William Powers, Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin, and Firoz Rasul, president of Aga Khan University, signed the agreement on Saturday, April 12 at a private ceremony hosted by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Powers was joined by His Highness the Aga Khan, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, and Richard Flores, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who facilitated the agreement.
Flores and Farzana Karim-Haji, manager of the Partnerships Office at Aga Khan University, will spearhead the academic exchanges under the agreement.
Research areas identified for collaboration include: liberal arts; architecture and human settlement; management, government, public policy and civil society; economic growth and development; tourism and leisure; media and communications; education, science and technology; continuing education; health sciences, including joint research, and training; and, human development.
The agreement will expand UTeach-Liberal Arts’ Muslim Histories and Cultures Program, a training program for Texas high school teachers established in 2004. Teachers in the program learn about the Muslim history and cultures in seminars and workshops, and then write their own lessons to use that knowledge in the classroom.
More than 80 secondary teachers from school districts in Austin, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Fort Worth, Plano and Houston have participated in the program since its inception. Under the agreement with AKU, the program will train additional Texas teachers from an expanded number of districts during the next three years.
“The agreement formalizes many relationships that are already in place between our two universities,” Flores said. “Our hope is that the collaborations will help to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes about Islam that persist, and foster greater understanding between Texas and the Muslim world.”
Founded in 1983, Aga Khan University operates 11 campuses in eight countries, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom.