Video by Matt Haugen, WSU News
  • Photo galleries of Iraqi students visit by WSU College of Education on Facebook and Shutterfly

PULLMAN – On Wednesday, 10 fifth grade students and their chaperones from the Knowledge Private School in Dohuk, a city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, were on the WSU Pullman campus to experience U.S. culture and get a glimpse of American-style education.

“Some things you just can’t learn in the classroom, you just have to experience them,” said Knowledge Private School Principal R.G. “Rick” Yates, who accompanied the students on the trip.
The group arrived on July 20 and spent seven days in Spokane before traveling to Pullman for a last adventure before heading home. First stop on campus was the teaching museum at the College of Veterinary Medicine where they could see and touch the skeletons and bones of dozens of animals.
Seeds of Cougar spirit
Already dressed in crimson and grey WSU t-shirts, several of the bright-eyed, smiling students said their favorite part of the trip was “WSU.” When pressed for details, Toreen Othman, 10, said she enjoyed the College of Nursing at WSU Spokane. “Because I see the nurses,” she said, and they were nice.
Othman, who said she wants to become a doctor, said she enjoyed working on the life-size manikin and simulators. A huge smile lighting her face, she pantomimed doing CPR and then checking a patient’s heartbeat.
It’s not that she “wants” to become a doctor, she said, clarifying her earlier statement in clear but halting English, she needs to become a doctor.
The Spokane portion of the trip seemed tailor made for budding young health professionals such as Toreen. In addition to touring the College of Nursing simulation lab, the students met with Ken Roberts, director of the WWAMI medical education program; conducted a lab experiment in the Health Sciences Building with WSU Spokane CityLab Director Sylvia Oliver; and toured Valley Hospital and Medical Center.
Equipping for education
Sulein Rohz, founder and director of the Knowledge Private School, said the school’s goal is to provide students with an American-style education that will equip them to pursue higher education in the United States or elsewhere around the world. Core subjects such as math and science are taught in English, she said. Social studies and history are taught in Kurdish, which is the primary language for most students. They also study Arabic.
Just one year old, the school is rapidly expanding, said school principal Yates. The ultimate goal is to build an American-style university in Duhok, he said, but they are starting with the primary grades.
Pullman, Spokane schedule
While visiting WSU Pullman, the students visited the teaching museum at the College of Veterinary Medicine, toured WSU Libraries, met school-age students at the WSU Children’s Center and, of course, got ice cream at Ferdinand’s. While at the Children’s Center, they were each presented with five books to share with their Iraqi classmates, courtesy of faculty in the College of Education.

School officials considered various locations for this first U.S. field trip, Yates said, but traveling to Spokane and Pullman turned out even better than he anticipated. “This presented a stellar opportunity,” he said. Students were exposed to first-rate facilities and faculty members, but they weren’t overwhelmed by trying to navigate a major urban center.

Along with many WSU-related activities, the students attended a Spokane City Council meeting, a Spokane Indians game, the Museum of Arts and Culture and Riverfront Park. They also toured Lincoln Heights Elementary School.
Collaborative effort
Travel expenses were paid by the Knowledge Private School, parents and private donations. The trip itinerary grew out of a collaboration with WSU Spokane, the WSU College of Education, Spokane Public Schools and Dr. Randy Espinosa of the Rockwood Clinic. Joan Kingrey, the Spokane academic director for the College of Education, coordinated the WSU activities. Dr. Espinosa, an orthopedic and hand surgeon and retired Army colonel, became friends with school founder Rohz while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. He and his wife, Wendy, have been supporters of the school and he issued the invitation for the group to visit Spokane.