Pakistani faculty matched with mentors, capitalize on UO expertise

For years now, analyzing collaborative governance among community and agencies has been a research focus for UO Professor Richard Margerum. However, in the past three months, Margerum has been helping colleague Professor Zafar Khan to examine how different governance approaches have affected community based natural resources management in Pakistan—a country half the world away, but with a region very similar to Oregon.

“Professor Khan has some terrific data that has been collected by his team in two communities, and I think there are some interesting governance findings that offer lessons to an international audience,” says Margerum.

Khan is a professor at Karakoram International University (KIU) in Gilgit, Pakistan. He works in the Department of Environmental Sciences. His research focuses on the environmental impact of climate change on large vertebrate animals, especially in mountain regions near glaciers. Professor Khan is also focusing on community capacity-building to help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Gilgit.

Building a Connection with Pakistan from International Ducks on Vimeo.

"I believe the program is well designed to cater for the needs of Pakistani researchers and teaching faculty,” says Khan. “In the field, I witnessed how students are involved in action research and other experiential learning activities. I am eager to replicate such a field program in my university.”

The collaborative research between Khan and Margerum is part of the KIU-UO Partnership, a three-year initiative that began in September 2013 that has focused in the fields of environmental studies, business management (especially local entrepreneurial and sustainable development) and faculty professional development. It has since included cohorts of faculty exchanges each year, pairing of KIU faculty with UO mentors, and sending UO university experts to advance projects in Gilgit.

In addition to the 20 KIU faculty who have come to Eugene on the partnership, two more came last fall on scholarships from the Pakistan Higher Education Commission to work on their respective dissertations, one more is currently in Eugene on a Fulbright post-doc, and an alumna will be entering the doctoral program in Environmental Studies at the UO this coming fall.

Eight UO faculty have ventured to Gilgit over the grant period, all accompanied by UO International Studies Professor Anita Weiss, whose research focuses on Pakistan and who is fluent in the national language, Urdu. Weiss is also the faculty co-lead on the KIU-UO Partnership.

“The most recent UO faculty trip to Gilgit focused on developing the KIU Faculty Professional Development Centre to promote effective teaching and learning about interactive teaching styles,” notes Weiss.

Each KIU visiting faculty is invited by their mentor to audit UO classes, which gives them exposure not only to topics in their research field but also to teaching styles and class structure.

For example, Khan is part of a cohort with three other colleagues. They each meet at least once a week with their respective mentors, and all take part in professional development training through UO’s Teaching Effectiveness Program (TEP) and the American English Institute (AEI) programs.

“I’ve been working with the visiting KIU faculty on English skills for presenting at international conferences and publishing in international journals,” explains Trish Pashby, senior instructor at the AEI. “I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan to participate in their creating a center for faculty professional development. These trips to their beautiful city and campus have been amazing, life-changing adventures.”

The KIU-UO Partnership was made possible by a U.S. Department of State Public Diplomacy grant for $1 million, awarded to the UO. The grant allowed for a three-year cooperative agreement and academic partnership with KIU. While the grant is due to expire in December, the strong performance of the partnership and its projects has motivated key officials to seek to extend the agreement.

“The partnership with Karakoram International University epitomizes the commitment of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies to international relationship building,” says Jeff Hanes, director of CAPS and associate professor of history. “The grant has enabled us to build an educational bridge to Pakistan that only promises to grow stronger in the coming years.”

The principal investigators on the grant are Anita Weiss, professor of international studies, and Jeff Hanes, director of CAPS and associate professor of history.