Rector arrives from Afghanistan to lead the administrative side of University
By Salman Ahmed Rasul
AUI-S recently got a Rector, which is a new title for the University, Johan Brongers. Brongers arrived a few weeks before the school started and he now shares the highest position at the University with Provost Moulakis. All AIU-S members need to know about their new head of the school.
Would you tell us about your personal life and academic background?
I was born and raised in the Netherlands, in the city of Emmen, a small town in the north of the country. That is where I lived the first 19 years of my life. After graduating from high school, I went to Nijenrode University in Amsterdam where I studied for two years. Upon transferring to the University of Oregon in the US I graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Sociology. Thereafter I received my MBA degree. Later on, during the time I spent in Germany, I studied Industrial Sociology at the post-graduate level. I have been married to my wife Janet for 38 years, and we have three daughters, who live in the US with their own families. We have four grand children, three girls and one boy.
I worked in the Opel (Opel cars) organization for more than 25 years, with work assignments in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium. Thereafter I spent several years working for Opel in Asia where I helped start new business operations in China and other countries in Asia. About ten years ago I left the Opel Company and chose to work for Hampshire College, a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, where I assumed the post of Vice President for Finance and Administration.
I worked there for approximately seven years. Then, I was I asked in the year 2007 to join the American University in Afghanistan in Kabul. I was there for about two and half years, also in the capacity of Vice President. Earlier this year I was asked to join AUI-S and I have been here since July.
I have been very pleased to be here, and I have found people very welcoming. The students are friendly and so are the staff. We have a good University and I hope that all of us together can realize its maximum potential.
You said that you have been working here since, July. How long would you like to stay here?
Along with other senior administrators at AUIS I “serve at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees.” That essentially means that the Board determines how long I stay, but of course I also have something to say about it. What is important is that I add value and that I positively contribute to AUI-S’ growth and success.
Can you tell us what the role of rector is and what the rector office provides for the University?
The Rector’s office essentially supports the administrative side of the University, while the Provost’s office concentrates on the academic side. The Rector oversees the financial and administrative services, including the Departments of Accounting and Finance, Procurement, Facilities, Human Resources, and Security. We develop policies for each of the departments and ensure that we operate smoothly and support the needs of students, faculty and staff.
What you said is your office is relevant to general finance. So, what would you like to say to those people who state that “AUI-S is financially corrupt”?
Well I don’t know what the word corrupt in this context means exactly. My job is to make sure that the University plays by financial rules, standards and procedures, which will prevent corruption to take hold. We manage our expenditures based on our established budget for the entire fiscal year.
We receive funds from different sources, including from donations and student tuition and fee payments. So when we receive these funds, it is our task to ensure that the money is spent responsibly and in line with our most important priority, i.e. providing the best possible education for our students.
We keep a very close eye on how we are spending our limited financial resources. For example, before we make a contract with a supplier of goods or services, we ask our Purchasing department to obtain several price quotes.
We thenevaluate the various quotes in terms of quality, delivery and price and we do this in small committees to ensure transparency of decision-making.
What do you think needs to be done or needs to be changed here at AUI-S?
The University at this time is still very young, and it will go through many changes as it grows and matures. At this stage we have a very good undergraduate program which has been accredited, something that we can all be proud of. Equally, our English language preparatory program is well designed and effective. I think that going forward the University will have to develop additional academic programs, such as a program in engineering.
That is the next big step and it will attract many new students. We also will need to consider whether to add more programs at the graduate level, in addition to our successful MBA program. As the University develops more programs, student enrollment must grow. We will need to increase our efforts in recruiting students from Kurdistan and from all of Iraq.
We are currently working on developing a strategic plan that will help us project future enrollment growth, faculty and staff levels, and capacity needed for physical space. Our task is to carefully manage the growth of the University while safeguarding high educational standards and the quality of the student experience at AUIS. Our programs must stand out as the best in Iraq and be respected throughout the region.
In your response to the first question, you pointed out that you worked with AUAF. And now you work here at AUI-S. Can we compare AUI-S with AUAF?
In many ways you can. The school in Kabul is just about as “old” as AUI-S is. It has about the same number of students. It has similar programs at this point, namely an undergraduate program with IT, and Business majors. However, AUI-S already has an MBA program, and is working on implementing the Engineering major, so we are further ahead in these respects. AUI-S is also further ahead in construction of the new campus.
The Board of Trustees has worked very hard on obtaining funds from various donors and as a result the construction process has moved along rapidly. AUAF is operating in a more troubling economic, social and political environment than we have here in Kurdistan. In Kabul, security is especially problematic and it interferes with the country’s development as well as with the further development of the American University.
Certainly, for international people living in Sulaimani is easier than in Kabul, and that fact helps us attract good faculty and staff. We can walk outside, go to stores, restaurants and movies, and we can have easy contact with the people of Kurdistan. That makes a big difference in terms of the quality of life. Let us hope that we may continue to have such favorable living and working conditions in the years ahead.
This interview first appeared on auisvoice.org