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An Iraqi Venture with Educational Aspirations

Central Missouri's international admissions director Chuck Petentler didn't shy away from a recruitment opportunity this January, even though it meant traveling into the heart of a war zone.

He and representatives from 18 U.S. colleges and universities traveled to Iraq for the International Educational Symposium in Baghdad. Petentler was the only representative of a Missouri college or university to attend.

The opportunity was the Iraqi Education Initiative, a $1 billion educational plan by Iraqi leaders to rebuild their educational system. The plan calls for a substantial investment into primary, secondary and higher education institutions for Iraqi citizens, including up to 10,000 full-ride scholarships each year for the next five years to academically qualified Iraqi students to pursue a university degree in the U.S. or U.K.

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Chuck Petentler in Iraq

Petentler says, "I traveled to Iraq because I wanted to make a difference and help this country rebuild and re-assert itself as a leader among Middle Eastern nations. I wanted to help open a door to a world most Iraqi citizens know very little about, due to the last 30-plus years of war and control by a ruthless dictator. I went to Iraq because I believe and admire Prime Minister Al-Maliki's vision that Iraqi citizen access to education must serve as the foundation in which to build a new Iraq."

Petentler says he never hesitated to accept the invitation and found the experience incredibly memorable and patriotic. His journal of the journey is both dramatic and detailed and can be downloaded here.

"The political and financial landscape for Iraqi citizens is changing quickly and this change is significant for U.S. international educators," he says. "The new Iraqi leaders are convinced that Iraq's road to prosperity must begin with an educated population.

"My goal is to welcome 10 new Iraqi students to UCM this fall," he adds. "Beyond that...it depends on the war and political developments, both of which can be difficult to predict."

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