ISU, Moroccan businessman partner on proposed international university

May 27 2008

Indiana State University has taken its eight-year-old partnership with higher education in Morocco to a new level by signing an agreement with a leading businessman and philanthropist who envisions a new International University in Morocco.

The agreement calls for Indiana State and Group Chaabi YNNA Holding to conduct an in-depth feasibility study of a not-for-profit private university mid-way between Rabat and Casablanca.

"Indiana State's rich history of collaboration in Morocco, by virtue of the work you all have done and the caliber of programs, has garnered a sense of trust and forms the basis upon which this significant new step can be taken," Benjamin told ISU faculty and staff during a signing ceremony Tuesday (May 27).

The project will help Indiana State continue to internationalize its campus, increase enrollment, provide more study abroad opportunities for ISU students, enhance the university's status internationally, broaden opportunities for faculty exchanges and collaborative research, and secure additional funding through grants, contracts and gifts, Benjamin said.

Like their counterparts in several other nations, Moroccan leaders are increasingly turning to American institutions for help in modernizing higher education.

"We're businesspeople so we have a very pragmatic way of looking at things. Whether it's a university or a business, it can only be successful if the people who work are dedicated and have an absolute love for the things that they do and I think that is the case for American universities," said Miloud Chabbi, founder and chief executive of Chabbi Group.

Though he became aware of Indiana State only within the past year, its record of accomplishment in Morocco and the dedication of ISU faculty and staff to helping others make it the logical choice for a partner on the project, Chabbi added.

"Indiana State University has been successful in building an amazing track record in a very short period of time. They not only succeeded in the work they did, but they started by succeeding in picking the right partners in Morocco and the right universities to work with," he said.

Indiana State's partnership with Morocco higher education began in 2000 and was formalized in 2002 when Benjamin signed agreements with Hassan II University-Mohammedia and Al Akhawayne University.

Since then, more than 300 students, faculty and administrators have participated in exchange programs and the partnership has grown to include several Moroccan universities, the Ministry of Higher Education, the Moroccan High Council of Education Development and such organizations as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank and Higher Education Development.

Existing partnerships include a higher education leadership program involving 14 Moroccan universities, a sport management program with universities and the Royal Soccer Federation and a program in which Indiana State assisted in developing the first social work program in Morocco at Hassan II University.

Current projects include a visit by 40 ISU faculty and students to Morocco to work with Moroccan students and faculty in the area of social work. Indiana State is also partnering with Morocco on the development of a national educational accreditation system - a project that has attracted the attention of the World Bank, which is interested in sharing ISU's work with other North African and Middle East nations.

The agreement between Indiana State and the Chabbi Group calls for a study phase of approximately 180 days during which each entity will assign a working group to analyze and develop a proposal that will detail the nature of future collaboration, including a business plan and an agreement on the role each will play in developing the new campus. ISU will share its expertise in such critical areas as information technology, library and media services, student housing, and records systems. The Chabbi Group will provide financial support with ISU providing technical assistance and administrative leadership toward the proposed American-style campus.

The Chabbi Group has experience in developing new educational institutions. It has previously financed the start-up of a technical school in Morocco and is building residence halls for several Moroccan universities.

"The Chabbis have the ability to create this product in short order," Benjamin said of the proposed international university.

The Chabbi Group has annual revenues of $1.7 billion and is Morocco's largest employer. The group's foundation supports nearly 7,000 Moroccan families through subsidies, primarily to women who have families to support.

Chabbi never attended college and began working as a shepherd at age 12. At 18, he started his first business, YNNA Holding, which has since grown into an international operation that includes companies involved in tourism, cable and ceramic production, rechargeable batteries, commercial centers, water distribution, paper production, real estate, industrial and petrochemical industries.

Benjamin said Chabbi's commitment to education reflects the values many Americans share of hard work and achievement.

"We hope that each of you can have their own footprint on the project - at least one week in your whole life so that the next generation will remember you," Chabbi told ISU faculty and staff.

In conjunction with the signing of the agreement with Indiana State, the Chabbi Group announced that it will fund a week-long study abroad experience for five ISU faculty members and five of ISU's best students.

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Indiana State University has taken its eight-year-old partnership with higher education in Morocco to a new level by signing an agreement with a leading businessman and philanthropist who envisions a new International University in Morocco. The agreement calls for Indiana State and Group Chaabi YNNA Holding to conduct an in-depth feasibility study of a not-for-profit private university mid-way between Rabat and Casablanca.

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