Dr. Yar Ebadi was heartbroken when he visited his alma mater and former workplace, Kabul University, in Afghanistan in 2005.
Warfare ripped Kabul University after his 1981 escape to the United States. Its walls sported more bullet holes than paint. A deep hole had been dug in a lab’s floor to dump bodies whenever casualties piled up, left to decompose. Even though classes had resumed at Kabul University, no one had bothered to fill or even cover the hole.
A lack of faculty resources was equally distressing. The most recent course syllabus was 20 years old.
Ebadi was so upset after returning from his homeland to Kansas State University, where he is dean of its college of business administration, that he convinced his president they should help revitalize the institution.
Today, K-State is developing modern curricula for Kabul University’s English and engineering programs. Most Afghan faculty across all disciplines hold no graduate degrees, Ebadi says. And undergraduate education during the years of Soviet and then Taliban occupation consisted mostly of “indoctrination, not scientific learning.”
Ebadi was a Kabul University mechanical engineering professor in the late 1970s. Like him, a few of his colleagues managed to flee after the 1979 Soviet invasion. But most “were taken away and never heard from again” when the Soviets controlled the country, he says.
Under the American university’s effort, faculty go to Kabul not only to teach but to guide Afghans in using generators, computers and other everyday items which they had received from well-wishers but never learned to operate. Faculty have donated 2,000 textbooks to Kabul University teachers and students. Meanwhile, several Kabul University faculty have enrolled at K-State as graduate students to become better teachers and to train other Afghan instructors.
“I cannot be more proud of my K-State colleagues,” Ebadi says. “There have been challenges beyond description. But those who have been to Kabul want to go back for another turn.”
K-State’s initiative in Afghanistan is among Ebadi’s most recent passions. In his current position since 1996, Ebadi has worked to quadruple the annual amount of scholarships to $400,000. In addition, student enrollment in the college of business administration has jumped 40 percent during his tenure.
He dreams that Kabul University will eventually regain the prestige it held in the 1970s. Its programs rivaled those of top U.S. colleges, and its students went abroad as he did as an undergraduate to the Georgia Institute of Technology. “World-class, that is my dream.”
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