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A U.S. Ambassador and BYU Professor Meet in Turkey

Bartholomew works at BYU and around the world, as he switches from teaching students about STEM to training teachers about instructing on STEM topics. While in Turkey, he met with many people, one of whom he did not expect.

When a United States Ambassador and an engineering professor meet up in Turkey, what do they talk about? According to Scott Bartholomew, the most recent BYU basketball game. The Assistant Professor in the School of Technology had gone to Turkey on a US-Embassy education grant that encouraged an educational partnership with the country. Bartholomew planned to help train teachers on how to better implement STEM ideas in their school systems, but he didn’t expect the excitement that would ensue.

Throughout his week of training, from March 21-24, Bartholomew worked with 24 teachers in-person at Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam University (KSU), with more watching online. Although he had to use a translator, as Bartholomew presented to and interacted with the teachers during hands-on projects, he became impressed by their sincere desire to support their student’s educational endeavors. “There’s just good teachers all over the place,” Bartholomew said, “and they all want their students to succeed, and they’re all willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen. I can’t even speak the same language and I can tell they’re just good teachers. They’re willing to do what it takes.”

The people in the Kahramanmaraş showed their gratitude in many ways. The Province Governor Mustafa Hakan Güvençer, Kahramanmaraş Governor Ömer Faruk COŞKUN, and University President Nayazi CAN all came to meet and talk with Bartholomew, and the media made sure to show up as well. Then, following some discussion amongst the university leaders, Bartholomew recounted, someone asked him, “Are you a BYU grad?” The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, and his wife, Cheryl Flake, had both graduated from BYU. This person delivered the message that the Flakes wanted to meet their fellow alum and check in on the project.

Since the Ambassador had never visited the university before, the school set out to make the experience memorable. People rushed around and made last-minute preparations over the next couple of days. The day the Ambassador arrived, policemen surrounded the university president’s house, there to ensure the Flakes’ safety. In the house, the Flakes recounted all the things they loved about Turkey. They mentioned the quality ice cream in Turkey, and as if on cue, bowls of it were served to them, a replacement for their traditional tea or coffee given to guests, which the Flakes and Bartholomew do not drink due to religious reasons.

During their conversation, Bartholomew discovered that he and the Flakes had both begun their day unusually early to tune in to the most recent BYU basketball game, which had started at 3am their time. Bartholomew said he enjoyed connecting with another die-hard cougar fan, one living on the other side of the world. They also talked about the project, chatted about their families, and snapped some pictures together. It showed Bartholomew that wherever you go, there’s a chance to connect with another BYU alum. That connection, and the kindness shown to him by his hosts, made Bartholomew's trip to Turkey memorable.