Morocco-U.S Educational Exchange: Three questions to Executive Director of Fulbright Morocco Program

29 February 2024
Morocco-U.S Educational Exchange: Three questions to Executive Director of Fulbright Morocco Program

The Moroccan and American Fulbright alumni were recently in the spotlight during a ceremony at Morocco’s embassy in Washington. It was an opportunity to highlight the contribution of academic and cultural exchanges to the close and multifaceted relationship between the two countries.

On the occasion of this event held in the presence of Morocco’s Ambassador to the United States, Youssef Amrani and officials from the Department of State and the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchanges (MACECE), the Executive Director of the Fulbright Morocco program, Rebecca Geffner, gave an interview to MAP in which she discussed the results of the four-decade program co-financed by the two governments and the role of its alumni in establishing “bridges of collaboration, understanding and shared vision”. She also talked about the selection criteria for the program.

How important is the impact of educational and cultural exchange between the US and Morocco in the broader strategic partnership between the two countries ?

Morocco is one of the United States’ closest and oldest allies, with our friendship dating back to the very founding of the United States. Every day, we see and experience the depth and strength of that relationship. For over 40 years, the Fulbright program has served as a pivotal bridge between Morocco and the United States, fostering mutual understanding and cultural exchange. Fulbright has been a mainstay of U.S. public diplomacy, strengthening the binational relationship, reducing misunderstanding, sharing knowledge across communities, and forging lasting connections in Morocco.

The U.S.-Morocco commitment to advancing peace, prosperity, and security across the region – and throughout the world – is stronger than ever. And our people-to-people ties are an important part of the depth, breadth, and quality of our strong relationship. The impact of this exchange goes beyond research collaborations and academia, creating rich bonds between our Moroccan Fulbrighters and their communities in the United States, as well as our American Fulbrighters and their communities in Morocco.

Fulbrighters act as cultural ambassadors, dispelling pre-conceived notions of certain cultures and regions, and giving their American counterparts a real insight into Moroccan culture and traditions and vice-versa. In a period in the world where divergence abounds, the program intends to create bridges of collaboration, understanding and shared vision.

The Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (MACECE) programs through Fulbright also directly support the educational reforms proposed by the Moroccan government. We have programs that allow students and scholars to conduct their research in a second country, an opportunity which can significantly increase their scholarly article impact factors.

In addition, there is exposure to a new education system focused on critical thinking and soft skills training, experiential learning, civic engagement, flipped classrooms and inclusive education. Fulbright provides a forum to share best practices, new pedagogical techniques, and an expanded international network. In one of our programs, we place American Fulbrighters in public universities around Morocco to teach English for an academic year, supporting the reform goal of promulgating the English language.

To what extent does the Fulbright program contribute to strengthening economic opportunity and full participation in the two societies ? Can you provide some examples of successes and challenges during the last years?

The Fulbright program is a direct investment in Morocco’s future generations of leaders. For more than 40 years, the two governments’ return on investment through Fulbright continues to increase. Our Moroccan alumni have become ministers, heads of major corporations, top researchers, journalists, and entrepreneurs. Moroccan Fulbright grantees return from the US with master’s degrees, research publications, expanded pedagogical practices, professional experience in multinational companies, experience collaborating with global teams and a diverse international network of peers.

They are at the forefront of tackling Morocco’s pressing challenges, from environmental sustainability to healthcare advancements and they are positioned to positively influence the trajectory of Morocco’s development.

Our programs also benefit the development of American leaders. Our US grantees have the opportunity to enroll in intensive language courses in Morocco to study Arabic, Darija and Tamazight. For our teachers, they immerse themselves in Moroccan schools, learning more about culture, history, and politics which they can bring back to the American classroom. In addition, our researchers work closely with Moroccan academic and non-governmental affiliates to enhance the breadth of scholarship on Morocco and the region. Following their Fulbright grants, we have had Americans who have gone on to become diplomats and other governmental leaders, leading scholars in their fields, consultants, business owners and lead scientists.

MACECE, through the Fulbright program, is well poised to build bridges, create meaningful exchanges and support cultural and academic dialogue which transcends borders. The past four decades have been prolific with alumni stories of advancing knowledge through service, cultural ambassadorship, long lasting friendship, collaboration, trust, diversity, and shared values.

3- Are you confident that the program provides equal access to international education opportunities both for Americans and Moroccans across the socioeconomic spectrum and helps bridge the gap in fields like science and technology mainly for women ?

The Commission upholds the highest standards of excellence, transparency, and ethics in its operating procedures and selection process. We are committed to the values of the Fulbright program including diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Fulbright defines diversity as: “opportunities open to people regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, geographic location, socio-economic status, or disability.” MACECE therefore seeks to recruit a diverse and talented group of applicants for our programs. We value applications coming from underrepresented groups, disciplines, and regions of Morocco and the United States and we certainly value applications from women in the STEM fields.

In supporting these important values and upholding objectivity and an equal playing field, MACECE’s selection committees abide by precepts of inclusion, consistency, avoidance of conflicts of interest, transparency, nondiscrimination, and confidentiality.

We have many current and past examples of Fulbright women and men in all disciplines including STEM.

We have Moroccan master’s and doctoral students in the US currently studying and researching in the fields of Fintech and Data Analytics, Animal Genetics, Molecular Biology, Environmental Sciences, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Geochemistry, Sustainable Agriculture, Solar Energy, and many others. Right now, one of our grantees is studying agribusiness at Texas A&M. When she graduates, she will do post-academic training as a marketing specialist at a dairy business where she will be performing milk price forecasting and economic analyses.

We have a doctoral student at the Aphasia Research Center at the University of Maryland College Park. She is working at the intersection of communication sciences and disorders (i.e., aphasia) and neurolinguistics. We have a PhD student from the United States who is working with the Pasteur Institute in Casablanca on investigating the evolutionary divergence of widespread African snake species.

We have another American researcher who was studying water management in the Draa Valley and how oasis farmers navigate water shortages. These are just some examples of our support for grants in the STEM fields (among others). In summary, the Commission remains enthusiastic in supporting a diverse array of fields, research topics and applicants.

Source: map

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