|Humana Visiting Professor to share experiences
of rebuilding university system in Iraq
RELEASED: Sept. 30, 2004
DANVILLE, KYWhile leading the American effort to rebuild Iraq's university system, John Agresto spent nearly a year in Baghdad following the U.S. invasion.
He had high hopes, but he faced daunting challenges and great danger.
Agresto, Humana Visiting Professor at Centre, will talk about his experiences on Oct. 4. His presentation, "Eyewitness Iraq: Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost," will take place in Newlin Hall of the College's Norton Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m.
A former president of St. John's College in New Mexico, Agresto served as the chief U.S. adviser to Iraqi higher education. His position was as a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. agency that was responsible for the civil administration of Iraq until the U.S. handed over power to the new Iraqi regime this past summer.
Upon his arrival in Baghdad in the fall of 2003 (six months after the U.S. invasion), he found Iraq's higher education system in shambles. The colleges and universities had limited equipment, books and funds.
Agresto estimated that the colleges and universities needed $1.2 billion to get back on their feet. He first attended the International Donors Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in an attempt to secure international aid. He requested more than $700 million, but the World Bank turned that proposal down. World Bank officials have made no money available for higher education in Iraq, and say they have no plans to do so this academic year.
More disappointing news came from the home front. Last spring Congress appropriated $87 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. Agresto asked for $120 million for higher education but received only $8 million.
Agresto initially visited schools, but the security situation in Iraq became increasingly unstable, so he and others on his staff rarely left the Green Zone, a heavily fortified American compound in Baghdad. In January of this year, a car bomb exploded outside of the compound killing 36 Iraqisincluding an acquaintance of Agresto's who worked in the Green Zone.
He returned to the U.S. this summer when the new Iraqi regime took over.
Agresto still believes the CPA accomplished a great deal in the time it was thereincluding the promotion of academic freedom that came with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Baath Partythough he sees much more to be done.
Agresto has a degree in poltical science/history from Boston College and a Ph.D. in government from Cornell. He has served on the faculty at Duke University, Kenyon College and Wabash College. He's also a former assistant, deputy and acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Agresto has lectured at numerous colleges and written three books and dozens of articles.
He currently is president of John Agresto & Associates, an educational consulting company.
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