Alum Profile: A Visionary in Afghanistan
For the past decade, Dr. Suzanne M. Griffin has developed and led education and technical programs in Afghanistan. Griffin has a Ph.D. from the UW College of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.
While Griffin has used her educational background to instruct at higher education institutions, from programs supported by Public Affairs Section at the US Embassy in Kabul to South Seattle Central Community College, her heart is in higher education, specifically the areas where technology and culture and English language learning overlap.
For more than a decade, Griffin has been forging new pathways as an educational partner and visionary in Afghanistan. Working with the US Embassy and the Deputy Minister of Education, along with dozens of colleagues and counterparts, Griffin has helped get wireless technology into the Afghanistan university system, has trained more than 7,000 teachers and 600 school administrators, and led the creation and revision of an English curriculum framework used throughout the country.
“It’s hard work, yes, but I keep going back,” Griffin explains. “I want to support the Afghanistan women. I hope that we get long-term female leaders in the educational system and I see no reason why this can’t happen.”
From her work with teacher training projects in 2006 up to her current projects on English language books for technical skills, Griffin has spent time building relationships to improve educational infrastructure and promote female leadership.
Although her work in this sphere has been the result of countless collaborations, in public spaces and in one-on-one conversations, Griffin stands out as one of the few females with a doctorate working in the education sphere.
One of her proudest moments was serving on a governance committee, alongside Afghan women, that increased equal opportunity for women in the educational system.
“The ministries went from bombed out buildings to functioning offices with strategic plans,” Griffin explains. “Yet there is still work to be done. After a big meeting where the deputy and ministers touted “Equal Opportunity for Higher Education” as a goal, I saw the dismal statistics and spoke individually with the deputy and advisers, telling them, “If you aren’t going to do anything about building up female faculty in higher education, then you aren’t going to have equal opportunity.’
Griffin is passionate about this change, saying that she wishes that more Western citizens understood that most Afghan parents` want their children, boys or girls, to be educated.
“We need to correct the idea that all Afghans don’t want their children educated because it simply isn’t true,” Griffin asserts. “The sacrifices they make to get their children to school are staggering. In some places, when a teacher has a baby or is sick, the kids lead their own classes. We’ve gone from 800,000 boys in government schools in 2002 to 8.5 million students, of which 39% were girls, in 2010.”
“A thirst for education is important. That’s how I got into my own training, after all.”