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AUS Leadership and Public Policy Program contributes to re-generation of Iraq by youth and entrepreneurs
American University of Sharjah (AUS) is preparing for its eighth cohort of the Iraq Public Policy Leadership Program (IPLP). The program targets young Iraqi entrepreneurs, youth mobilizers, and professionals living in both Iraq and the UAE.
The program is part of the university’s continued efforts to enhance community engagement and participation. Acknowledged for providing a forum for Iraqi youth and entrepreneurs to re-connect with their homeland, the program has empowered many Iraqis to participate in the re-generation of Iraq.
The IPLP provides participants with a Professional Diploma in Public Policy and Leadership. It is part of AUS’ diverse portfolio of executive education programs customized to specific individual, organizational or in this case, national needs.
“Since the program brings together participants from the UAE and Iraq, it is always interesting to see how different points of view come into play in their discussions and debates. There is always a lot to be learned from the various experiences participants bring. The program creates an amazing network for these participants to build on and use in the revitalization of Iraq,” said Dr. Yass Alkafaji, Associate Professor of Accounting and Director of the IPLP at AUS.
To date, the program has graduated more than 200 leaders, who are now based in UAE, Iraq, UK and the US. Graduates included are the current Iraqi Minister of Electricity, a minister from the Kurdistan Region, along with numerous lawyers, physicians, entrepreneurs, IT professionals, interior designers, financial officers, and social media experts and other professionals.
“It all started when a young Iraqi entrepreneur was looking for a customized public policy and leadership program that would help young Iraqi leaders grow and contribute to the re-building of their country. At the beginning, he contacted Ivy league universities looking to design such a program, but he found what he needed at AUS. There was a need in the community, and we wanted to fulfill that need,” said Alkafaji.
The program runs over eight months for a total of 128 hours. It focuses on three main pillars: leadership, the modern history of Iraq, and writing public policy. The program is taught by AUS faculty from the School of Business Administration and the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as international experts in various fields including, leadership, arbitration, public policy, economics, and development.
“Participants learn about leadership at a personal and organizational level, and each is tested to determine the type of leaders they are. It continues to cover Iraq’s history, political economy, youth movements and impact; then they learn about many elements of state-building, including budgets, taxes, finance, and public policy,” said Dr. Alkafaji.
Dr. Alkafaji went on to note that the program is customized each year to meet the needs and expectations of every new cohort. He said the program brims with success stories. “I do not know where to begin,” said Dr. Alkafaji. “One specific story which comes to mind is that of a lawyer, who is originally from Basra but lives and works here in the UAE. After taking the course, she went back to Basra and to set up a law office there to serve the people of Iraq. She currently divides her time between UAE and Iraq and even teaches in one of the IPLP classes.”
Speaking about the program, an alumn of IPLP’s seventh cohort Abdul Ghani Al-Husseini, Investment manager at GroFin specializing in SMEs financing in Dubai, said: “The network of contacts this program created is tremendous. I met amazing people who are willing to actively participate in rebuilding Iraq. I believe one of the most important aspects of Iraq’s development is Iraqi immigrants, who have the will and the skills to boost the development process. After all, one of the program’s deliverables is connecting Iraqis from different backgrounds and countries with those inside Iraq and contribute to knowledge sharing.”
As for alum Anas Morshid, an economic blogger and a business development consultant based in Baghdad, the program consolidated his experience in public policy. He said: “It pushed me to write a lot of opinion pieces and analysis papers on Iraq’s economic policies that I became a reliable source quoted by many journalists and in international reports.”
He added that the program opened new venues for him. “It gave me a chance to nominate myself for the International Visitor Leader Program, which is the US Department of State's premier professional exchange program, and develop my own business, which specializes in public and governmental relations, and business development to the extent that my company currently provides its services to political entities and private companies,” he said.