Ambassador’s Remarks for Launch Event for Private Sector Partnerships to Strengthen Higher Education Activity

Ambassador’s Remarks for Launch Event for Private Sector Partnerships to Strengthen Higher Education Activity, Monday, 24 April 2023

[as delivered]

Prime Minister Kurti, Minister of Education Nagavci, Minister of Agriculture Peci, Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs at University of Iowa Gunum, Rector of the University of Peja “Haxhi Zeka,” Krasniqi, Rector of the University of Prizren “Ukshin Hoti,” Krrabaj, and of course, Rector of the University of Prishtina “Hasan Prishtina,” Dr. Qerimi, a good friend and partner, rectors, deans, students, private sector representatives, the rest of you. It’s a pleasure to be with you here today for this conversation.

I want to begin by extending my congratulations to everyone who has been involved in shaping this historic partnership. We consider this to be a collaborative effort from the very start that included our distinguished universities from the great state of Iowa, Kosovo universities, and the private sector.

The friendship between the state of Iowa and the Republic Kosovo is unique, it’s special, and it continues to surprisingly evolve in mutually beneficial ways as Kosovo take its place in European and Euro-Atlantic structures institutions.

So, as the Prime Minister just said, here in Kosovo, equipping citizens with the skills that are needed in a modern economy, a 21st century economy, is one of the U.S. Embassy’s in Kosovo’s highest priorities. I think I just heard the Prime Minister make clear that is one of his highest priorities, too, and it is nice when our goals align as they so often do. Our collective presence here today shows that this is a priority for all of us.

As the Prime Minister said, I too frequently hear from businesses that they need employees and applicants, who bring the right package of skills. And we know that having the right job skills is necessary to compete in an increasingly competitive and an increasingly global environment. They are also essential to ensure there is viable employment for Kosovo’s youth right here in Kosovo, which is where we want them to be, contributing to their society, contributing to their country.

So, these kinds of partnerships, the one that we are going to formalize today, involving the government, private sector, and universities – this is an increasingly common arrangement in the United States, and we consider it to be a best practice as we work on preparing the workforce of tomorrow.

They allow our institutions to learn from one another; they allow them to share evidence and experience, promoting modernized curriculums and teaching methods, and educating students, and dare I say it, educating faculty about job markets, career opportunities and the skill sets that are needed.

This partnership today that we are going to formalize soon is no different and we are excited to see – I’m excited to see how the private sector and universities, Iowa University process, will partner to ensure that higher education in Kosovo is – now my remarks say – is responsive to employer needs. And that is true. But, let me add something: is responsive to the responsibility we have as an older generation to ensure that the younger generation receives a true education in the platonic sense. Yes, we want to train people to do jobs. We want to train people to think; we want to train people to be effective in the 21st century economy. This isn’t just about training people to work. This is training people to be effective, contributing citizens, who are able to continue this trajectory that we see in Kosovo: to see this country succeed and thrive based on its single biggest asset – its people.

So, Iowa brings a huge amount of expertise to this project. There’s research; there’s experiential learning. In fact – I’m going to tell you a few fun facts about Iowa universities in just a second that I learned in reading my prepared remarks.

One, did you know the University of Iowa was the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis. Did you know that this took place in 1855? Iowa was a trendsetter, no doubt about it. I remember my grandmother in the 1940s in the Washington state system telling me – fighting for equal treatment as a female in that university system. A good 90 years after Iowa got it right.

Did you know that the world’s first electronic digital computer was built on the campus of the Iowa State University? 1939 to 1942 by a physics and mathematics professor along with an engineering graduate student.

So, this partnership – we think we bring something. We think – I shouldn’t say ‘we’ – we think that the great state of Iowa brings something, and as the American Ambassador, I guess I represent Iowa along with other 49 states and some territories, and we bring something significant in support of local universities. I will also say, as I’m sure my Iowa friends have already picked upon on, these local universities bring an awful lot to this, as well.

I want to note the University of Prishtina’s Center for Teaching Excellence, the Office for Research and Sponsored Projects, and the Career Development Center are all examples of collaborations between the U.S. government and a premier Kosovan higher education institution that can enhance critical services and support for students, faculty, and staff.

So, as the Prime Minister said, this partnership between the University of Iowa and Kosovo is going to largely focus on the ICT and agriculture sectors. These are two of the fastest growing sectors in Kosovo, and they are designed to equip university students with the skills they need to both find jobs and to successfully do jobs here in Kosovo. This initiative will not only help support and fuel Kosovo’s economy, but as I already said, it supports a viable future for Kosovo’s youth right here in Kosovo.

I am thrilled that American universities are part of this. I am thrilled that the expertise we have to offer will be part of this. I am thrilled that our universities will also have the opportunity to learn from the Kosovan counterparts. There are best practices there for us too, I am quite confident.

And I am delighted that this friendship, this partnership between the United States and Kosovo, between the people of Iowa and Kosovo, continues to both endure and bring benefit to both countries.

This is a strong testament to the outstanding relationship we enjoy. It’s a strong testament to our shared values, including a thriving economy here in Kosovo that delivers prosperity to its citizens, but also including a fundamental focus to – as I said what I believe to be Kosovo’s greatest asset: its people, and particularly its youth.

So, thank you for joining us today. Thank you for this opportunity to celebrate a great partnership together and thank you as well for the opportunity to solidify and strengthen this partnership just a little bit more.

Thank you very much.