Several officials will not continue working at AUI-S next year
By Salman Ahmed Rasul
John Agresto, the provost of AUI-S, holds one of his black pigeons on the roof of the main building
The top two administrators and several other key people at AUI-S will leave this summer. John Agresto, the AUI-S provost, Joshua Mitchell, acting chancellor of the AUI-S, Mary Van Houten, registrar and director of admissions and Ryan Bubalo, deputy director of the English Writing Program and Language Institute, are among those who will leave.
Agresto for the first time in 2005 talked about the AUI-S with Barham Salih, the chairman of the AUI-S Board of Trustees and the prime minister of the KRG. “I was with Dr. Barham in 2005 when we first talked about AUI-S, and he put the Board together.”
Agresto came to the AUI-S in January of 2007. He was at that time not only the provost but also the chancellor. Mitchell came in September 2008.
“I will be here in September and October when you students come back,” Agresto said. “I want to see the new students. I want to see the new faculty. I will probably leave in October or November of 2010.”
Agresto said he would absolutely love to stay in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, but he has a family in the United States, and they cannot come to here to live with him.
“I absolutely love here,” he said. “I love the students. I love the professors and staff. I love the flowers in the yard. I love the gardener. I love everything that is here, but I have a wife at home. I have two daughters at home. I have four grandsons at home, and I love them. too.
So everybody says, do you not love it here at the AUI-S? Of course I do, but do I not love my wife, my children, and my grandchildren? Of course I do. They cannot all come out here with me. They have lives there.”
It was not an easy decision for Agresto to make between two things that he loves the most, he said. “So, I have to make a choice,” he said.
“You will find in your life that sometimes we have to make a choice. We always worry when we have to choose between two bad things. Which one do you choose? I am at the happy position. I have to choose between two good things. Sometimes choosing between two good things is even harder than choosing between two bad things.”
He said that he is going to interview someone to take his position. He thinks that the new person will be fine. He would give up everything he has to the University.
“Every thought I have I have put down here, at AUI-S,” he added. “Every idea I have I have tried to follow. Now it is time to try some people with other ideas to come and build on what I started. The students should look at this positively not negatively.”
He hopes for no major change of policy after he leaves the AUI-S, he said., adding that AUI-S will still be a liberal arts university with a two- year core program. The problem is that all of the all of the officials who are leaving are leaving about at the same time, Agresto said.
“The bad thing is not that I am going, or Dr. Josh is going, or Mary is going, or Ryan is going,” Agresto added. “The bad thing is all of us are going around the same time. That is bad, and I cannot say it is not. This is my biggest worry.”
One of his plans when he goes back to the United States is that he will look at all the pictures that he took with students and faculty.
“In years to come I am going to look at all the pictures I took of students and faculty here in AUI-S, and I wish I were back. I am going to retire. I have a little company that I started a few years ago. I am going to back to my little company. I will still go help people to set up universities.
Joshua Mitchell is another official who will leave the AUI-S. “I will be returning to Georgetown later this summer, where I will resume my teaching in the Department of Government,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Voice.
“My academic home back in the United States is Georgetown University, in Washington, DC. I August 2008 and was granted a Leave of Absence by the President of Georgetown to come to Sulaimani to help build the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani.
A great deal has happened since I arrived. Most importantly, AUI-S is now a vibrant organization, which will survive the departure of any one, or even several, of its senior members.
Even though Mitchell and Agresto are leaving AUI-S, but they will remain involved with AUI-S.
“I will, however, continue to be involved in AUI-S affairs as closely as I can be. This is one of finest educational initiatives in the world, and I am proud to be a part of it,” Mitchell said in the e-mail.
Agresto said he will remain on the Board of Trustees and return once or twice a year.
“So you will see me again,” he said,.“Maybe ,who knows ,you students want me to come back for graduation or something. That would be very nice.”
Mitchell said that they are searching for several positions, including chancellor, provost and rector—which is like a chief administrative officer. But he said, “I would encourage everyone to be patient, and not to worry. AUI-S will go on, with the leadership that it needs.”
Mary Van Houten, registrar and director of admissions, said that her contract is until the end of August, and one of the primer reasons that he makes her leave is her 17-year-old son and her family.
“I promised him I would be in the U.S. in August,” she said. “We are very close. I need to see him. My father recently died. My mother is old. I have a brother. I really like to be close to my mother; she is not very good [about long distance communication]. My father was really good. I used high-tech connection, Skype, and computers, and we e-mailed my mother.”
Ryan Bubalo, deputy director of EWPLI, said he is leaving because his contract is finished.
“Next year I will be at the University of Mississippi in the United States,” Bubalo said. “I have two classes left for my master’s degree. So I am finishing my master’s degree.”
This story first appeared on auisvoice.org