While the University of Wisconsin considers a formal partnership with a university in Iraq, UW officials say they have no intention of allowing students to study abroad at the Iraqi university.

According to Masarah Van Eyck, spokesperson for the Division of International Students, UW students can expect to see students from Tikrit University around Madison if an agreement is reached, but the study abroad portion of the relationship will not be reciprocated.

“While they are setting up a study abroad resource for both faculty and students, we are not sending our students over there because safety is first,” Van Eyck said.

While Van Eyck and other officials cite safety concerns, Foreign Service Officer Brett Bruen of the United States Embassy in Iraq said changing times in Iraq mean students should not rule out studying at Tikrit.

He told the Herald in an interview from Baghdad Wednesday he and American troops personally interact with Tikrit University students on a regular basis and other U.S. universities such as Texas A&M already have faculty on the ground in Iraq.

“As the security situation here continues to improve, we hope to see American scholars visit and come see research,” Bruen said. “I didn’t have any body armor on when I was interacting with students and professors (at Tikrit University).”

Bruen, a UW alum who currently resides in Tikrit, emphasized the proposed partnership between the two universities as just that: a partnership.

“It is not a one-way street. They should not look at this as a charitable cause or simply a means of assisting the Iraqis. The Iraqis and Iraqi scholars have a great deal that they can offer the University of Wisconsin,” Bruen said.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein established Tikrit University in 1987, a connection Bruen said earned the university special privileges.

Located about 90 miles northwest of Baghdad, the university is one of the largest in Iraq with about 18,000 students.

Bruen described the campus as fairly modern with good facilities and broad boulevards. He said it is located on the flat plains of the Tigris River.

Bruen, who aided in the initial contact of the chancellor’s office by Tikrit University President Maher Saleh Allawi, hit on the important impact a relationship with UW would have on Tikrit University and Iraq as a whole.

“The Wisconsin Idea is one of the key reasons that I reached back to the university and hoped that we can set up a partnership with the University of Tikrit,” Bruen said. “Iraq, as it looks to rebuild, will need a university that is not only a shining ivory tower, but is in fact intricately involved in the reconstruction and redevelopment of the community around it.”

A teleconference was held between UW officials and the U.S. Embassy last week to discuss initial interest in the relationship. A teleconference with the president of Tikrit University will be held later this month, where a memorandum of understanding is expected to be put in place.

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