BULPIP-AIPS Urdu Program 2: An Interview with the BULPIP Students

The BULPIP Students with   Dr. Anjum Altaf, Dean of the Lahore University Management Sciences School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law (Photo Credit: LUMS)

The BULPIP Students with Dr. Anjum Altaf, Dean of the Lahore University Management Sciences School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law (Photo Credit: LUMS)

Earlier this fall, the first class of American graduate students arrived at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to study Urdu as part of the re-launched Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, conducted in collaboration with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS).  From 1973 until 2001, BULPIP was permanently based in Lahore, Pakistan and provided intensive Urdu language training to American students, scholars, and teachers with research and professional interests in Pakistan, Islam, the Muslim communities of South Asia, and Urdu language and literature.  Following 9/11, a State Department warning prohibiting students from traveling to Pakistan forced the program to temporarily relocate to Lucknow, India.  In 2014, the program finally returned to Pakistan.

I recently sat down for an informal discussion with the participants in this year’s program.  The students are mostly PhD candidates—though one is a first-year Masters student.  They represent a range of humanities fields, from Near Eastern Studies to Art History.  They are also a diverse ethnic mix, including Pakistani-Americans, Indian-Americans, and European Americans.  All of them were thrilled to be in Lahore and wished that they had more opportunities to explore the city. Unfortunately, due to security concerns, the students’ off-campus movements are quite restricted.  The students were also very impressed with LUMS. According to Elizabeth Bolton, a PhD student from The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Radio, Television, and Film, “The campus is beautiful—more beautiful than UT-Austin”. Continue reading

Advertisements

University Partnerships 2

In my last post, I highlighted two examples of collaboration between US and Pakistani universities: the partnerships between Arizona State University and Kinnaird College for Women and between the University of North Texas and the National University of Modern Languages (NUML).   In this post, I will highlight partnerships that George Mason University (GMU) has formed with two institutions in Pakistan: the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) based in Islamabad, and Karachi University.

Hamood Ur Rahman, NUST faculty member and delegation team leader; Siddique Sheikh, Mason Board of Visitors; and Eirini Gouleta, Associate Professor for International Education, College of Education and Human Development. (Photo Credit: GMU)

Hamood Ur Rahman, NUST faculty member and delegation team leader; Siddique Sheikh, Mason Board of Visitors; and Eirini Gouleta, Associate Professor for International Education, College of Education and Human Development. (Photo Credit: GMU)

George Mason University is the largest public university in the state of Virginia, with over 32,000 students. The university is recognized for its strong programs in economics, law, computer science, creative writing, and business. In line with the university’s commitment to diversity, a culture of inclusion, and a global perspective, GMU sees the partnerships with Pakistani institutions as the beginning of a process that will lead to further opportunities for research and exchange between faculty and students.

In the summer of 2013, fifteen engineering faculty from NUST visited GMU to attend a three-week professional development program focused on strengthening their pedagogical skills and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate students enrolled in the STEM disciplines. While at Mason, the NUST faculty attended a series of seminars, workshops and professional development activities led by faculty from the Graduate School of Education and the International Education Center, to strengthen their instructional, assessment and education research capabilities. In addition to the seminars, the delegation also attended cultural events. The overall goal was to provide the NUST faculty with research-based information and experiences that they could take back to Pakistan to improve their students’ learning outcomes.

NUST students Hamza Masud, Arslaan Khalid, and Saad Ullah in front of GMU's Engineering School (Photo Credit: NUST)

NUST students Hamza Masud, Arslaan Khalid, and Saad Ullah in front of GMU’s Engineering School (Photo Credit: NUST)

NUST is one of Pakistan’s most renowned universities, focusing on science, technology, and engineering. It has campuses in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi and Risalpur. The university includes medical and engineering schools, army and military colleges, and an Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. This past summer, three NUST Engineering students were selected for an Exchange Research Program at GMU. The students are exposed to real time research projects under direct supervision of GMU faculty, which may lead to fully-funded doctorate research. Continue reading

US-Pakistan University Partnerships 1

Faculty involved in the ASU-Kinnaird university partnership. Photo credit: Andy DeLisle

Faculty involved in the ASU-Kinnaird university partnership. Photo credit: Andy DeLisle

One important area of cooperation between the United States and Pakistan is the education sector. In 2013, the U.S. government announced that it was investing $8.6 million over three years in eight partnerships between U.S. and Pakistani universities. Each partnership includes a faculty exchange and research component and focuses on a range of liberal arts subjects including American Studies, Mass Communication, Psychology, Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies. These partnerships are part of a broader effort to connect American and Pakistani universities that will also include the creation of Centers for Advanced Studies in the critical areas of energy, water, and agriculture. These centers will be located at leading Pakistani universities and will support graduate programs, provide opportunities for joint Pakistani-U.S. research and promote the development of expertise in each focus area.

These U.S.- Pakistani university programs include partnerships between Arizona State University and Lahore’s Kinnaird College for Women as well as between the University of North Texas and the National University of Modern Languages, based in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Continue reading

The Case of Arriving Mangoes: Pakistan begins exporting mangoes to the US

Pakistani mangoes are now being exported to the US  (Photo: The Borgen Project)

Pakistani mangoes are now being exported to the US (Photo: The Borgen Project)

Mangoes are a favorite summer delicacy in Pakistan. Mainly grown in Punjab and Sindh provinces, they are known as “the king of fruits”. Several varieties of the crop exist in the country, including Chaunsa, Sindhri, Dasehri and Anwar Retol. Although they are mainly eaten fresh, mangoes are also used to prepare chutneys, jams and pickles.

Pakistan is one of the world’s top mango producers. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the country produced approximately 2 million tons in 2011. Recently, Pakistan has begun exporting mangoes to the US—the biggest and arguably most lucrative market for the fruit. The first consignment,  sent to Houston and Dallas– two cities with large Pakistani-American communities– sold out within a few hours of reaching stores . Future consignments will be sent to New York City as well.

The export of mangoes to the US is substantially due to the US government’s continuing engagement with Pakistan’s mango sector. Over the last few years, USAID has invested $5.8 million in Pakistan’s mango production, providing the means for new infrastructure and marketing assistance to help farmers sell their products globally. In addition, $1.6 million have been invested to help small and medium sized farms develop commercially feasible fresh and dried mango businesses. Through this program, twenty-six mango orchards have received the global GAP certification required for exports to high-end markets. Fifteen on-farm mango-processing facilities have been established. 2,500 jobs have been created and 3,700 farmers have been trained in the process. Consequently, mango exports to the international market have increased fivefold and sales have increased by around $20.5 million.

In his remarks at the 2013 Annual Mango Conference and Festival held in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Commerce Secretary Qasim Niaz stated: “We are thankful to the U.S. government for their support to mango growers and producers that has led to increased productivity and jobs for Pakistani people. A relationship that is based on trade, not just aid, is one that we will look forward to in our relationship with the United States.” Continue reading

Center Stage: Promoting Understanding Through Music

Pakistani artists "Zeb & Haniya" performing in Akron, Ohio as part of their 2012 Center Stage tour  Photo: YW Luk

Pakistani artists “Zeb & Haniya” performing in Akron, Ohio as part of their 2012 Center Stage tour
Photo: YW Luk

Music is the international language of peace and possibilities and dreams,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech shortly after taking office. Secretary Kerry’s statement reveals his belief that the performing arts play an important role in cultural diplomacy—the promotion of mutual understanding among nations through the exchange of ideas, information and art.

For over fifty years, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has been working to develop peaceful relations between the US and other countries by promoting academic, cultural, sports and other exchanges. One such initiative is Center Stage. In collaboration with the New England Foundation for the Arts, the program connects foreign artists with American communities by organizing month-long tours for international dancers, musicians and actors. Through performances, workshops, artist-to-artist exchanges and community-level interactions, the program demonstrates the power of the performing arts to create goodwill at the grassroots level.

Center Stage premiered in 2012. Along with artists from Haiti and Indonesia, the first season featured four ensembles from Pakistan: “Arieb Azhar”, “Noori”, “Very Live”, and “Zeb & Haniya”. This year’s lineup includes two Pakistani groups: “Poor Rich Boy” and “Khumariyaan”, along with artists from Morocco and Vietnam. Continue reading

Iqra Fund: Promoting Girls’ Education in Northern Pakistan

Primary school students at the Mashabrum Public School (Photo credit: Iqra Fund)

Primary school students at the Mashabrum Public School (Photo credit: Iqra Fund)

“Pakistan changed my life,” says Genevieve Chabot, founder and CEO of the Iqra Fund. Chabot first traveled to Pakistan in 2007 as a volunteer with the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit that promotes education in remote mountain villages of northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. During this visit, Chabot met a thirteen-year-old girl named Iqra who had recently lost many of her family and friends in the devastating earthquake that struck northern Pakistan and Kashmir in 2005. Iqra’s father told Chabot that he had named his daughter Iqra (which means “read” in Arabic) because he believed in her future as an educated woman. The commitment to education demonstrated by both Iqra and her father inspired Chabot to shift the focus of her doctoral research to studying the barriers to girls’ education and the impact of education on the quality of life of girls, women and remote communities.

In every village she visited, the women immediately warmly welcomed Chabot. While cultural taboos surrounding interaction with women and foreigners initially caused the men to keep their distance, they eventually invited Chabot to meet with them. Her participation in these meetings made the staff of the Central Asia Institute realize that in order to better understand the needs of women and girls, it was essential to have a woman on the team.

During her time with the Central Asia Institute, Chabot realized that “education was about so much more than bricks and mortar.” Rather than immediately building schools, it was important to mobilize community leaders and convince them of the importance of investing in girls’ education. This mobilization also involved improving the quality of education. Sending girls to school has an opportunity cost—they will no longer be available to help at home or in the fields. If the education that they received was simply based on rote memorization, than the community would not see its value. Continue reading

Connecting Through Foreign Language: The Berkeley-AIPS Urdu Program

Studying foreign languages is an excellent way to learn about other cultures. Learning a language not only improves an individual’s ability to communicate but also exposes them to the history, traditions and culture of a particular country or region. The ability to communicate with someone in their native language helps to provide a new understanding of their worldview—something of increasing importance in our increasingly interdependent world.
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan as well as the country’s lingua franca. It is also one of the official languages in six Indian states. Approximately 65 million people speak Urdu as their native language, while an additional 40 million speak it as a second language. Studying Urdu, therefore, is invaluable in gaining a greater understanding of South Asia.

Participants at Berkeley's 9th Annual Urdu Culture Show

Participants at Berkeley’s 9th Annual Urdu Culture Show

In the United States, one of the leading centers of Urdu instruction is the University of California-Berkeley. From 1973 until 2001, the university ran the Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan (BULPIP). The program was permanently based in Lahore, Pakistan and provided intensive Urdu language training to American students, scholars and teachers with research and professional interests in Pakistan, Islam, the Muslim communities of South Asia and Urdu language and literature. Following 9/11, a State Department travel warning prohibiting students from traveling to Pakistan forced the program to temporarily relocate to Lucknow, India. It was subsequently shut down in 2008. Continue reading