By Curt Yeomans
Officials from Clayton State University recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Georgian American University, that will establish the Morrow-based university's presence in Georgia.
The Republic of Georgia, in eastern Europe, that is.
Clayton State Director of International Programs John Parkerson, Clayton State Interim President Tim Hynes, and Kenneth Cutshaw, a board member for the Tbilisi-based Georgian American University, and general counsel for Church's Chicken, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two schools during a business lunch on Dec. 28.
The agreement will lead to the establishment of temporary student, and faculty exchanges, the sharing of school resources, and joint research opportunities between Clayton State and Georgian American University, Parkerson said.
"This is an umbrella agreement we have entered into with Georgian American University," Parkerson said. "Each of these MOUs with foreign universities are umbrella agreements for future clarification ... They are general statements of areas where future collaboration can occur."
Parkerson said the Memorandum of Understanding is the sixth such agreement Clayton State has entered into with foreign universities. He said other existing agreements give Clayton State students and faculty members opportunities to study and/or work at two universities in India, as well as schools in France, Hungary and Peru.
Parkerson said he is in talks with schools in Africa, China, central America, central Asia, and Turkey to establish similar partnerships in the future.
"It increases our credibility and attraction to potential students," he said. "When a student wants to go to a school where he or she can have the broadest educational experience possible, that student will also look at what study abroad opportunities are available ... Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Emory and the University of Georgia all have numerous study abroad opportunities for their students ... Now, we're playing in the same league as those schools."
Students pay tuition to the school they come from, even though they are attending classes at an overseas university, Parkerson said. He added that the home universities send faculty members to the partnering school to lecture for anywhere between a few weeks and a semester.
Parkerson and Clayton State Spokesman John Shiffert said Georgian American University is a relatively new university, with specializations in business and legal studies.
"GAU opened to the public in 2005," Shiffert said in an e-mailed statement. "It is a small, modern, private institution of approximately 800 students that offers much of its curriculum in the English language ...
"Its expanding business and law programs provide progressive educational opportunities for Georgian students, with the Business programs in particular, representing potential areas for collaboration between GAU and Clayton State."
Parkerson said Clayton State is the second U.S. university to establish a partnership with the school. Washington, D.C.-based American University was the first, he said.
Parkerson said he had been aware of the school since it was established because he is friends with many of its U.S. financial backers, including Cutshaw, who have ties to the Atlanta area. Those backers came to Parkerson six months ago, seeking to establish a partnership between the two schools. One attraction for Clayton State officials was that the classes at Georgian American University are taught in English.
Cutshaw could not be reached for comment about the memorandum on Tuesday.
Parkerson said since Georgian American University is still new, it likely has limited resources, and Clayton State could help fill in the areas where its Georgian counterpart might need resources. "Probably, its English language library is not that large yet, and that's an area where our library can help out," he said.
Parkerson said the agreement will also help Clayton State students and faculty members because of the educational experience they will get from studying in a country, which shares a name with the state they go to school in. He hopes to eventually be sending two to three Clayton State students per semester
"Just imagine being able to go and sit in a classroom in eastern Europe, and experience that type of education," he said.