PM Barzani attends American University of Kurdistan’s second graduation ceremony – Kurdistan24


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ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The American University of Kurdistan (AUK) held its second graduation ceremony on Sunday, an event attended by Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, who congratulated the new diploma-holders.

Prime Minister Barzani's Speech during the AUK Graduation Ceremony 

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I want to welcome everyone to the celebration of the graduation of the classes of 2020 and 2021, whose persistence and resilience have led to their great academic accomplishments. I am proud to be here today to recognize your hard work, achievements, and promise for the future.

I commend you for overcoming the difficult challenges brought on by the pandemic in respect to your education, as well as the lives of your family and friends. Since February 2020, you have conducted your academic studies, including lectures, seminars, quizzes, and exams online. I take pride in the AUK for championing the transitional process of in-person to online teaching and being a model for universities across Kurdistan.

AUK students made charitable donations to families most affected by the pandemic, provided food to the Security Forces serving in Duhok during the imposed travel restrictions, and held the "Read to Lead" campaign. Experiential and project-based learning continued as students participated in online global conferences, developed an assistive robot, initiated social media challenges in an attempt to support COVID 19 preventative measures, and developed projects such as the "S.O.S Emergency" and "Expense Planner" Applications and the “AUK Library Reservation System Application”--a software for managing reservations, computers and study spaces in the Library, and used their skills and knowledge to initiate business start-ups. On the fun side, AUK students won regional sporting competitions and joined the Iraqi National Futsal Team.

Years ago, I envisioned an institution that would be a model in the region, dedicated to enhancing the quality of education and, in return, the quality of life and well-being of people in the region. It would shape leaders for local and regional communities by offering quality education, character-building programming, and support for students’ career preparedness while becoming a prominent academic and research hub for the nation and region.

When the AUK was under construction, the Kurdistan Region was at war with ISIS, with battles just 12 kilometers away. However, due to the bravery of our Peshmerga and security forces under the leadership of President Massoud Barzani, the construction continued, and the Mustafa Barzani Building was completed in 2015. A highly educated generation is the best weapon against extremism in all of its manifestations. Therefore, nothing was going to deter the opening of the University. The aim was for AUK to become the regional beacon for tolerance, respect for diversity, and equal opportunities for all regardless of ethnicity, religion, and gender.  

Since 2015, even though Kurdistan and the region suffered hardships and an economic downturn, the University persevered due to the determination of the faculty, staff, and students, and the support of the Board of Trustees and the American University of Kurdistan Foundation. Thanks to the AUKF, the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and Dr. Rania Majeed, the Foundation’s Chairwoman has funded and continues to fund various scholarship programs, state of the art laboratories, and the construction of the residence hall on campus that have allowed the university to advance and prosper.

I would like to also thank the President of the Kurdistan Region, KakNechirvan Barzani, for his support for education across Kurdistan.

The AUK has focused on institutional and program-level accreditation. This endeavor is due in part to the United States Department of State Grant, where AUK has partnered with 6 universities in the US to introduce quality assurance and international best practices to ensure AUK’s graduates are competitive in the global marketplace. This AUK-U.S. collaboration has accelerated AUK’s progress toward international recognition and will make the University a role model across Kurdistan and beyond. I thank Dr. Randall Rhodes, the President of the AUK, for his execution of leadership during the era of Covid -19 and look forward to the many new initiatives planned for the years to come.

Today, the Kurdistan Regional Government is dedicated to a program of economic diversification and private sector growth. While we are proud of our achievements in the oil industry and look forward to developing the gas sector, we realize that energy cannot be, and should not be, the primary source of revenue for our nation. The KRG has invested in strategic projects and has partnered with leading companies to develop key sectors and grow job opportunities. I recently laid the foundation stone for a wheat marketing project in Erbil and Sulaimani, which will include flour production, grain silos, and a research and development center.

We will do similar projects in Duhok and Halabja. A few days ago, I laid the foundation stone for another potato food processing plant in Duhok province, which will provide thousands of jobs. We inaugurated the largest steel factory in the country, which will produce high-grade metal and steel in line with international standards and produce over 1,000 jobs. In Duhok, we opened the Zawa Mountain Telepherique Tourism Project, which not only showcases Kurdistan’s landscape and will also provide new job opportunities. The KRG has invested greatly in large infrastructure projects, including highways and tunnels across the Kurdistan Region. The KRG has also made gains in reform initiatives, enhancing public service, removing bureaucratic hurdles, and digitalizing government operations.

In light of these national priorities, as graduates, you need to use your talents, skills, and knowledge to accept your responsibility to lead this nation in the decades to come. The American University of Kurdistan has strived to deliver excellence in education and has provided you with the academic training to develop your disciplinary knowledge and soft skills. More importantly, during your academic careers at AUK, you have developed a sense of ethics and social responsibility integral to my vision of Kurdistan as being an exemplar of democracy and justice for the Middle East. Your AUK diploma carries with it a responsibility, a duty to love your nation and contribute to its betterment.

Current academic programs, and our new Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, not only reflect international accreditation standards but have been designed to assure alignment with workforce needs. AUK’s Colleges have established Industry advisory committees to provide feedback for program development, including the offering of more internships and streamlining students’ transition from the university to their professions.

A credo to live by

• serve your nation in whatever capacity you can

• live and work with religious and ethnic communities in harmony;

• respect the many diversities and differences of our society; and

• preserve Kurdistan’s environment and work towards ecological sustainability

Again dear graduates,

I congratulate you on this great achievement. Thank you all for attending this ceremony, and thanks to our peshmerga and security forces, whose bravery and sacrifice allow for happy occasions such as these. But also, keep learning and growing; education doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree. It is a lifetime process.

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