Aga Khan University, U of A expand partnership
By Ileiren Poon
It’s a partnership that can make a difference, said His Highness the Aga Khan, who celebrated his golden jubilee as the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims the same year as the U of A’s centenary celebrations.
“Over the past decades, much of my attention has been focused on the challenges of the developing world. And it is in this arena that our partnership with University of Alberta has been most active,” he said. “The university’s commitment to the global context and the developing world has been inspiring. The match between your expertise and the developing world’s requirements as I understand them has been nothing less than extraordinary.”
The Aga Khan spoke to a crowd of U of A grad after accepting an honorary doctorate of laws from the university.
“For many years, your leaders have set priorities which intersect with the vital development needs, including such areas as agricultural sciences and nutrition, public health, telemedicine, natural resource management, information technology, environmental and energy sciences and so many others, including your respect for diversity and for the rights and the roles of traditional societies,” he said. “I was pleased to read recently the university’s own description of its continuing international goals – increasing joint programs, encouraging semesters abroad, broadening exchange programs, building international community service opportunities and creating new academic programs with a global perspective.”
“What an impressive agenda – It represents precisely the sort of outreach from western intellectual centres that I believe is essential for global progress.”
The agreement was signed at Government House by U of A President Indira Samarasekera and Aga Khan University President Firoz Rasul in the presence of Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, and His Highness the Aga Khan.
The agreement expands on an existing relationship between the two universities and includes two additional agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network: the University of Central Asia and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
“The University of Alberta, along with the Aga Khan Development Network, is deeply committed to providing globally engaged higher education and research,” said Samarasekera. “Through our partnership, the university will move much closer to fulfilling one of our most important goals—to reach out to the developing world in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, and engage in meaningful and effective dialogue and exchange.”
Areas identified for immediate collaboration include health sciences education, humanities development and library planning, biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use programs with particular emphasis on mountain environments and semi-arid regions with the University of Central Asia.
“This partnership will enable the University of Alberta’s expertise to impact parts of the world that would not otherwise benefit from these capabilities,” said Rasul. “Their innovative approach to research, teaching and service in healthcare, education, and sustainable economic and environmental development in northern Canadian communities could greatly benefit the developing countries in which AKU, UCA and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture currently work.”
The deepened partnership will also facilitate the participation of the U of A in the development of the Undergraduate Medical Education Programme in East Africa and will build on previous successes to move beyond health care and the health sciences into areas that will benefit the larger AKDN vision.
“Partnerships, such as this one, build capacity in the developing world where it is needed most, but more importantly, they build compassion and understanding across our interconnected world. By expanding this partnership to other AKDN agencies, we hope to spread the benefits further afield,” said Rasul.