Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 16:30
Ninth graduating class celebrates online amid COVID-19 realities
SULAIMANI, July 1, 2020 — American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) today hosts the first virtual commencement in Iraq to celebrate its ninth cohort of graduates. The Class of 2020 includes 207 Bachelor’s degree recipients and 12 MBA graduates.
Modeled on the University’s annual, in-person commencement ceremony, the virtual event features remarks from AUIS President Dr. Bruce Walker Ferguson, AUIS Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Jill Derby, Sulaimani Governor Dr. Haval Abubakr, former U.S. Career Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Iraqi comedian and TV personality Ahmed Albasheer, AUIS Vice President, Academic Affairs Dr. Wolfgang Hinck, AUIS MBA Valedictorian Mohanad Aydin Alyas, and Chairs of the AUIS academic departments.
The speakers praised the class of 2020 for persevering through the Spring semester, interrupted by an emergency campus closure in response to the coronavirus pandemic. AUIS was the first university in the region to move to online learning and completed the semester in June.
“Four months ago, our classrooms were closed,” said President Ferguson. “What we did have, though, was a good sense of direction, experienced faculty, and the determination to reach our destination, no matter how bumpy the road became.”
President Ferguson went on to thank the various stakeholders who supported the University during an uncertain semester, particularly the many families for their sacrifices and support of their graduates.
Dr. Derby echoed President Ferguson’s sentiments saying, “On behalf of the Board, I want to acknowledge you for your impressive accomplishment in completing your degree, and especially for your perseverance, your flexibility, your willingness to adapt to the sudden change, the altered reality you faced as AUIS students this spring.”
Sulaimani Governor Dr. Abubakr urged students to use their degrees to support development in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. “Be ambassadors for Sulaimani and Kurdistan, be ambassadors for this country, so you can be bridges to the international community,” he said. “And do the same inside the country, to build academic networks and make Sulamani a global center of academics.”
Ambassador Crocker also urged the class of 2020 to work towards enacting change in the region. “It is a hard truth, here and around the world, that you don’t just receive that which is rightly yours.” he said. “You get what you are willing to fight for. Much has been given to you; much is now expected.”
Mr. Al Basheer delivered a humorous performance full of metaphors and focusing on the uniqueness of the graduating class. He implored the class to avoid contributing to the country’s chronic brain-drain saying, “I know many of you have decided or will decide to leave the country...but what I really hope for, is to keep people like you in the country.”
“I hope to see you all stay in Iraq, to build it and serve your country, serve yourselves, your families, your loved ones, and your friends,” he added.
The University plans to hold an in-person commencement ceremony for the ninth graduating cohort this September, COVID-19 permitting.