Winning Hearts and Minds: KBR Sponsors College Sports Field and Scholarships in Afghanistan
KBR Vice President Mike Flanagan meets the KBR Scholar, Susan Azizi, at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), who began her undergraduate studies this fall. KBR’s scholarship supports her tuition for five full years.
On Nov. 9, AUAF leadership welcomed KBR as they led the soccer field ribbon cutting ceremony in celebration of KBR’s donation and pending alumni verses undergrad matchup.
Challenges to education are rampant in many parts of the world, but especially throughout the Middle East. In Afghanistan, sustained conflict and violence, infrastructure issues, inefficient resources, natural disasters, sociocultural factors, and a lack of curriculum standards impact education for both children and adults.
KBR holds contracts and supports communities around the world where inadequate education impacts the overall success of the people and the economy. Afghanistan is a prime example and for girls, particularly those in rural areas from low-income families, getting an education remains a distant dream.
KBR affiliation with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) is helping bridge this gap. AUAF serves as a nationally accredited, private, non-profit, non-partisan and co-educational university. Protected by surrounding fences, the university is situated on nearly 50 acres of land, creating a peaceful and beautiful oasis for learning. Recently, KBR chose to sponsor upgrades to the school’s football (soccer) field and donate funds toward student scholarships.
Ella Studer, KBR Senior Vice President of Logistics, joined the university’s board of trustees and serves as the second vice chair. As a result, she has first-hand experience understanding the struggle of female Afghani students.
“As a company and a female leader, it is important to help where I can and promote activities that lift females up,” Studer said. “In Afghanistan, even if the family is supportive of a female going to school, they still may not have the money to support her attending University. Many females have to work or only get partial funding, so they need to find scholarships.”
KBR’s donation are funding a female student’s tuition for five years. The Scholar recipient is a young woman named Susan, who is pursuing her bachelor’s in political science and public administration. Selected based on her Test of English as a Foreign Language scores and high school overall percentage record, the scholar voiced her excitement for this opportunity.
“My lifelong dream was getting higher education at a prominent university, such as AUAF,” stated Susan. “Now it is so incredible having this golden opportunity that assures me to not only get a quality education, but also to help me grow personally, be able to serve my nation, and become successful in my future goals and career. I want to be a skilled and proficient politician to help bring positive changes in society and become a role model for other young girls who wants to start the same career.”
On Nov. 9, 2019, KBR Vice President Mike Flanagan and Senior Manager Scott Grace visited AUAF to lead the inauguration of AUAF’s new football field, now known as “KBR Field,” and meet the scholar.
“We were very proud to donate the upgrades to the soccer field. As a former college athlete, I understand the link between a healthy body and productive mind,” Flanagan said. The sponsorship included new bleachers, digital scoreboards, upgraded lighting and modern signage.
“The field is a major focal point at the university,” said AUAF Board of Trustees Member Leslie Schweitzer. “Athletics for students in Afghanistan is not as indigenous as it is in the U.S. So having this soccer field is special and it will be very well utilized, not just by our students, but others as well.”
As the number one sport in Afghanistan, soccer is often used for relationship building between men and women. The AUAF field is also close to the United States Embassy in Kabul, with the KBR sign in clear view. To break in the new space, alumni faced off against the university’s undergrads for a friendly match.
“It was just like being at a game at any small university in the U.S. The field is an element of great freedom – It’s indicative of the university and what we’re trying to do,” Schweitzer said.
During the ceremony and presentation, Flanagan also announced KBR would be adding an additional donation in 2019 to help with the AUAF Academy Program, which helps incoming female students improve their English, math and science acumen to succeed in the university’s English-only instruction during their undergraduate programs.
“These students are going to change Afghanistan,” Studer said. “That’s how a country changes, by being educated. It changed me as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my degree.”
Opened in 2006 with 50 students enrolled, AUAF now enrolls more than 1,700 part-time students. It has produced 29 Fulbright Scholars and maintains partnerships with many of the world’s most prestigious universities. Currently, female students represent 42 percent of undergrad enrollment.
Many businesses hire AUAF graduates due to their respected schooling and prime location. In fact, in 2001 KBR hired more than 4,000 Afghan employees during their former Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract in Afghanistan. With LOGCAP V on the horizon, KBR looks forward to the opportunity of hiring local AUAF graduates once again.