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President's Chat from Iraq, Part 2

This is the official chat transcript from November 10, 2010. It reads top-to-bottom.

Kirk Schulz Greetings from Basra! It is evening here - and looking forward to another brief chat tonight!

Joshua Madden asks:Are there any plans to do similar trips to other international military locations in the future?

Kirk Schulz This trip was primarly done to help improve our relationship with Ft. Riley. So, we certainly may do other trips in the future, but they will need support on-going efforts at Kansas State. Everyone we have met here has been very grateful that we took the time to visit and learn more about Iraq and the Big Red 1's role in helping to rebuild the infrastructure over here.

Jennifer Reedy asks:How will this benefit K-State students as a whole?

Kirk Schulz I believe that Kansas State University will need to develop more ties and international partnerships as we develop K-State 2025. As such, it is important that we work to develop opportunities for student and faculty exchanges throughout the world. Any time any of us experience a different culture, it also gives us a little better idea of what our international students face when they come to Manhattan, Kansas from across the world!

Becky O'Donnell asks:I am aware that Kansas State University has been involved with training Kansas Army National Guard Agribusiness Development Team members prior to missions to Afghanistan. Will you have an opportunity during your visit to meet & discuss ways K-State may be able to assist ongoing redevelopment efforts in Iraq (Provincial Reconstruction Teams)?

Kirk Schulz We had our first meeting today with the PRT in southern Iraq. They have a strong interest in the beef cattle industry, and part of our discussion was having Kansas State play a significant role in assisting with beef cattle. We can also lend some expertise in the oil and gas industry. There will be some follow up communications, and we will see where Kansas State best fits in. In general, the people here are hungry for friendships and normal relationships with Americans and U.S. higher education - and value the expertise we can bring to the table.

Terrie McCants asks:I am faculty, and have had many active military in the distance courses of the certificate in conflict resolution program - some completing while deployed. I am curious if there is anything we can do better through KSOL that would be more helpful to our soldier-learners?

Kirk Schulz This is a great question - and one that I really don't have the answer to. Several universities offer classes on base, and many more to things by distance education. However, access to the internet is not widely available on the base (there is not a wireless network available for casual internet use as an example), so my sense is that on-line classes are more problemmatic in this environment. We have dinner to night with the leadership team on base, so we will discuss this.

Jeff Morris asks:President Schulz: Have you had the chance to sample any Iraqi cuisine?

Kirk Schulz Today, we were hosted by an Iraqi general who is responsible for one of the key border crossings between Iran and Iraq. We had a traditional Iraqi meal, with hot sweet tea, lamb, fish, rice, bread, and fruit - all consumed standing up with your hands! It was a great cultural experience, and it was interesting to talk with someone is in a major leadership position trying to rebuild a country that has suffered through multiple wars and international isolation. We will certainly post some pictures of this part of the trip!

Ralph Barnes asks:Being a K-State alumnus ('96, '98 and '09) and Desert Storm vet, what are the alumni roles in the rebuilding efforts in Iraq?

Kirk Schulz Our alumni are performing many different functions. Several of our alumni (that we did not meet on this trip) are assiting with the rebuilding and design of the soccer stadium in Basra. We had lunch yesterday with 4 of our K-Staters who are serving on base, and they perform a variety of functions from civic improvements to normal military escort operations. As you well know, the "transition" of Iraq as we move our troops home is very complex - indeed, it is hard to grasp the scope of the issues facing Iraq without being here.

Lori Goetsch asks:Hi Kirk--is there a library on the base where you are?

Kirk Schulz There are several places with books - but nothing that I would characterize as a normal library where people go in and check out books. Several of the officers and enlisted soldiers are Kindle users - and we have had numerous discussions on the merits of an iPad versus a Kindle. So, I believe most people here are getting books electronically.

Cynthia Harris asks:President Schulz, as a former WAC, I would like to know if you have had a chance to interact with any female soldiers while in Iraq?

Kirk Schulz We have interacted with many female soldiers while we are here. The chief public relations officer (Lt. Colonel) has spent a lot of time with us - and we have enjoyed interacting with a military that certainly values the talents and expertise that high performing women bring to the U.S. Army.

Noel Schulz asks:Are there any special plans tomorrow related to Veterans Day?

Kirk Schulz We will be on another base tomorrow, which is about half the distance between Basra and Baghdad. I am not sure what we will do - but it will be an unforgettable Veterans Day visiting with soldiers in theatre.

Lori Goetsch asks:In order to use Kindles, etc. and to do this chat, connectivity must be pretty good--what is the technology environment like?

Kirk Schulz We had to specially arrange with our hosts to get internet access and to do these chats. The technology our military uses is very cutting edge - but it doesn't really apply to things like general web surfing on a tightly controlled military base!

Loleta Sump asks:What an adventure! And such an important one! What have you learned so far from the trip that you think might help K-State better serve our veteran student population?

Kirk Schulz I think that we need to continue to ask our Veteran students what they need in terms of support. Often, we assume that Veteran students have the same needs as traditional students starting as freshman or as community college transfers. Like anything, we need to work to improve!

Kirk Schulz Folks - time for me to go! I look forward to being back in Manhattan on Friday! Go Cats!