University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin and the president of Tikrit University in Iraq will meet via videoconference this morning to sign a historic agreement between the two universities.

“The [Memorandum of Understanding] simply states that both partners agree to explore the feasibility of establishing educational and scientific cooperation,” said Division of International Studies spokesperson Masarah Van Eyck. “We are officially going to try and find ways to have a fruitful cooperation.”

The videoconference will take place at 260 Bascom Hall at 9:30 a.m., with Martin joining around 10 a.m. to sign the MOU and meet with Tikrit President Maher Saleh Allawi.

UW faculty members, representatives of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and U.S. State Department, Tikrit University faculty and Arabic translators present to aid Allawi in Tikrit will also participate.

Dean of the Division of International Studies Gilles Bousquet will also be witnessing the signing.

“There is a real desire on the part of Iraqi universities and the Iraqi government to give their faculty and students access to the best scholarship and research around the world. UW-Madison has that to offer,” Bousquet said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald.

Tikrit University is one of the largest universities in Iraq, located about 100 miles north of Baghdad near the Tigris River. Established by former president Saddam Hussein, Tikrit currently has more than 12,000 students with a near-equal ratio of males to females, Van Eyck said.

The new MOU will provide expertise in engineering, agriculture, law and medicine to Tikrit by means of both on-site instruction and videoconferencing.

Van Eyck went on to say Tikrit has previously signed formal agreements with Baltimore University in law and Texas A&M in agriculture.

Iraqi faculty will be offered training for nurses, physicians and pharmacists. They will also be offered opportunities in dairy management and agricultural methods, engineering technology exchange and assistance in forming a cohesive engineering association and onsite instruction for law students.

Currently, for safety reasons, there are no programs that allow UW students travel to Iraq.

“In time, the academic collaborations will also offer UW faculty new opportunities for research and therefore their students new learning opportunities,” Bousquet said.

Foreign Service Officer and member of the Salah ad-Din Provincial Reconstruction Team Brett Bruen told The Badger Herald earlier this month he believes the partnership to be crucial.

Bruen, a UW alumnus who currently resides in Tikrit, originally contacted UW in January about forging the agreement.

“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.”

— Signe Brewster contributed to this report.