Professor David Clough builds programs, friendships in Iraqi Kurdistan

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CU-Boulder Professor David Clough talks with an AUIS student.
The new science and engineering labs at AUIS.
Dave Clough with the AUIS women's basketball team in 2011.
Athanasios Moulakis and Dave Clough are surrounded by new engineering students at AUIS.

Professor David Clough calls it a “unique” opportunity, but it’s not one he’s utterly unfamiliar with.

Those who know something of Clough’s career would probably see it as a natural extension of the transformative impact he already has had at CU-Boulder.

Having taught chemical engineering at CU since 1975 and served as associate dean for academic affairs under Richard Seebass from 1986 to 1993, Clough was at the heart of some major improvements in the College of Engineering and Applied Science—the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory and the Herbst Program of Humanities for Engineers, to name just two.

Now he has put his signature on a new program in engineering education at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), designing the general engineering curriculum and the science and engineering labs literally “from the ground up.”

The relatively young school, started about six years ago, is located in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, near the border with Iran. It has a culturally diverse student body, with about 500 students enrolled in international studies, business, and information systems—along with the new engineering program.

For the last two years, AUIS has been headed by Athanasios Moulakis, who served as founding director of the Herbst Program at CU-Boulder from 1989 to 2000. Moulakis left CU for positions at Virginia Tech and then the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul before he was appointed provost and president of AUIS.

With his connections to CU engineering, Moulakis quickly approached his former colleagues for assistance in setting up an engineering degree program at AUIS, Clough says. Moulakis contacted Clough along with Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture, who subsequently made a commitment to support the effort at the campus level.

Clough has taken a more hands-on role as an active consultant, making two trips to Sulaimani in 2011 including one accompanied by Boulder architect Peter Heinz, whom he recruited to help design the engineering laboratories.

The reasons for CU’s involvement are altruistic, Clough says. “Our military pulled out and left a vacuum. Do we just forget about these people—or fill the vacuum with non-military efforts that benefit them?”

Having served as the faculty athletics representative at CU-Boulder for the last seven years, Clough has also reached out to the students on the women’s basketball team at AUIS. Moulakis had sent him the link to a documentary film trailer about the team, titled “Salaam Dunk.”

Inspired by the stories of the players, most of whom had never handled a ball or done anything athletic as girls growing up in Iraq, Clough recalls, “I wanted to meet that team.”

Clough showed the film trailer to the members of the CU women’s team, who then decided to reach out with a video greeting back to the AUIS students. Clough delivered the greeting plus some highlights of the CU Buffs’ season when he went to AUIS last May, which led to further exchanges between the two teams.

“They started from nothing, but they are fierce,” Clough says about the AUIS women, noting that they are playing at a much higher level now than at the time the documentary film was made.

Someday, he expects there will also be engineering student exchanges between the two schools.•

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