Brett Ranon Nachman
| Jul 12, 2018
For the fifth episode of “WISCAPE Now in Higher Ed,” Dr. Noel Radomski, WISCAPE's managing director, joins us to talk about his consulting work for the University of Nizwa, an institution in Oman, which is in its nascent stages and has carried out many themes illustrated in the Wisconsin Idea.
To learn more, please join us for an informal brown bag with Dr. Radomski on Wednesday, July 18, at noon (198 Education).
Here are some highlights from the conversation.
- Radomski has helped inform the university about how to govern and conduct academic planning. John Kerrigan, the late chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, had initially been involved in supporting the development of the University of Nizwa, which opened in 2004. Kerrigan enlisted Radomski to review the research literature on governance, finance, academic program planning, and tenure, later asking him to conduct environmental scans on higher education issues. Along the way, Radomski has translated his knowledge of the American higher education system to Oman, while concurrently accounting for issues facing the University of Nizwa. Conversations with University of Nizwa practitioners, students, faculty, and administrators, as well as with external organizations and companies in the Nizwa area, via informal, in-person conversations or videoconferencing meetings, have provided additional context for shaping his work.
- Meaningful connections and partnerships have emerged across institutions. From instituting student exchange programs and originating new degree programs, to establishing collaborations among faculty who possess similar research interests, the link between the University of Wisconsin and the University of Nizwa has been mutually beneficial. “From these informal conversations about how we can help one another, frequently another opportunity will arise that none of us expected,” Radomski said.
- The University of Nizwa prides itself on offering various degree options and widening access. In addition to providing bachelor’s degrees, the institution offers vocational two-year degrees and, more recently, graduate degrees. In particular, their master’s and doctoral programs focus on serving the needs of local industries and social services, for instance, by addressing the lack of teachers and social workers. The institution also welcomes a diverse student population, and 85 percent of students are female. As a 2016 Times of Oman article reports, increasing numbers of female college students are seen in institutions across the country. Radomski noted that Oman is aiming to enhance its K-12 foundation and, consequently, increase its pool of well-educated college students.
- “Self-made, self-built, and self-actualized” embodies the institution’s mentality. The University of Nizwa is home to for-profit companies it created to serve both individuals on campus and local communities and industries. For instance, the institution purchased machines that crush large rocks that provide the concrete for the campus, “literally the foundation of the buildings on campus,” Radomski said. “They’re able to maintain quality and adhere then to the design of the buildings that will contribute to collaborative learning,” which thus reduces costs, offers employment to local residents, and allows students to access new internship opportunities that may lead to eventual careers. Furthermore, the institution has recruited other companies, such as Johnson Controls, based out of Milwaukee, to support its water distribution across campus and also have key scientists from the company function as visiting scholars. “It’s a culture that’s embedded from the Koran, but as well as leadership from the Sultan from the Oman,” that prides itself on service, Radomski said.
- Radomski sees parallels in financial challenges across both Wisconsin and Oman. Despite being worlds apart, universities in Wisconsin and Oman are facing similar economic challenges. Oman, with its increasing economic diversification beyond oil, and new industries such as tourism, requires a well-prepared workforce. Therefore, its government is placing the responsibility on higher education institutions, including the University of Nizwa, to offer a solid educational groundwork for future employees in these industries, all the while asking institutions to avoid increasing tuition. Similarly, the state of Wisconsin has required the UW to freeze tuition, while also expecting it to maintain quality programs and address workforce needs. Radomski said this results in an internal institutional difficulty of maintaining access to underserved student populations, while continuing to deliver a variety of important and innovative programs.
Radomski concluded by noting a major concern in higher education: “Historically, colleges and universities have served as a mechanism for cultural, social, and economic mobility… and the question I think is paramount right now is, ‘how do we address it so that colleges and universities are not contributing to the inequalities between the haves and have nots?”
Listen to the full episode on PodBean, or by searching for "WISCAPE Now in Higher Ed" on iTunes.
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