The Barzinji Projects seeks to encourage institutions of higher education who are serving diverse societies, both in the United States and in Muslim majority countries, to explore the similarities and differences in their missions and practices, the challenges they face and the solutions they create to promote collaboration and advance collaboration in higher education.
What We Are
The Jamal Barzinji Project for International Collaboration to Advance Higher Education is a project to honor Dr. Barzinji’s legacy as an educator, community builder, and humanitarian. This collaboration provides opportunities for individuals and institutions to explore, analyze, and engage in critical thinking, and cross-cultural communication to identify and pursue shared goals.
Marriage Across Cultures: Implementing Virtual Exchange in My First-Year Seminar Course
This last semester I implemented Virtual International Exchange (VIE) in my classroom or better known in North America as Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). The basic idea behind COIL is to have classes in universities in different parts of the world exchange and collaborate with each other.
Project Explores Cross-Cultural Understanding
Younus Mirza, Ph.D., has joined Shenandoah University as a scholar-in-residence and director of the Barzinji Project. The project is a year-and-half-long program connecting Shenandoah and another Virginia institution of higher learning with similar institutions in Muslim-majority societies for purposes of cultural exchange and improvement of educational programs.
The Barzinji Project & Shenandoah University
Shenandoah has partnered with Bridgewater College and two universities in Muslim-majority countries (the University of Sarajevo, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and the International Islamic University Malaysia in Selangor, Malaysia) to learn how to provide better opportunities for civil discourse within higher education.
Honoring Dr. Jamal Barzinji
Respect for humanity is the foundation of all interaction.”
Dr. Jamal Barzinji was an intellectual educator and community builder who advocated for “collective action on pressing contemporary issues. Education, health care, civil rights, racial justice, gender equality — he did not view these as political or intellectual debates, but as pivotal opportunities to create and ensure societal harmony.” (Islamic Horizons, 2015) He was involved in the establishment of many major Islamic organizations in the United States over the last four decades, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the International Institution of Islamic Thought (IIIT), and previously served for many years as an academic dean at the International Islamic University in Malaysia (Islamic Horizons, 2015). In order to honor Dr. Barzinji’s legacy as an educator, community builder and humanitarian, Shenandoah University launched the Jamal Barzinji Project for International Collaboration to Advance Higher Education.
The Pilot Project
Starting in 2018, Shenandoah University (SU) partnered with Bridgewater College (BC), the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Participants explored how these diverse institutions interpret their responsibility to promote and facilitate civil discourse, both on campus and in democratic societies generally. Shenandoah and Bridgewater hosted delegations from the two international universities first. Delegations from SU and Bridgewater then visited the University of Sarajevo and IIUM. The pilot culminated in the Fall Colloquium at Shenandoah University in September 2019.
The Fall Colloquium
The Colloquium brought all participants together at Shenandoah University to discuss experiences and formally identify outcomes. Some of the outcomes that participants reported during the colloquium included:
- Heightened awareness and compassion for cultural differences
- New found desire to say yes to new opportunities, even when they are unknown
- More comfortable being uncomfortable
- More connectedness and openness to others
- Readiness to challenge the preconceptions of themselves and others
- Improved leadership skills
- Better understanding of culturally responsible leadership
- Awareness of a whole new cultural spectrum
Barzinji Virtual Forums
Barzinji Project is hosting this series of Virtual Forums as an opportunity for participants around the world to explore the similarities and differences in their missions and practices, the challenges they face and the solutions they create in a supportive and collaborative environment. Upcoming Virtual Forums can be found on our Calendar of Events page.
Barzinji COIL Project
Faculty from Shenandoah and our Barzinji Project partner institutions (Bridgewater College, International Islamic University of Malaysia, and the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina) are piloting Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) activities in classes this year. COIL involves the collaboration of faculty and students from universities in different countries, using a variety of technologies, for the purpose of shared learning and interaction. These collaborative activities can occur over a couple of weeks or longer. COIL exchanges can be implemented in any type of undergraduate or graduate course.
This pilot will help Shenandoah University and the Barzinji Project develop and grow meaningful virtual educational exchanges that support classroom learning and intercultural understanding.
Phase 1 Final Report
The barzinji project final report synthesizes the various final reports of the partner institutions which drew on their visitations of the other schools and Colloquium presentations. View the key findings which include a higher level of mutual learning and respect as well as new and innovative ways to think about higher education. The report concludes with recommendations moving forward and an appendix of presentations, follow up activities and administrative support.
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