Bradley University welcomes international leaders
What motivated 329 people from 31 countries to converge upon Peoria in late October for the three-day International Construction Innovation Conference? Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji, Bradley’s chairman of civil engineering and construction, has an immediate answer: “building bridges between peoples.”
The second International Construction Innovations Conference (ICIC), co-sponsored by Bradley at the Pere Marquette Hotel, drew more than 300 government leaders, business executives, and scholars from around the world. Above: Attendees viewed a Caterpillar Inc. equipment demonstration at the company’s Edwards Demonstration and Training Center. Visit icic.bradley.edu for more information.
By bringing business, government, and education together, Al-Khafaji says opportunities abound for business alliances, joint ventures and partnerships, research, and new funding sources. In essence, leaders worldwide had the opportunity to network across cultures through presentations and discussions ranging from rebuilding Iraq and Lebanon and building affordable housing, to online construction management, and a myriad of other global issues.
Bradley vice president for advancement Bill Engelbrecht notes, “This international forum distinguished Peoria and the University. In 2004, the ICIC planning committee involved 37 members. Now, with 317 ICIC members, including 14 alums, Bradley has co-sponsored two international conferences unique to Peoria, the United States, and the world.”
Twenty Bradley engineering students attended along with international dignitaries, including the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, CEOs, and a list of “who’s who in the global building and construction trades arena,” notes Al-Khafaji.
Aysel Tantug representing Soyak Construction from Turkey, attended the forum at the urging of Al-Khafaji. Since Soyak also builds large apartment complexes, she met with the president of the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute following his presentation. Tantug says, “Now I will go back to my country and talk about all these new ideas to my boss.”
From a political standpoint
With a politician’s viewpoint, Qubad Talabany, son of the Iraqi president, says, “It is always good to know the trends, thinking, and sensitivities of the industry. Economic development goes hand-in-hand with political development; we cannot address one without the other. What I’m hoping to do, now that Iraq is open to the international world, is to have leaders from industry and academia come and look at what we have and where our shortcomings are. By pulling together experts from around the world and leaders from various fields, we can always learn something new. With healthy dialogue, we can exchange ideas, exchange views, and work together.”
From an academic perspective, Paul Olomolaiye, dean of the school of engineering at the University of Wolverhampton says he was surprised about the mix of academics and industry when he attended the first conference in 2004. “I loved mixing with people from industry,” says Olomolaiye. “You need to work with the decision makers, and I think the conference has achieved that. I carried that message back to the United Kingdom and informed my faculty that we need to get more involved with industry. Now, we actually engage more with industry.”
Palastinian Army Major General Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, who coordinated the relief work after the Pakistan earthquake, shared his perspective of the conference, as well. “It’s a unique experience because today as the world is growing, the problems [from one country to another] are getting less different: increased population, increased infrastructure needs, environmental challenges, and material challenges.” He adds, “I think, obviously, everything is dependent on or related to construction.”