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The president of Salahaddin University in the Kurdish region of Iraq was on the Old Dominion University campus Tuesday, Oct. 10, to sign an International Memorandum of Understanding to allow an exchange of students and faculty between the two institutions.

The exchange is the product of 20 months of work by an ODU nuclear physicist, Moskov Amarian, who is an Armenian Kurd. It is designed to bolster educational opportunities in a part of Iraq where suppression by Saddam Hussein and the unrest associated with the current war has made it difficult for universities to operate.

Mohammad Sadik, president of Salahaddin, signed the IMOU together with Old Dominion President Roseann Runte. Sadik also met with Thomas Isenhour, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Mohammad Karim, vice president for research; and three deans, Joseph Rule of the College of Sciences, Oktay Baysal of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, and William Graves of the Darden College of Education.

The IMOU will allow exchanges involving all academic areas, but Amarian readily admits that his chief goal is to attract physics graduate students from Iraq to study at ODU and do research, as Amarian does, at the Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in nearby Newport News.

Gail Dodge, chair of the ODU physics department, said no students from ODU will study in Iraq in the immediate future because of safety concerns. But if circumstances allow, she said, the exchange could expand to include reciprocal exchange visits, as well as transmission of courses by satellite. ODU has one of the nation's most sophisticated distance learning programs.

"We are very pleased about the opportunity to build a partnership between Salahaddin and Old Dominion," said Dodge. "Professor Amarian has done a wonderful job developing this relationship through his contacts with President Sadik. Both universities should benefit greatly and we owe a lot of thanks to Moskov for making this possible."

Dodge said Sadik impressed her as a "sincere advocate for educational and cultural exchange," and added, "It was extremely interesting to hear his perspective on the situation in Iraq. That was the highlight of his visit for me."

Before joining the ODU Experimental Nuclear Physics Group in 2004, Amarian was a nuclear scientist in the old Soviet Union and worked at research facilities in Europe.

Salahaddin, with 20,000 students and 17 colleges, is the main university in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

This article was posted on: October 12, 2006

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