Transformational Leadership Program - Scholarships and Partnerships

After Exchange in USA, Assistant to Introduce New Curriculum at University of Prishtina

Kushtrim Podrimqaku pulls a stack of paper from his satchel and sifts through the sheets of data, figures, and syllabi proposals. He eventually finds what he is looking for, a NASA report on Surface Meteorology using RETScreen data.

Anticipating the perceived complexity of the report, he explains in lay terms the significance of daily solar radiation levels. A 30 year-old teaching assistant at the University of Prishtina (UP), he smiles when he compares the figures for Arizona and Kosovo.

“Arizona is a desert, so of course they have enough energy capacity for solar cells,” he says. “But look at Kosovo. Kosovo’s solar capacity is more than enough, but we produce coal and thermal power, not renewable energy.”

The conversation shifts to plans to build a new geothermal power plant near Pristina and the environmental implications that Podrimqaku studied as an exchange professor at Arizona State University last fall.

When he returned from the US, Podrimqaku was excited by the possibilities of producing and utilizing clean energy in Kosovo. Discouraged by what he perceived as the immovable inertia of his university to make relevant academic changes and uncertain about his future, he considered studying for a Ph.D.

But several months later, the tides have turned and Podrimqaku is smiling again. The main source of his joy is the acceptance of curriculum and syllabi he developed last fall by the Faculty of Engineering and UP’s central administration following university elections in March.

Designed for three new courses — “Energy and Environment”, “Renewable Energy and Resources”, and “Solar Photovoltaic Energy Conversion” — at the Faculty of Power Engineering, Podrimqaku’s curriculum will be utilized by professors and students starting in the Fall 2016 semester.

Podrimqaku developed the new curriculum based on principles and thematic areas he studied during his exchange semester at ASU.

TLP-SP selected Podrimqaku and three other UP colleagues — professors from UP’s Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Science — to travel to the US and immerse themselves within their partner institutions, Arizona State University and the University of Minnesota, in August. At ASU, Podrimqaku and Dr. Gazmend Pula received training in teaching methodology and attended relevant classes selected with the help of partner university mentors.

An element of the TLP-SP Partnerships cross-cutting component, faculty exchanges support UP’s efforts to transform the structure and culture of higher education in Kosovo, develop resources, and produce graduates with the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of a growing economy.

With undergraduate and master’s degrees in Physics from University of Prishtina, Podrimqaku is using the additional knowledge gained at ASU to advance himself, his university, and his country.

In addition to his curriculum and completion of a PhD, Podrimqaku plans to contribute to the standardization of ECTS credits across UP and to develop a future UP department or center on sustainable development and renewable energy.

The teaching assistant, who wrote his master’s thesis on sustainable development and Kosovo’s energy sector, hopes to become a professor at UP one day as well.

He believes that the nexus of energy and development provides Kosovo with just the right amount of energy to propel itself toward a brighter future, a dream that is ultimately powered by a fundamental belief in education.

“Progress will come to Kosovo through investment,” he says. “We must invest in the new generation”.

Images courtesy of Arizona State University.

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