|Participants in the Iraqi Kurdistan Rural Universities Partnership Program pose on graduation day with professors and administrators from the LCI.|
But by the time the 14 administrators and faculty members arrived in Blacksburg, fighters with the Islamic State had taken surprise aim at the region's capital, and more than 1,700 people had been killed.
"In our region, there was an anxiety against these terrorist forces, but when we left, there was not the sense that Irbil was in danger," said Hawraz Hama of the University of Raparin, about 70 miles east of the Kurdish capital.
Despite the turn of events, he and others in the delegation stuck to their training commitment: "In our country higher education needs to be improved."
Read more about the program, which has just been renewed for another year.