by S.M. Ghazanfar '68
Ghazanfar is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Idaho.
From Creating the People's University: Washington State University, 1890-1990 (George A. Frykman, Washington State University Press, 1990), pp. 202-204.
In the post-World War II period the University began responding to the challenge by introducing new programs of technical assistance to Third World and under-developed nations. It soon became apparent that Washington State University’s location in semi-arid eastern Washington prepared it to cope with dry land agricultural found in other parts of the world. Furthermore, the proximity of the Grand Coulee Dam and the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project made it a logical university to provide service to new nations like Pakistan.
In fact, discussions with federal officials in Washington, D.C., and with Pakistani authorities began in 1952 and led to the signing of a contract in 1954 for overseas educational work. Washington State University assumed responsible leadership of a party of experts—most from Pullman—who sought to improve Pakistan's university system. Their work encompassed developing programs in agriculture. business, teacher training, social science, and the creation of library resources for the educational system. The university's party undertook a staggering twenty-nine projects, only two of which had to be aborted. Results varied greatly but the most successful were in soil science, food technology, artificial insemination of cattle, and the improvement of one college library.
The contract provided for reciprocity, so a number of faculty members and technicians from Pakistan studied in Pullman. In a real sense, members of the Washington State University's party benefitted from learning experiences in Pakistan. Before the first phase of the project ended in 1961, thirty—seven Americans, most of whom came from Pullman, had spend [sic] a tour of duty in Pakistan. Although the original contract had called for a three year project, the agreement was extended. By June 1959, however, President C. Clement French decided that they had "reached the point of diminishing returns, unless we are prepared to support a program there on a continuing basis." The program actually did not stop before 1961.
A second phase, no doubt arising from the initial successes, emerged when President French, on April 18, 1961, signed a contract to develop a land—grant type institution to be known as the West Pakistan Agricultural University. Once again, a WSU Party embarked on a major project. This venture was filled with more difficulties than the first, as its leaders sought to introduce a purely American institution into a foreign land.
Agricultural Dean Stanley P. Swenson, a man who had played an important role in Pakistan from an early day, became Dean of the new university as it got under way. Under his leadership, the WSU Party introduced American teaching, research, and extension methods and techniques. Once again, Pakistanis traveled to Pullman for advanced training in agricultural and related subjects. The undertaking continued until 1969 and has been described by a recent historian as "remarkably successful." Standard departments of agricultural subjects were established, along with veterinary medicine and rural sociology. In one sense, the project could not be regarded as successful—the failure to develop standard extension service to cover the country, bringing news and demonstrations of agricultural innovation and catering to the needs of farmers. The extension service never reached beyond the immediate vicinity of the campus.
Reflecting on the exciting early days of the Pakistan projects, another historian has noted that they represented "an era of naive good will in an age which thought the transfer of technology would be easy and [would] solve the problems of the world." The projects also represented a Cold War gesture on the part of the nation that hoped to exorcise the Soviet menace by removing poverty and frustration from Third World peoples. Regardless of the degree of success, the creation of an American agricultural university on foreign soil was one of the most idealistic tasks ever undertaken by Washington State University.
The projects in Pakistan proved to be only the beginning of the school's international development work. In 1975, the government of Jordan asked Washington State University to assist in improving and enlarging its agricultural faculty, along the familiar lines of the American land-grant model—teaching, research, and extension. By September, 12 staff members (all but one from Pullman) had arrived in Jordan and were at work in animal science, plant pathology, irrigation, agricultural marketing, and other areas of study. Members of the party trained local students and faculty to carry on the work of a strengthened curriculum and research projects. The renovated institution issued its first degrees in 1977.
The Jordanian higher education project ended in 1986, but work in other areas had been undertaken there in the meantime. In 1982, for instance, Washington State University sent a team to assist in the development of irrigation agriculture in the Jordan River Valley. Then, in 1986, Jordan asked for assistance in dry-land farming. Washington State University responded by sending a group of experts that has continued to work with Jordanian authorities to increase food production and exports to neighboring countries.
All international projects undertaken by Washington State University were funded by agencies of the federal government. This support included money granted under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, amended by Congress with Title XII under terms of the Humphrey—Findlay Bill. Indeed, this measure greatly increased the capacity of land—grant schools to provide aid to the very poorest societies. Washington State University became one of 140 American universities involved. In 1979, WSU began to upgrade teaching, research, and library resources and training more than thirty specialists and administrators in Indonesia. The University also provided assistance in Zimbabwe, Yemen, Morocco, Mali, Lesotho, Egypt, and the Sudan.
Theodore Doty, in a 1971 study of the Pakistan project, concluded that, it "never really touched the lives of any but a small handful of the home campus staff who were directly involved. It made more of an impact in Pakistan." It is possible, of course, that Doty may have accurately represented a confidence (and naivete) of participants that caused them to believe theirs was a one-way process, with no useful "feed-back." But, he wrote on the heels of events, not having the luxury of perspective.
On the other hand, Evelyn Rodewald, wrote years later, that benefits to Washington State University from the beginning included "strengthening the programs [the University] offers its students to give them the ability to operate in an international [sic] world." She also pointed out that these programs introduced "new types of" research and new genetic materials" for research. Furthermore, Title XII provided financing which enabled both more faculty and graduate students to participate in overseas experiences than otherwise would have been possible. Such opportunities increased the expertise of entire departments.
Pact brings grad students, enhances exchange (WSU Today: Sept. 18, 2009)
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