Morocco Seminar Part of University's Global Initiative

Illinois Wesleyan faculty and administrators recently returned from trips to Morocco and Jordan, building ties with universities such as Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

November 11, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - Illinois Wesleyan University will be sending faculty and staff to Morocco as part of a new joint seminar that is laying the groundwork for exchanges between universities in the Islamic countries and Illinois Wesleyan.

Those involved in the seminar will prepare for the trip during the spring semester at the Illinois Wesleyan campus and then spend a week in Morocco in June. The seminar is part of the University's ongoing effort to promote international understanding and opportunities. Applications for those interested in the seminar will be available Monday on the Staff Council Web site, and due December 1.  An informational meeting for faculty and staff will be Monday, November 17 at 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center.

Illinois Wesleyan has recently established ties with universities in the Middle East and will establish ties with universities in India. Members of the administration have made visits to Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, and both Al Zaytoona University and Arab Open University in Amman, Jordan. Illinois Wesleyan Associate Dean of Faculty Frank Boyd said, "working with individuals from Al Akhawayn and Al Zaytoona will be very beneficial to our students, opening the doors to study abroad, language study programs, and broadening the overall knowledge our faculty and staff bring to the classrooms and campus." Boyd traveled to Morocco in February, and last month to Jordan with Director of the International Office Stacey Shimizu and Associate Provost for Academic Planning and Standards Roger Schnaitter.

A visit was made to the ancient city of Petra, in the Shara Mountains of southern Jordan.

The Morocco initiative will be closely modeled after seminars at the University of Richmond, said Boyd. This summer, the campus held a globalization workshop for faculty and staff, featuring a talk by Uliana Gabara, dean of international education at the University of Richmond. It was Gabara, Boyd said, who inspired the idea for a joint seminar that includes both faculty and staff.

"Everyone of us on campus - faculty and staff - do our work in a social, economic and political context and could benefit from discussions with our counterparts in Morocco and Jordan," said Boyd, who believes the seminar is a chance to "invest in the people here," allowing them to "bring their experiences back to the Illinois Wesleyan the classrooms and their daily interactions with students."

The initiatives with the universities in Morocco and Jordan began with President Richard F. Wilson attending a conference two years ago in Istanbul, Turkey that was hosted by the Hollings Center, a U.S.-funded non-governmental organization, which helps promote ties between the United States and predominantly Muslim countries. During the conference, Wilson met with representatives from Muslim-dominated institutions of higher education, including Al Akhawayn and Al Zaytoona universities. Illinois Wesleyan submitted a grant request to the Hollings Center on behalf of all three universities, and received funds for Illinois Wesleyan faculty and administration to make initial trips to these universities.

The Andalusian Gardens outside the Oudaia, in Rabat, Morocco.

 In the fall of 2009, Illinois Wesleyan will also welcome a Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Al Akhawayn University. Professor Driss Maghraoui will teach courses in history and Middle Eastern politics. "Al Akhawayn is very similar to Illinois Wesleyan," said Boyd of the university nestled in the Middle Atlas Mountains of North Africa. "Our faculty are working in many of the same areas, and instruction for all university curricula at Al Akhawayn is English.

"The Morocco initiative is one of several opportunities for members of the Illinois Wesleyan community to share insights with foreign counterparts.  "We are building bridges," said Illinois Wesleyan Provost Beth Cunningham, who is one of 10 people nationwide chosen to visit universities in the cities in India of Dehli, Mumbai and Bengauru in March of 2009 as part of a program through Fulbright and the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF). "When we meet face-to-face with faculty and administrators from other nations, we create links and the foundation of international and cultural understanding," said Cunningham. "Illinois Wesleyan is becoming a global campus. We are carving paths that will help students for generations to come."

Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960