Global Connections: From Averett to Iraq

Posted on November 22nd, 2016 by Cassie Jones

Iraq 1From their seats in Frith Hall, a group of Averett students recently talked with someone half-way around the world.

Discussing politics and international relations via Skype with Iraqi researcher Bahra Lokman Saleh, students from Dr. Darcy Wudel’s political development asked questions on topics from daily life as an Iraqi and how her gender affects that, to relations between the U.S., Iraq and the KRG (the Kurdish area of Iraq), to geopolitics and the American election.

“To teach political development from articles and books is one thing. To speak to someone who lives, knows and thinks deeply about political development on the ground in another country is quite another,” said Wudel. “Ms. Bahra Saleh made the problems and possibilities of political development in Iraq and the KRG come alive for my students.”

Saleh is a research and project officer at the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, an independent research center based in the KRG that examines the most complex issues facing the region, Iraq and the Middle East. She joined IRIS this September after her stint as a program assistant on a long-term study on ISIS-induced forced displacement durable solution at the International Organization for Migration, Iraq. She focused her graduate work on foreign policy and official development assistance, which led her to conduct an internship at the Foreign Policy Department of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Ankara, Turkey.

Wudel’s political development course, POS/HIS 455, is a study of the development of democracy in select countries, with attention given to the relationships between economic and social modernization and political change. For students like senior Aaron Westhusing, the exposure to Saleh was eye-opening and impactful.

“This experience meant a lot to me, mostly because of the main events that have been going on in today’s world ever since 9/11,” said the history education major. “It helped me better understand Iraq as a whole.

“People really don’t realize how complicated the Middle East is. I feel like the only way one is to fully understand a country is if he/she is able to converse with someone from that country. This is what my class and I had the opportunity to do, and it really helped us with the deeper understanding of some concepts that we are exposed with in our political science class. I believe every student should get a chance with such opportunity.”

Wudel, an adjunct professor in Averett’s history department, taught in Iraq for six years, and Saleh was one of his first students there. He’s delighted to share this global connection with his students here in Danville.