Jim Owens ’08 (MS CS), a doctoral candidate in Clarkson’s mathematics Ph.D. program,

has accepted a position with The American University of Iraq — Sulaimani (AUI-S), a private non-profit university in Iraq’s Kurdish region. The university, which opened in 2007, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees to students from all regions of Iraq.

All classes are conducted in English.

“I am extremely excited,” Owens says. When he saw the job advertised, “It seemed like the perfect job for me at this stage of my life.” Owens applied for other teaching positions and received several requests for interviews, but turned them down in favor of the position at AUI-S.

This isn’t Owens’ first trip to the region. In April 1991, he was one of 50 members of a U.S. Air Force unit sent to Turkey to provide engineering support as part of Operation Provide Comfort. It was shortly after the first Gulf War, and the Kurds of northern Iraq were fleeing to escape bombing raids conducted by Saddam Hussein’s military forces.

“We hurriedly set up a base camp at Yüksekova in southeastern Turkey to support relief operations for more than 180,000 Kurdish refugees from Iraq,” he recalls. Over the next six weeks, his unit helped stabilize the situation in the refugee camps and repaired several mountain roads for the refugees to use when they were able to return home. “That experience had a really profound effect on me,” he says.

It’s been almost 20 years since Owens last visited the Kurdish region. “It’s a very different guy going back,” he says. “I’m 55 now. Coming out of graduate school, my goals are different than they might be for someone 30 years younger. This is a really unique opportunity to do some meaningful work.”

quoteOwens moved to Iraq in mid-September, about two weeks ahead of the school’s fall semester. He is a senior lecturer in the IT/business program.

Before his graduate work at Clarkson, Owens was an adjunct lecturer and worked as a technical educator for a Vermont-based software company and as a teacher and technology coordinator in high schools in Vermont and Massachusetts. He served in the Air Force from 1974 to 1993.

Owens received his master’s degree in computer science from Clarkson in 2008. He also has a master of education degree from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., and a bachelor of arts from the University of Maryland University College, European Division.