President Benjamin first American to receive Moroccan higher education honor

February 18 2008

Benjamin recognized for role in modernizing nation's higher education system; fostering U.S.-Arab dialogue

Indiana State University President Lloyd W. Benjamin III has become the first American and only the third person ever to receive Morocco's top education honor in recognition of Benjamin's - and ISU's - longstanding commitment to help modernize the country's system of higher education.

Benjamin, who is in Morocco to implement a significant step in developing a nationwide higher education accreditation system informed by U.S. models, was presented Monday (Feb. 18) with an honorary doctorate in international relations from Hassan II University-Mohammedia at the conclusion of his visit. The presentation took place before a gathering of dignitaries from throughout the region, including representatives from the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Morocco, the Moroccan Ministry of Education, governors of the Casablanca region and presidents from several universities.

"I am truly honored to receive this award on behalf of the many administrators, faculty, and students of Indiana State University who have helped grow our cutting-edge collaboration into an initiative that will help modernize an entire country's system of higher education," Benjamin said.

C. Jack Maynard, ISU's provost and vice president for academic affairs; Brad Balch, dean of the College of Education; and El-Houcin Chaqra, associate director of ISU's International Affairs Center, joined Benjamin in attending a week-long conference in Morocco that included government-level workshops with the end goal being the completion of a study providing recommendations for designing and implementing a system of accreditation in Morocco.

Since September 2002, the university has maintained an active, comprehensive and growing relationship with Hassan II University. What began as an initial partnership focusing on joint degrees, cross-cultural exchanges, and various research projects grew into an effort by ISU leaders to develop a first-ever system of accreditation for the country's higher education system.

Currently, Morocco operates on a French-based system with no accreditation process. As the result of the exchange program for higher education leadership in which Moroccan educators spent time at ISU and ISU leaders did likewise, the Moroccans decided to move forward to develop a nationwide accreditation system, with ISU as their partner. This project has also been supported by the U.S. Agency forInternational Development.

"More important than any award or honor is the proud legacy IndianaState University will always have in helping a great nation andlong-time American ally modernize its nationwide system of higher education," Benjamin said. "I'm confident that this partnership will only continue to grow stronger in the years to come and lead to even greater successes."

In addition to ISU's role in developing the accreditation system, the university has launched a number of other projects since the collaboration was first signed more than five years ago in September 2002. Other ongoing initiatives include:

* Establishment of a social work program and, in effect, the profession of social work in Morocco, largely due to the efforts of professor Robyn Lugar of ISU;

* Ongoing student and faculty projects and exchanges.

In addition to providing valuable insight and resources to Morocco's education accreditation process, Benjamin also has worked to advance foreign relations between the United States and Morocco.

Benjamin submitted written testimony to the U.S. International Trade Commission on the benefits of a free trade agreement with Morocco, citing the positive relationship the university had established with Hassan II University.

Benjamin also encouraged Sen. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to intervene on behalf of the 404 Moroccan prisoners held by the Algerian-backed Polisario movement, some of whom had been held for nearly 20 years. Lugar traveled to Algeria at the request of President Bush and facilitated the release of the prisoners in August 2005.

Photo: http://indstate.edu/news/media-img/hi-res/benjamin_lloyd_hi.jpg

Media contact: Teresa Exline, university spokesperson, Indiana State University, 812-237-7783 or texline@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

ISU President Lloyd W. Benjamin III is the first American to receive Morocco's top education honor in recognition of Benjamin's - and ISU's - longstanding commitment to help modernize the country's system of higher education.

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