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Dr. Drew Erdmann
DR. DREW ERDMANN: Hello my name is Drew Erdmann, I was the senior advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, I went over in March, was in Kuwait for a month, and was in the first civilian convoy into Baghdad in April, stayed until late August.
My primary responsibility was getting the university system of Iraq up and running again, there are incredibly proud traditions of higher education in Iraq, there is an extraordinarily talented pool of talent in the higher educational system, and they essentially rallied to the cause immediately. From the situation where when we entered Baghdad in April when the entire university system had been closed down, hundreds of thousands of students were not in classes, tens of thousands of employees were not at work nationwide. Within a matter of weeks the system was opened under the most difficult circumstances, but again through the dedication of the students, and the teachers, working in cooperation with coalition as well as international organizations such as UNESCO, we worked very closely with them, managed to get through the academic year, complete the academic year in July, with over 90% of the undergraduates completing their studies under the most difficult of circumstances, and actually right now, the universities are opening on time for this academic year.
The main point that I'd like to emphasize is that it's really due to talent and dedication of Iraqi people that an incredibly important sector of their economy, looking to the future, as well as to their society is moving forward. And in the period of time of May and June, if you walked onto a college campus, you would see life, it would look like a normal college campus despite there may be damage, so even May, June, and into July it was an incredibly vibrant period, and what this really symbolized is the Iraqi peoples' commitment to their own future because they wouldn't have been investing so much of their own time and energy or, quite frankly, sitting through exams in 120 degree heat unless they felt there was some purpose behind getting a degree, so it was an incredibly rewarding experience to work with the Iraqi people, I have many great friends from this experience, and I'm optimistic for the future as long as there is the necessary support from the International community as well as from the United States, not just in the short term but in the long term, because there's incredible desire in the academic community among students and scholars to reconnect themselves to the outside world after literally decades of forced isolation by the Hussein regime. Thank you very much.