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SUNY Plattsburgh President Visits Turkey, Signs Agreement

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ What do SUNY Plattsburgh and Sakarya University in Turkey have in common? The two institutions now have an agreement to explore establishing dual diploma programs in business, computer science, economics and hotel, restaurant and tourism management.

President John Ettling and Rector Mehmet Durman President John Ettling and his wife, Lisa Lewis, recently traveled to Turkey where Ettling and Dr. Mehmet Durman, rector of Sakarya University, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two institutions.

"We have agreed to further explore the possibility of dual diploma programs," said Ettling. "We're still a long way from that goal, but there is a possibility of students from Sakarya coming to Plattsburgh as soon as next fall."

The relationship between SUNY Plattsburgh and Sakarya came about after Robert Gosende, SUNY associate vice chancellor for International Programs, asked President Ettling to consider the possibility of SUNY Plattsburgh partnering with an institution of higher education in Turkey to create dual diploma programs.

Several other SUNY campuses, including Cortland, New Paltz and the Fashion Institute of Technology, have started exploring dual diploma programs with similar institutions in Turkey.

The dual degree programs would involve undergraduate students from Sakarya spending part of their time on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus. At graduation, they would receive a degree from both Sakayra and SUNY Plattsburgh.

"We need to take a look at our courses and see how they fit into their programs," said Ettling. "The next step in the process is for us to send them copies of our catalog, which we are doing. I have invited the rector, administrators and faculty members involved in these programs from Sakayra to visit Plattsburgh. We will also designate someone on our campus as the coordinator of the program."

Sakarya University enrolls roughly 30,000 students and has branch campuses throughout the region. It is a "full service" university, including an engineering school and health sciences program. It also grants degrees through the doctoral level. The main campus is about two hours driving time east of Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey.

In Turkey, higher education is not available to everyone. Every year, about two million high school students take a nation-wide exam to get into universities. Only about 300,000 of those students are accepted to colleges throughout Turkey because there are not enough institutions of higher education for every high school student to go on to college.

"Those students who go to college in Turkey, by virtue of going through the stringent exam process, are the best and brightest," said Ettling. "We were impressed with the quality of Sakarya University and the caliber of its students."

The overall benefit of the partnership between the two institutions will be to have a ready supply of well-qualified students come to SUNY Plattsburgh.

"These are international students as well, which makes the program especially attractive," said Ettling. "I'd like to see the international student population increase on campus."

"We were very impressed with the facilities at Sakarya and pleased with the technology available to the students and faculty," said Ettling. "All the classrooms are wired, and there are plenty of computer labs. They do a lot with distance education as well."


Ettling said that the facilities at the university in Turkey were virtually brand new.

The university suffered major damage during a 1999 earthquake, and the entire campus has been rebuilt with funds from the Turkish Ministry of Education and international organizations such as Rotary and Catholic Charities.

While on campus at Sakarya, Ettling met with Durman and senior administrative officials. He also addressed the Faculty Senate during one of its meetings. Lori Thompson, SUNY director of International Partnerships, and her assistant, Sevgi Ural, were also part of the contingency at Sakarya.

"Everyone was very hospitable. The rector really made us feel welcome. We thoroughly enjoyed touring the campus and meeting students, faculty and staff," said Ettling.

Students were busily preparing for final exams as the school was still in session when Ettling and Lewis visited the campus for three days beginning Dec. 28.

Ettling and Lewis also spent several days touring the sights in Istanbul, including the famed Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar and palaces of the Ottoman sultans.

"Istanbul was a terrific city," said Ettling. "The people were great. We didn't encounter anyone who was not friendly. It was our first trip to Turkey, and I am looking forward to visiting there again."

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