UNI’s commitment to Kosovo partnership stronger than ever

UNI’s commitment to Kosovo partnership stronger than ever

A delegation from the University of Northern Iowa led by President Mark Nook recently visited Kosovo to enhance the strong relationship UNI has built with the people of Kosovo and its numerous institutions. The group met with several universities, learned about the country, appeared on Kosovo television and connected with the Kosovo president.

Kristi Marchesani and President Mark Nook with TV news anchor in Kosovo

“Along with our entire travel party, Cheryl and I were incredibly grateful for the hospitality shown to us throughout the course of our visit to Kosovo,” said Nook. “We met so many talented and thoughtful people during our trip. We are currently exploring opportunities for UNI students to study in Kosovo, and we are excited to welcome students from Kosovo to our campus in Cedar Falls. We are enthused about the potential to collaborate with our colleagues at the University of Prishtina.” 

Kosovo has many significant ties not only with the U.S. but also with the State of Iowa. The country is considered one of Iowa’s Sister States, and there is a consulate of Kosovo in Des Moines.

“By bringing a delegation of UNI representatives, including President Nook, it sends a clear message that UNI is committed to partnering with Kosovo educational institutions and looking at ways to find mutually beneficial initiatives,” said Kristi Marchesani, director of international recruitment and admissions at UNI.

During the trip, UNI signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Prishtina, which is the oldest and largest public university in Kosovo. There was discussion of possible faculty exchange, joint research, UNI student participation in summer transfer and transfer articulation agreements to enable students to earn dual degrees from University of Prishtina and UNI. 

The UNI delegation also got the chance to visit with the University for Business and Technology with which UNI has two 2+2 partnerships, one with the College of Business and another with the Department of Applied Engineering & Technical Management. The group presented to more than 100 prospective students.

Matthew Wilson, instructor of marketing at UNI, served as a representative from the UNI College of Business on the trip. After recently teaching an online Digital Marketing Fundamentals course, Wilson was finally able to meet his co-teacher and several of his students. This course is just the beginning of exploring the possibilities of instructional collaboration with Kosovo institutions.

“I was very inspired by Kosovo — there is a great sense of optimism and positivity — coupled with a love for the United States,” Wilson said. “Life in Kosovo is very social and community oriented — and their hospitality is legendary!”

The hope is that UNI’s partnership with Kosovo will continue to grow and extend to even more colleges and universities throughout the country. The group from UNI met with several other universities during the visit about the possibilities of memorandums of understanding and 3+1 and 2+2 agreements. These types of agreements not only enhance the student’s educational experience but also contribute to the diversity and energy at UNI, said Marchesani.

At a gala dinner in support of RIT, another university of the country, Marchesani sat at a table that included the Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, prime minister, former president, minister of defense and mayor of Prishtina.

“There are many areas where UNI and the state of Iowa could partner with Kosovo, and everyone would benefit,” said Bill Henninger, director of the School of Applied Human Sciences and associate professor of family studies. “After the trip, I am energized and excited to continue to work with the universities, government and people of Kosovo.” 

The trip also gave the UNI group an opportunity to meet with two UNI alumni who are working in the country. According to Wilson, both alums said they had visited plenty of big cities in the U.S. but Iowa is the place they truly miss the most.

Kristi Marchesani presenting at UBTOn the opposite end of the spectrum, UNI visited high school students in Gjakova, the seventh largest city in the country. The group even got to connect with an admitted student and her parents, who will be coming to UNI this fall.

Of course, the team from UNI took the time to go sightseeing. They visited cultural and historic sights, including a war memorial, to better understand both ancient and modern history including the recent war and struggle for independence. 

During the trip, Scott Peters, head of the Department of Political Science at UNI, observed many similarities and differences between Kosovo and his home country.

“As a political scientist, I was struck by the fact that, although Kosovo is a young democracy, it is wrestling with many of the same difficult issues that advanced industrialized democracies, such as the United States, confront,” he said. “My discussions with colleagues and young people there drove home to me that the work of democracy is never done.”

Being in Kosovo, which has been a country since 2008, allowed Peters to see in concrete terms many of the concepts he is used to discussing in political science classes. 

“It’s one thing to talk about ethnic violence, but quite another to drive past memorial after memorial that commemorates the victims of it,” he said. “We can talk about the challenges of democratization, but hearing a member of a municipal assembly person talk about the day-to-day challenges of governing in a new democracy is eye-opening. I can read and discuss the scholarship about violence toward women, but visiting with a nonprofit that has supported women in post-war Kosovo makes an impact.”

All of this cemented the importance of Peters’ chosen profession and the value of experiential learning.

Other highlights from the trip included touring Kosovo’s natural beauty, visiting the U.S. Embassy and enjoying lots of delicious food.