A three-year U.S. State Department grant that fostered a partnership between Troy University and the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in the Republic of Georgia recently concluded.
The $495,000 grant, administered by the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, funded a partnership with the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs to augment the institution’s graduate International Affairs Program with faculty and student exchange, strengthen its research capacity, collaboratively develop a master’s level program in International Development and build a sustainable long-term relationship between TROY and GIPA.
“The goal was to help GIPA expand and grow, and to spread ideas of democracy and human rights, to really encourage the spread of those types of ideals that we care about as Americans,” said Dr. Jonathan Harrington, professor of political science and program manager of the Troy-GIPA Grant Partnership. “It’s especially important in that region of the world. To the north is Russia. Azerbaijan is to the east, Armenia to the south, all countries that are not democratic. It’s this little bastion of democracy.”
Harrington and Dr. Terry Anderson, a public administration associate professor at TROY who has been traveling to Georgia and working with GIPA since 2000, co-developed the project.
“The recent partnership grant between Troy University and the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs was an opportunity to bring TROY into the region that comprised the former Soviet Union,” Anderson said. “With democratization in that area being an ongoing process, one met with different levels of success throughout the region, it is important to use education as a tool in helping the process along.”
During the three years, TROY sent seven administrators and faculty members to GIPA, where they developed 11 courses for GIPA’s International Relations Program and taught 10 courses.
“My experience during the period of this grant included a total of one year actually spent in Tbilisi over three visits,” Anderson said. “During that time, I taught six classes and delivered several additional presentations on different topics at GIPA’s request. As always, it was clear to me that the faculty and staff, as well as the students, placed a great deal of value on the contribution that TROY made.”
Four GIPA faculty and three GIPA International Relations students visited the Troy campus, and two GIPA students received $1,000 tuition scholarships to help fund their GIPA education. The faculty members spent a total of about seven months in Troy teaching classes, while the students spent their 10-day visits engaging in campus life, attending classes and delivering speeches.
“There’s a lot of communication that went back and forth. Our faculty spent around 18 months in Tbilisi, Georgia,” Harrington said. “That’s a long time, 18 months, to have TROY faculty living in a developing country. It created some good development opportunities for our faculty. As international relations faculty, we like to get out and do research outside of Troy.”
Another byproduct of the three-year program is that two GIPA students came back to TROY to study.
“One of those students is writing a book with one of our faculty, Dr. Doug Davis, on Russian foreign policy,” Harrington said.
In February 2014, TROY Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. and GIPA Rector Maka Isiolani signed a memorandum of understanding that commits TROY to pursue a variety of initiatives directly relating to implementation of the grant and additional partnerships that will extend the relationship beyond the grant period.
TROY and GIPA jointly created a 3+1 Dual Degree Program, which will allow GIPA students to earn a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from GIPA and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an International Relations Concentration.
“GIPA’s history has included partnerships with several American universities, but they have always told me that their best partnerships have been with Troy University, whether through me as a single visiting professor or through this recent grant project,” Anderson said. “The relationship that I started as a single individual served simply as the foundation for what became a real institutional partnership through this grant. GIPA has already expressed a deep interest in keeping its institutional with Troy University and hopes to have future partnership opportunities to build upon this one.”
The partnership, she said, allows TROY to have an impact on the region.
“Troy University has a chance to make a real difference in an emerging democracy by participating in higher education that seeks to prepare Georgians for service to their country’s efforts toward a better future,” Anderson said.