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Grant Executive Summary

The collaborative project links the State University of New York (SUNY) with universities in Tunisia. The project hopes to help bolster institutional capacity, networking of professors and business executives, professional training programs, and excellence in teaching at SUNY and Tunisian universities. The State University of New York at Potsdam will be the window to the SUNY system of universities and colleges. The Institut Superieur de Gestion de Tunis, which is the top business educational institution in Tunisia, will serve as leader for Tunisian universities.

The project with Tunisia addresses the U.S. national interest of supporting stable societies in the Middle East and North Africa by strengthening their economic base. The implementation of new or improved business programs at Tunisian universities will have a strategic and lasting impact on the Tunisian economy by improving training in business for corporate employees, by encouraging start up of new enterprises, and by improving focused marketing of products and services.

Participating faculty will be enriched through cross-cultural study and research in northern New York and nearby Canada. On their return, they will assist Tunisian institutions to develop and improve an international and innovative curriculum using contemporary pedagogic technologies and application of a variety of teaching styles. In the long-term the impact will be the adaptation of American business ways within the traditions of Tunisian society. The resulting synergy will contribute to building a stronger economic foundation and growth of businesses adapted to Tunisian needs within a global context.

The exchange partnership will help to internationalize SUNY. The partnership between SUNY and Tunisian universities will address a national goal of understanding Arab societies and Islamic civilization, and will foster global awareness and interest in language study in the SUNY Potsdam curriculum. The project will stimulate collaboration between the departments of Business and Economics, Computer Science, Instructional Technology, and Modern Languages to develop language skills as a tool to engage in international business. Visiting scholars from Tunisia will contribute by designing teaching materials that will add diversity to the growth of French for business and the business economics curricula.

Tunisian schools of business, including some very young institutions, are modeled on the French system but lacking in financial and technological resources to serve a student population expected to double in five years. Tunisian institutions are looking to technology in general, and distance learning in particular, to help meet their needs. Even greater than their need for equipment is the need for faculty capable of applying information technology to fields of management, economics, marketing and finance. Tunisian universities express a keen interest in developing innovative methodologies, including use of multimedia and other information and communication technologies to improve quality of instruction, especially to enliven large lecture courses, and to establish virtual classrooms, including ones using English as the language of instruction.

The partnership between the SUNY and Tunisian universities will allow all partners to benefit through sharing of pedagogical approaches and educational philosophies, internationalizing and modernizing respective curricula, pooling resources to enhance faculty computer skills and creating a web space to store diverse educational materials. The purchase of technological equipment and development of programs in computer use will allow Tunisian institutions to experiment with innovative teaching methodologies, to perfect research tools and to facilitate on-going communication among partner schools and their business community.