Tunisian-UGA educational partnership highlighted by faculty visit

ATHENS, Ga. – A group of 30 university professors from Tunisia are spending three weeks on the University of Georgia campus, engaging in training and discussions in higher education management and distance learning. The faculty members were invited to UGA as part of a U.S. State Department-funded project directed by Takoi Hamrita, UGA associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering.

“The scope of this project required many people to come together in Tunisia and the United States. I am deeply moved by the commitment to international cooperation on both sides,” said Hamrita, a native of Tunisia and UGA faculty member for nine years whose work using micro-controllers in the poultry industry has been widely recognized. “The progress we’ve made goes a long way in making the connections between our two countries stronger and lays the groundwork for strengthening the relationship through further educational and cultural exchanges,” she said.

Twenty of the professors are exploring pedagogical and technical aspects of distance learning with the Office of Instructional Support and Development (OISD). The distance learning discussions and training are taking place in classrooms of the state-of-the-art Student Learning Center, where the OISD staff are exchanging ideas on the nuance of course design and remote teaching using technology including WebCT and Camtasia with the visiting faculty.

The Tunisian faculty also had the opportunity to visit the Center for Advanced Learning Technologies and work with University System of Georgia staff during a daylong seminar at UGA’s Gwinnett campus. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with such an impressive group of international colleagues. I am certain we will learn as much from them as they learn from us,” said Bill Jackson, director of OISD.

The other ten Tunisian faculty, business professors from Manouba University, are working with the Institute of Higher Education on such management issues as human resource development and university assessment and fundraising by calling on the expertise of several high-level UGA administrators. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas with our Tunisian colleagues about our respective systems of higher education. It has been a stimulating experience for our faculty, staff and students,” said Tom Dyer, director of UGA’s Institute of Higher Education.

The Tunisians visiting UGA come from all geographical areas, representing all universities in the country across almost all disciplines. One third of the group is made up of women. “We are excited about this opportunity to work with UGA colleagues and are impressed with the resources and expertise UGA has committed to the partnership,” said Ali Ayadi, professor of medicine in Sfax, Tunisia.

The UGA-Tunisia educational partnership came about through Hamrita’s interest in educational opportunities in her home country and the Tunisian government’s realization that it faces an explosion of needed post-secondary learning capacity in the coming years. A rapidly growing school-age population in the North African country led its government to mandate that 20 percent of all university coursework be available online by 2006. The State Department grant, awarded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, presented the opportunity to connect this need with the extensive experience at UGA in distance learning and higher education management, while presenting the entire UGA community with an innovative new effort in international collaboration. “We are delighted to host the Tunisian delegation and strongly support these kinds of exchanges,” said Gale Buchanan, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UGA.

UGA’s Office of International Affairs and Center for Trade and Security will host a discussion with the Tunisian Ambassador to the United States, Hatem Atallah, who will be in Athens to commemorate the UGA-Tunisian Educational Partnership. The talk, “Challenges and Prospects of the Arab World: The Tunisian Perspective,” will be given by the ambassador on Friday, April 2, at the Tate Student Center.