US universities expand in the Middle East
Columbia Global Center, just opened in Amman, Jordan, is raising that city's status in the region.
If a few professors from New York came to Jordan, collaborated with a cadre of students on cutting-edge research projects, and were able to share – in real time – their findings with a similar team in China, what would that look like?Skip to next paragraph
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It would look a lot like the future of education. Or so says Columbia University. The university recently opened the first two Columbia Global Centers: one here in Amman and the other in Beijing. Possible future locations include Brazil, Argentina, India, and Tanzania.
"The center is really a hub with bridges throughout the Middle East," says Safwan Masri, director of the new center here and a Columbia Business School faculty member for the past two decades. What's significant, he says, is that the center could cover myriad ideas and topics, and go in multiple directions. "That's what's so exciting."
News of Columbia's opening here is lifting Amman's status in the region. Already, the once-sleepy city has grown into the destination of choice for United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking a safe base from which to serve the Middle East, especially Iraq.
To bring Columbia here, this pro-Western kingdom fixed up a former private school, turning it into something akin to a miniature palace with classical Arabic flourishes. It's a home that few universities could resist.
"Universities are already very global," says Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. "We have experts from everywhere coming to us. But in this era of globalization, many schools are realizing that it's not just how many experts you have but how to have an impact on global issues."
He points to other US universities opening branches in the Middle East, such as Cornell Medical College in Qatar and New York University's under-construction campus on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. He says Columbia's vision is different.