AUW abides by the principle that education for women is a fundamental human right, and that its foremost duty is to create opportunities for women that have historically been denied them. Currently, AUW is planning a larger initiative called Women Teaching Women, Women Learning from Women, where AUW graduates who dedicated to education establish secondary schools in refugee camps and their home communities. AUW students are service-oriented and enterprising, and when asked about their dreams, they often speak to a desire to put their learning to use in their own home communities. As teachers, AUW graduates would know better than anyone the challenges that young women from under-resourced areas face, as well as be deeply connected to the sociocultural conditions of the environments they would teach in.
Recently, AUW has devoted energy to supporting Afghan women, given the current political moment. On August 28, AUW evacuated 148 of its students and alumnae from Kabul, Afghanistan. With the resurgence of the Taliban and a landscape where women’s education was becoming increasingly under threat, many Afghan students had expressed concern for their safety due to bombings, unreliable electricity, and ethnic persecution. Since the evacuation, the students have been residing on a military base in Wisconsin, while AUW worked to find university placements for these students in the United States. These students have acted as community organizers within the thousands of displaced Afghan people on the base, volunteering and tutoring in English. Students are all eager to enter their new academic homes.
AUW is gearing up for the launch of several new initiatives come January. Two of these are the Graduate Program in Education and Policy and the General Studies Program. The former will be remotely delivered through a consortium of American colleges that have offered their faculty, courses, and learning materials to the University. Teaching fellows will be on the ground in Chittagong, Bangladesh, to assist students in their learning efforts. Originally developed to support Afghan alumnae over the summer, the program has since gained steam and interest. The latter program comes from AUW’s commitment to supporting the Rohingya community, as the host of the largest body of Rohingya refugees at any university. The University is currently recruiting English language instructors for a newly developed General Studies program. Through General Studies, displaced Afghan and Rohingya students will receive intensive English training and classroom support, such that they are better prepared to matriculate into the University’ official academic program.
Throughout the fall semester, AUW has continued its remote operations. Students are engaged in their studies across the five majors that AUW offers in its Undergraduate Program – Environmental Sciences; Public Health; Bioinformatics; Economics; and Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE). Courses that the students have taken this fall include “Reproductive and Maternal Health,” “Labor Economics,” “Environmental Economics,” “Public Health Program Development and Management,” “Probability and Statistics,” and “Gender and Family Politics.” The University is hopeful that the rest of its student body will be able to return to campus come the spring term in 2022.