University signs MOU with Moroccan institution

MSU and UIR administrators look at institutional plans as UIR President Noureddine Mouaddib, second from left, explains details of a campus model. Looking on are, from left, Gregory Bohach, MSU vice president for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine; Mouaddib; MSU President Mark E. Keenum; MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert; David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development; and Abdelaziz Benjouad, UIR vice president of research and development.

Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum last Wednesday [Jan. 28] signed a memorandum of understanding agreement with Université Internationale de Rabat for the implementation of a School of Automotive Engineering at the UIR campus in Rabat, Morocco, jointly delivered by the two institutions.

Keenum, along with additional key MSU administrators, traveled to Morocco last week to meet with UIR President Noureddine Mouaddib.

The leaders updated and expanded a 2011 agreement that outlines collaborative research between the two universities in the field of materials in the areas of mechanical, computational and aerospace engineering. Keenum and Mouaddib additionally made a general agreement to collaborate on areas of relevance to both institutions, including agriculture, energy, business, computer science and political science. The agreement officially will commence in August of this year and continue for five years.

"We are immensely honored and proud to partner with UIR, a very prestigious institution that we can work with for the future of our students," Keenum said.

MSU Provost and Executive Vice President Jerry Gilbert said the agreement will be very beneficial to both universities. "We hope the relationship will grow and based on our prior experiences, we trust that will be so. We pledge to work closely as we mesh these challenges and opportunities," Gilbert added.

Students who graduate from the new School of Automotive Engineering at UIR will earn three degrees, one from UIR and two from MSU.

The dual academic agreement will deliver curricula allowing students to receive a diploma in automotive engineering after a five-year curricula from UIR and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering after four years from MSU, as well as a Master of Science degree in automotive materials engineering or related degree after an additional three semesters. The plan recommends students spend their first three years on the UIR campus in Rabat, Morocco, before spending their fourth year plus a summer semester at MSU's Starkville campus before returning to UIR for the fifth year.

Keenum said MSU undergraduate and graduate students also will be encouraged to take the opportunity to study abroad at the UIR campus.

The institutions may exchange academic faculty for purposes of teaching and research as well as give reciprocal assistance for visiting academic staff and students. Administrators agree to enhance their collaboration by encouraging joint research between their engineering faculty members, as well as to jointly raise funds to operate and develop common research activities.

The collaborative curricula also will include distance education courses. Keenum said the program will be designed to minimize costs to students but satisfy institutional objectives of both MSU and UIR. Special distance education courses will be taught by MSU faculty.

The MSU delegation's trip to Morocco follows a recent MSU visit by Moroccan Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal, who gave a campus speech Jan. 20 about the Arab Spring and Morocco's strategy in fighting radicalism. The ambassador also spent a day in Jackson where he addressed Mississippi State's Executive Lecture Forum and met with state economic development and elected officials.

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Allison Matthews | Public Affairs

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