MSU to help train school leaders in Azerbaijan

September 2, 2015
Deans shaking hands

Donald Heller, dean of the Michigan State University College of Education, and Vafa Kazdal, dean of the ADA University School of Education in Azerbaijan, celebrate the partnership between their institutions.

Michigan State University has partnered with a growing university in Azerbaijan to improve training for that nation’s education leaders.

The ADA University (formerly Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy) plans to offer its first master’s degrees in K-12 and higher education administration starting in fall 2016. Scholars from the MSU College of Education are using a $2.5 million grant to help develop the program curricula and outreach, recruit and prepare faculty members and support other forms of institutional development.

“This partnership, which expands our global reach, brings together one of our country’s leading colleges of education with one of the most prestigious universities in Azerbaijan,” said Dean Donald E. Heller, who signed a memorandum of understanding with ADAU earlier this year. “The exchange of scholars and students across the two institutions will help strengthen both.”

The MSU team leaders are Susan Printy and BetsAnn Smith, associate professors of K-12 Educational Administration, and Matthew Wawrzynski, associate professor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE). Each has experience in academic program development and international collaboration.

Printy and Smith recently visited ADAU and local schools in the capital city of Baku to begin working with ADAU leaders. Over the five-year contract, the principal investigators also expect to conduct research, support university-school partnerships in Baku, and create additional opportunities for faculty and student interaction.

As part of the relationship, MSU welcomed three ADAU instructors to campus this fall. These individuals are enrolled in the MSU master’s program in K-12 Educational Administration and will receive a broad orientation to education in the United States. While here, the students will also advise MSU faculty members on the contexts of education in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has been an independent republic since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, principals there are still reluctant to share leadership roles among their teachers. And training designed specifically for school leaders basically doesn’t exist, the ADAU visitors say.

“We need change,” says Vafa Yunusova, a long-time educator who now teaches English at ADAU. “People in Azerbaijan should accept that teaching and learning can be different, and we are inspired by what we will experience.”

The other students from Azerbaijan are Samira Hajiyera and Jeyran Aghayera.

Faculty members from MSU’s James Madison College have a longstanding partnership with ADAU, which opened in 2007. The new School of Education there, now under construction, will eventually offer undergraduate degrees and operate a primary and secondary school.