of my central academic interests," he said. "So when the opportunity arose to participate in advising a new university in Kuwait-one that would have a special relationship to Dartmouth-I jumped at the chance."

Kuwait is in the vanguard of Middle Eastern nations embarking on bold experiments in higher education. Its partnership with Dartmouth stands out as an unusual and distinctive model. Unlike universities establishing branch campuses in the region, AUK is an "indigenous" institution, founded by Kuwaitis and governed by a board of trustees comprised principally of Kuwaiti citizens.

"The Dartmouth-AUK Project has created opportunities for a significant number of students, faculty, and administrators to participate in this important international development," said Eickelman, who also oversees an internship program that sends Dartmouth students to AUK and brings AUK students to the U.S.

Fine
John Fine '09 in traditional khafiyya during his internship in Kuwait.

John Fine '09 became a part of the process during his spring internship at AUK, which coincided with parliamentary elections in Kuwait. "I got a fascinating look at the political behavior of Kuwaiti young people," he said. "Even students who weren't old enough to vote found ways to engage."

In at least two cases, AUK internships have put students on the path to advanced research. Hema Mohan and Jennifer Krimm, both '06s, won Fulbright scholarships to pursue research in the Gulf based on work they had done at AUK.

A few days after his visit with the emir, Scherr spoke to AUK's graduating seniors, presiding over a ceremony not unlike the one taking place 6,000 miles away in Hanover.

"Just as spheres of knowledge are no longer self-contained, nations are no longer fully independent of each other," Scherr told the graduates. Noting that the critical thinking skills they had gained in their four years at AUK would be key to their participation in a complex global society, Scherr added, "You occupy a special place in the history of this new university, and in years to come, will be honored for the legacy you will surely create."

By LAUREL STAVIS

 

Dartmouth students who have gone to AUK: 14

AUK students who have come to Dartmouth: 5

Dartmouth faculty and administrators who have worked on the project: 15

AUK officials who have visited Dartmouth: 13

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Last Updated: 8/21/08