Morocco to graduate nation's first degreed social workers from program started with help from ISU

April 18 2008

An on-going collaboration between Indiana State University and higher education in Morocco continues to impact students in Terre Haute and the North African nation.

While ISU and Hassan II University-Mohammedia have worked together on a variety of projects, including developing an accreditation system, since signing a collaboration agreement in 2002, one project in particular will come to fruition this spring. In May, the first cohort of 24 social work students will graduate in Morocco from a program ISU helped the university to establish, which is the first of its kind on the country.

“Social work is a global profession that addresses global issues that all societies face when addressing poverty, social justice and human need,” said Robyn Lugar, chair of ISU’s department of social work.

Latifa Tricha, secretary general of the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education, said there were two aspects in the creation of the social work program.

“One is to improve the abilities of the people already working in the sector,” she said. “The second is to promote the nation’s programs and develop them in Morocco itself. These programs support the National Initiative of Human Development, which was initiated by King Mohammed VI.”

When Hassan II University decided to start a social work program, which would be the first at any university in the country, they called on Lugar for help. Lugar responded not only with her and the university’s expertise, but also with student and faculty exchanges.

In the fall of 2005, Mhammed Abderebbi, chairperson of the sociology department at Hassan II University, came to ISU for four weeks with the task that when he went back, he would have a proposal for starting a new social work program put together for their president. Lugar worked with him continually during that time, explaining the importance of a code of ethics and showing him different academic models.

“We are committed to working with them on a long-term basis,” Lugar said.

That work together has included joint research, dual degrees, international conferences and video conferences for joint classes. In March, faculty and students from ISU journeyed to Morocco for an Education Support Services conference, which was held in collaboration with the Education and Training Regional Academy.

Virgil Sheets, chair of ISU’s department of psychology, spoke at the conference about the nature of psychology and psychology training in the United States, both as a foundation for other fields and as a discipline itself.

“I have identified some opportunities for collaborative research in areas of social psychology and social work that I hope will contribute to our further understanding of each other,” he said.

Megan Whitehead, a junior social work major from Oaktown, went on the trip to Morocco in March for the experience and to meet new people. She also assisted in distributing social work books and stuffed animals that Lugar takes on each trip.

“Talking with the students I realized how much our goals were alike,” she said. “People need to know and understand how much we are similar, even though we are half a world apart. They are no different than us.”

Such trips are important for ISU students, according to Sheets.

“They provide students not only a ‘real’ experience in the culture as currently lived -- that is quite different from the perspective one might get as a tourist -- but also a broader perspective for understanding the world,” he said, adding the students see how others perceive the United States and gain an understanding of historical and cultural experiences that shape international relations. “I think the Moroccan students have similar gains from interaction with our students. Both gain from recognizing their commonality.”

For Whitehead, part of exploring that commonality involved sharing beauty tips with the Moroccan female students.

“I had them teach me how to put on their scarves that they wear and their makeup,” she said. “I have a new appreciation for other religions and cultures.”

Just as students learn from each other on a personal level, Lugar said they also learn from each other professionally.

“Our work in Morocco is truly a collaborative and two-way effort,” she said. “All participants are growing professionally and personally from this experience.”

Tricha also expressed her appreciation of the cooperation between the two universities.

“These projects wouldn’t happen without the relationship between the Moroccan university and ISU,” she said. “The partnership is supported by President (Lloyd W.) Benjamin (III) and all of his staff.”

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

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

While ISU and Hassan II University-Mohammedia have worked together on a variety of projects, including developing an accreditation system, since signing a collaboration agreement in 2002, one project in particular will come to fruition this spring. In May, the first cohort of 24 social work students will graduate in Morocco from a program ISU helped the university to establish, which is the first of its kind on the country.

Bookmark and Share