Ken Holland wants to help bring peace to conflict-affected countries by nurturing future leaders. That’s why he’s leaving Ball State’s Center for International Development to become president of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

Holland came to Ball State as the Dean of the Rinker Center for International Programs in 2008. In his time here, he has increased the number of international students on campus from about 300 to more than 800 by actively recruiting in the countries he visits. He also aimed to give more American students an international experience through study abroad.

With the help of several grants, Holland has worked with nine different universities in Afghanistan. He first traveled there in 2006 and has come to know the country well. His long experience with AUAF led him to apply to be its president as soon as he saw the position advertised last November.

Holland didn’t hear anything until February. But after two phone calls with the search committee and board of trustees, he traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, for a final interview. They offered him the job, and he took it.

“I realized that for the last 14 years, I’ve not been really teaching,” he said. “I’ve been managing projects and running international programs. This seemed like a logical continuation of what I have been doing.”

Holland says the hardest part of moving to Afghanistan will be dealing with high security. The university is surrounded by concrete walls, guard towers and about 150 armed guards. Travel within Kabul is restricted, and Holland has had to use an armored car when he visits.

“That means my wife and I will spend most of our time on the campus,” he said. “It will be kind of confined.”

But he looks forward to getting started. Because AUAF is fairly new, Holland hopes to stabilize it financially and academically as the university aims to train the future leaders of Afghanistan.

“The fact that I could make some contribution to helping Afghanistan become a normal country is very gratifying,” he said.

Holland says interacting with people in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries has taught him that most people just want to live in safe and secure places.

“That kind of grows on you, and you want to help them,” he said.

Holland has recruited many students from these countries to attend Ball State. Now that several have returned home, Holland still stays in touch and enjoys watching them grow into leaders.


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