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President's Chat from Iraq

This is the official chat transcript from November 09, 2010. It reads top-to-bottom.

William Herndon Good morning everyone. President Schulz will join us shortly. I also want to remind everyone that we do not know how much time we will have or how good their connection will be, so please be patient.

Noel Schulz asks:How was the helicopter ride?

Kirk Schulz The helicopter ride was great! They left the doors open on the 45 min ride from Kuwait City to Basra. That was fun until they made a banked turn, and you could lean out the window and only see ground below you! Truely one of the highlights of my life!

Joshua Madden asks:Can you explain for us what you're doing in Iraq? What's the purpose of the trip?

Kirk Schulz We have the opportunity to set the model for U.S. higher education on how to build collaborative relationships between a university and a military base. So far, we have really done a lot with Ft. Riley and continue to expand this relationship. What better way to show that this is a two way street than to come and visit with the soldiers as they are deployed - both to show our support for their efforts, but also to understand just a little bit more on what they are experiencing and going through in Iraq.

Brent Gipson asks:Did K-State approach Ft. Riley with this idea for a trip or did "Big Red 1" ask us?

Kirk Schulz Ft. Riley and the U.S. Army extended an invitation to us to visit them in Iraq due to the growing relationship between K-State and the military. It is a privelige and honor to have been asked to go on this trip and to see what our soldiers are accomplishing in Iraq.

Tyler Tannahill asks:I hope you're enjoying Iraq. I spent a lot of time there in 2007. As a ksu student now, attending on the post 9/11 GI Bill, I have two questions for you. 1. Is there any attempt/plan KSU has to recruit veterans from the military bases across the US to attend here after they get out of the military? 2. With the veteran community growing on campus is there plans for future veterans services such as a veterans lounge in the union, support groups, veterans mentoring new KSU vets etc. Thanks Tyler T u

Kirk Schulz Thanks for the question. #2 first - we just approved $9500 for renovation of some space in the Student Union for a veterans center. We will put out more details on this later this semester. I would love for us to recruit more veteran students to campus. In order for us to do this, we need to make sure that we are meeting the needs of returning veterans and their families as they become part of the K-State family. Often, we make the assumption that veterans need the same things as a 17 year old freshman coming straight out of high school - and we need to remember that these are often mature students who come onto our campus very focused on what they want to do. So, yes, we want more veteran students - but we need to be sure that our campus is prepared and ready.

Elizabeth Long asks:What's the scariest part about Iraq?

Kirk Schulz The Iraqi people I met today at the University of Basra were gregarious and friendly. They were very interested in partnering with K-State and with american universities. When you consider that this area of Iraq has been through multiple wars and sanctions, there is still a long ways to go until the Iraqi people will enjoy the lifestyle we are accustomed to in the U.S.

William Herndon asks:From Lindsay Elliott from KTKA in Topeka, "How has the trip been so far and what have you been able to do?"

Kirk Schulz The trip has been excellent! We flew commercial airlines into Kuwait City, and then was flown by Ft. Riley personnel into Basra by helicopter. Today, we had the opportunity to travel into Basra accompanied by a military escort to meet with the Chancellor of the University of Basra. We also had a chance to spend time with several K-State alumni who are serving in Basra, and had dinner with dual-career couples who are both in the military. Finally, we had a high level briefing describing the outstanding progress made by U.S. forces in helping Iraq towards future prosperity.

Brent Gipson asks:What money is funding this trip?

Kirk Schulz The trip has been paid for out of private gifts given to the President's office by alumni and friends of the university. The US Army is providing meals, accomodations, and transportation while we are in Iraq. Thus, we are not using state funds for any part of our trip.

Brent Gipson asks:Are there any other staff from K-State in Iraq with you?

Kirk Schulz Yes, there are a total of four K-State people on the trip - myself, Jeff Morris, VP for Communications and Marketing, Virginia Moxley, Dean of Human Ecology, and Art DeGroat, Director of Military Affairs. We also have two escorts from Ft. Riley that accompanied us on the trip.

Christopher Newton asks:President Schulz - Did you have a chance to meet with any Iraqi citizens or students? The educational framework in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan are in tremendous flux and are in much need of assistance. The future of these countries and their citizens depends critically on the literacy of its youth. The deficiency of education is what facilitates the cultivation of extremists in these regions. Did you know there is a local non-profit organization based in Manhattan called, "Help us Learn... Give us Hope." This non-profit collects and sends school supplies and textbooks to students in difficult areas to foster literacy. Please, learn more by visiting www.helpuslearngiveushope.com. As the President of an institution of higher learning and as the K-State Ambassador to the Middle East, is this an opportunity for K-State to lead its peer universities in combating global illiteracy? Thanks, Chris Go 'CATS!

Kirk Schulz I did have a chance to meet some Iraqi students at the University of Basra. They were dressed up (generally more than American students), and not everyone was texting or talking on a cell phone between classes (again - a bit different than K-State). I do agree that American higher education has much to offer here - but it is a bit different in terms of safety than travelling in Europe. So, we need to carefully look at how we can help in this area of the world.

Neil Erdwien asks:What has surprised you so far? Were your expectations of Iraq accurate?

Kirk Schulz I have been surprised by how many checkpoints and security infrastructure still in place in southern Iraq. The topography looks pretty much like I expected it to look. However, the Iraqi people are terrific - and I have enjoyed my time with them. I had some wonderful Iraqi tea - served to guests - which is very sweet and is served in what looks like shot glasses!

Kelsey White asks:Did you have any reservations about going on this trip? What were Noel's feelings?

Kirk Schulz I think that whenever anyone is travelling into a war zone, family members are going to be worried and concerned. As always, Noel was supportive - and is a little bit envious that she couldn't go on the trip as well. My mother-in-law was probably the most worried - and I waited until a couple of weeks before the trip before telling her I was going!

Cheryl May asks:On behalf of Mara Williams from the Kansas City Star Dr. Schulz I don’t understand the purpose of your trip. Would it not have been possible to review distance learning possibilities for overseas military personal without a trip to Iraq? What more do you gain being in Iraq?

Kirk Schulz We have a goal of being one of the top military friendly universities in the nation. As K-State continues to build on our growing relationship with Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth, we felt it was important to also see first hand what the soldiers and families we work with are experiencing first hand. While distance education classes are certainly important as we work with the military, this is only one small component of our work in military related issues. As an example, our College of Human Ecology is doing significant research work on issues related to stress on military families. Dean Moxley is here to visit with some of the soldiers stationed here to hear first hand of some of their experiences. Finally, actions speak louder than words, and I don't know of a better way to show our commitment to our military colleagues than a visit by the university president. Our relationship with Ft. Riley is also gathering national recognition - and I will be speaking about our joint efforts at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) meeting in Dallas next week. I hope this helps!

Elizabeth Stevens asks:What would the U. of Basra be interested in as a partnership with K-State? Perhaps something from the College of Human Ecology?

Kirk Schulz We discussed several key opportunities today. The University of Basra is focusing a lot of research activity in energy, water, and agriculture - all areas where we have excellent capabilities and expertise. Additionally, there are some key grant opportunities between Iraqi and U.S. institutions, and we may be able to tap into these as we find areas of mutual interest. Finally, they are looking for opportunities for their faculty to do study leaves - why not at Kansas State?

Thomas Logan asks:I am a faculty member and also a Navy Reservist mobilized and deployed to Iraq in 2006 as an Executive Officer with a reserve Seabee (engineers) battalion. Iraq has a pool of well trained enginers, what if any potential is there for KSU engineering to make ties with Iraqi engineering professionals?

Kirk Schulz I think there is excellent possibilities of ties between K-State engineering faculty members and Iraqi engineering professionals. Today, we can do a lot via email and with video conferencing (with tools like Skype) - so that we can start building relationships now. This is part of why we are here - to help build some K-State/Iraqi professional relationships.

Bethany Bohn asks:Has the university been involved in a trip of this nature before? Manhattan Mercury

Kirk Schulz I believe this trip is the first we have ever done into a war zone - and it is my first international trip as Kansas State President. However, Kansas State has many international collaborations on virtually every continent - so while this trip is a first to visit our military in theatre, it is not our first international collaboration.

Elizabeth Long asks:What is one thing you think you will remember about this trip? Whether it is a memory of first stepping onto Iraq soil or a memorable person you have met.

Kirk Schulz When we were flying in the helicoptors from Kuwait City to Basra, and CSM Jim Champagne told us "Welcome to Iraq". A close #2 would be riding in a convoy to the University of Basra with heavily armed soldiers going through checkpoints - making sure we were safe. However, these are just two memorable impressions from my first day and a half.

Nicole Debrie asks:What is the most captivating story you have heard from the soldiers in Iraq?

Kirk Schulz Tonight we had a dinner with dual career couples - many of whom are both deployed in active war zones. Several couples had one person here and one in Afganistan. When I think of the challenge of keeping a marriage relationship strong - it is nothing compared to having two people serving in areas of signifcant danger. The good thing is that these couples were enthusiastic and forward thinking - but what a challenge!

Tyler Traxson asks:Have you met any other K-State Alums or Kansans?

Kirk Schulz We met 4 K-State alumni so far, and there is a big Powercat flag hanging in the dining hall. Several of the folks here have K-State posters up on the wall - so it feels like being in Manhattan! Most everyone we have met is stationed at Ft. Riley, so there is a common connection to Kansas.

Joshua Madden asks:I'm a writer for the K-State Collegian, I apologize for not mentioning that in my first question. I'm curious as to the relationship between this trip and the Security Studies program here at K-State. Is there any relationship between the two? Were any members of the faculty of that department involved in this trip?

Kirk Schulz Great question. We actually met one of our Security Studies graduates today - who is an officer stationed here in Iraq. We were restricted by the US Army on the number of K-State people we could bring with us (max of 4), so we did not bring any faculty from this program with us on this trip.

Communications and Marketing vpcm asks:On behalf of Mara Williams, Kansas City Star:r. Schulz could you elaborate a bit more on why K-State needs to build a better relationship with military base? What does K-State get out of this trip, this relationship?.

Kirk Schulz To build a better relationship, each of us needs to understand a bit more about what we have to offer and what our partner desires from the relationship. As such, we actively engage in discussions with Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth, and the U.S. Army in general about what their needs are - in terms of research and scholarship; coursework and training; and outreach to military families. Out of this trip K-State will have a better understanding of some of the needs of our military partners, as well as demonstrating the commitment of university leadership to take our relationship to "the next level".

Alejandro Sune asks:How was your tour of the University of Basra? Was there anything that you liked in particular?

Kirk Schulz We enjoyed our tour! I enjoyed the time we spent with the Chancellor of the University of Basra the most - and hearing about his vision for higher education in southern Iraq with very limited resources. The campus had beautiful trees planted which formed a canopy above the sidewalks leading to the main engineering building - which was beautiful!

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson asks:I'm curious about the students and alums you're meeting in Basra. Are they all in the military, or do some live there?

Kirk Schulz So far, all of the K-State alums we met are serving as active military. Perhaps in the future, we could hold a regular Catbacker or Alumni event in Iraq, but that will have to wait a few years!

Bethany Bohn asks:Does being a military-friendly campus help facilitate opportunities like this? For Bryan at the Manhattan Mercury

Kirk Schulz I think that being a military-friendly campus does help significantly with opportunities like this trip - but more importantly with identifying opportunities for collaboration and scholarship.

Kirk Schulz Folks - thanks for joining in! Tune in tomorrow with additional questions! It is time for bed in Basra - so good night to the K-State family!