TICUA President Pressnell Assists Iraqi Government
Nashville, TN – Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) President Dr. Claude O. Pressnell, Jr. traveled to Iraq in September to assist the country in improving its higher education system. Working with the non-profit International Relations Exchange Board (IREX), Pressnell spent 10 days working with higher education and business leaders in Basra and Baghdad, Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. The goal is to convene the first ever Industry Advisory Board to the Ministry of Higher Education. The Board will serve to create sustainable linkages between private industry and higher education institutions through Iraq.
Pressnell spent time with corporate leaders from the gas, oil, and telecommunication industries to learn about the hard and soft skills expected from their employees. He then worked with Iraqi university presidents and faculty to develop ways to address the skill-gaps that the corporate representatives identified, particularly skill gaps in key skill areas such as critical thinking, English language skills, and work ethic.
During Pressnell’s work in Basra, he worked with US Embassy personnel to address the gas and oil partners of southern Iraq. University officials and corporate leaders met at the US Consulate for the first time to seek ways to enhance the higher education environment in Iraq. The regional meeting was attended by corporate leaders and university presidents and faculty from the Southern region of Iraq.
The work in Baghdad was the first convening of the national-level Iraqi Industry Advisory Board. Members include the Iraqi Minister of Higher Education, Minister of Youth, Minister of Labor and Minister of Education as well as CEOs of the major oil, gas, and telecommunications companies and representatives of the regional universities. The goal of the Industry Advisory Boards is to establish a common vocabulary between to higher education and industry, create a system of shared goals, and to develop strong, sustainable linkages between Iraqi government bodies, higher education institutions, and the private sector to provide academic programs responsive to industry and workforce needs.
“The first ever convening of the IAB in Baghdad was an exciting venture,” commented Pressnell. “There was a tremendous amount of openness and candor along with a willingness to embrace change. Government officials and industry leaders joined together expressing a commitment to creating a strong workforce and diversified economy for the future of Iraq.”
Pressnell used his work in Tennessee to inform his work in Iraq. Pressnell will now bring the lessons he learned in Iraq back to apply to his work in the higher education sector in Tennessee. Tennessee is faced with many of the same issues around creating a shared value system between local business and industries and regional education providers to provide the workforce that state needs.
About the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
TICUA engages Tennessee's private, non-profit colleges and universities to work collaboratively in areas of public policy, cost containment, and professional development to serve better the State and its citizens. For more information about TICUA, please visit www.ticua.org