By Curt Yeomans
A dozen Clayton State University officials, including Interim President Tim Hynes, met with representatives from five, private, Central Asian universities on Friday as part of the Morrow-based school's ongoing effort to establish an educational link with Turkey.
The visiting presidents came from Qafqaz University in Azerbaijan; International Ataturk Alatoo University in Kyrgyzstan; International Turkmen Turk University in Turkmenistan; Suleyman Demirel University in Kazakhstan, and International Black Sea University in the Republic of Georgia.
Earlier this year, Clayton State officials visited five other universities in the Istanbul and Ankara areas of Turkey to discuss the possibility of establishing student-and-faculty-exchange programs with educational institutions in Central Asia, said John Parkerson, director of CSU's Office of International Programs.
"I would anticipate by mid-fall, we will see some of these agreements being finalized," Parkerson said. "These will be the first we've had with ethnic Turkish universities. This is a huge step forward in our development of programs for our students and for foreign students. And, I wouldn't just limit it to students, it's for our faculty as well, in terms of faculty development."
Clayton State currently has agreements with seven universities across the world. Two are in India, while Clayton State has partnerships with one university each in Peru, France, China, Hungary and the Republic of Georgia, Parkerson said.
Over the last five years, the number of Clayton State students participating in study-abroad programs has quadrupled to 125 students learning overseas during the 2008-2009 school year, Parkerson said.
"We want our students to graduate from Clayton State University with a global knowledge, not just in the subjects you can study in a classroom, but of the world," he said. "Our economy is becoming more global, so it's important that students at a university like Clayton State feel comfortable in a global environment."
In a written statement about the meeting that was released last Wednesday, Parkerson pointed to other efforts at the school to expose Clayton State students to Turkish culture, including a recent Turkish art exhibit at the school's library, and a speech at the university by Turkish National Assembly Congressman Cuneyt Yuksel earlier this year.
On Friday, Hynes told the visiting university presidents that with "your presence here today, we hope this will be the beginning of a meaningful partnership."
As the university presidents from the Central Asian region addressed Clayton State officials about their respective universities, they invited their hosts to visit their campuses to attend conferences.
Tarik Celik, executive director of the Atlanta-based Istanbul Center, which organized the meeting, said his organization is seeking to promote educational ties between Turkey and universities in the U.S., in an effort to promote the Central Asian country's interests. He also said resources in the U.S. can be useful in developing several countries across Central Asia.
"Those are developing countries," Celik said. "They need leadership and expertise that we have here ... We're interested in exchanging students and faculty, hosting visiting scholars, and working together to develop new programs in areas like education, nursing and business."