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American Today



Grant Helping AU Abroad Establish Program in Syria

By Mike Unger

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has awarded American University’s AU Abroad a $236,000 grant to help establish a program at the University of Aleppo in Syria.

“This ensures that this program does become something that truly builds capacity in Syria,” said Sara Dumont, director of AU Abroad and Abroad at AU. “It will now be a much larger scale effort that will have a real impact on American students and on our Syrian partners. It will create many opportunities for communication and joint projects between faculty and students. Who knows what can feed from that?”

The grant is part of a State Department program that targets places in the world where Americans don’t study in large numbers, such as the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia.

Yet the Middle East is becoming increasingly popular with U.S. students who want to study Arabic. Unfortunately, opportunities there are limited to popular locations like Egypt and Jordan, so demand for spots in those programs are high, Dumont said.

“Institutions in [Middle Eastern] countries often don’t have the capacity to handle large numbers of American students,” she said. “In terms of facilities, faculty that can teach in English, they may not be very well set up.”

The grant will help to change that. It largely will be spent to send AU personnel to Syria, and more importantly, to bring Syrian faculty and staff to AU for training. This summer AU sent its first student to study abroad in Syria. It hopes to have the full program—which will be available to students at any U.S. college—up and running by January 2011.

“This will enable us to really do everything we want to do,” Dumont said.