U Of A To Join With Educational Leaders In Morocco And Saudi Arabia To Form Center For Community Services In Morocco

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Dr. Rachid Benmokhatar Benabdellah, president of Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, will visit the University of Arkansas campus on Wednesday, May 10, to sign an Agreement of Cooperation and Exchange establishing The Azrou Center for Local Community Services in Azrou, Morocco. The signing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in the Heritage Room in the UA Administration Building.

The King Fahd Middle East Studies Program in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences will become partners with both Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and with the Society of Friends of Al Akhawayn University in Saudi Arabia to form the Azrou Center, which will offer scientific, educational, social and human services to the city of Azrou and nearby towns and villages.

Chancellor John White, who will sign the agreement on behalf of the U of A, said, "This latest pledge of cooperation is an outgrowth of many productive efforts over the last several years to exchange expertise and resources with our colleagues in the Middle East. I am especially pleased that the University of Arkansas is emerging as a strong leader in sharing educational resources and knowledge in order to promote friendships around the globe."

Under the agreement, the U of A, Al Akhawayn University, and the Society of the Friends of Al Akhawayn University in Saudi Arabia, an association that supports stronger ties between Saudi Arabia and Al Akhawayn University, the Azrou Center will offer courses in English and computer technology; expertise in the fields of agriculture, trade, and small business development; special programs for women, the elderly and the disabled; social services for the poor; and foster faculty-student exchanges. If all parties are willing, the initial four-year agreement will be renewed automatically every four years.

"At the heart of this newest agreement is the goal we have always had for all of our international studies programs," said Randall Woods, Interim Dean of Fulbright College. "The purpose of international study and exchange is to promote understanding. Through such agreements, we strengthen academic programs and forge stronger international ties. We are thoughtfully building on a series of past agreements made possible through the Fahd Middle East Studies Program."

During the May 10 ceremony, Chancellor White will sign an agreement of cooperation and exchange on behalf of the U of A. Interim Dean Woods will sign an implementation agreement on behalf of the Fulbright College and the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program. Under these agreements, Al Akhawayn University will commit to administering the Center, providing facilities for teachers and advisors visiting from the U of A and the Society of Friends, and providing professors and students who will offer training and educational services. The King Fahd program will contribute $12,000 a year toward Center expenses and provide teachers, specialists, advisors, and graduate students in several fields, from English and computer science to agriculture and small business development. The Society of Friends, in addition to an annual $45,000 contribution, will provide teachers and specialists as well as additional staff support for developing Center activities.

"The King Fahd Middle East Studies Program has supported and facilitated collaborative agreements with several institutions in the Middle East. They include a wide range of research and activities, ranging from archeological field schools to the transfer of advanced spatial technologies," said Mounir Farah, associate director of the King Fahd Program.

On May 28, 1999, the highest-ranking delegation of Saudi Arabian educators ever to visit the United States came to the UA campus, led by His Excellency Dr. Khalid Al-Ankary, Minister of Higher Education. On behalf of the U of A, Chancellor White signed Memoranda of Cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education and with four major Saudi universities.

In April, two of the nation’s largest producers of computer software and hardware, Oracle Corporation and Sun Microsystems, became partners with the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies in Fulbright College to identify campuses in the Middle East that would become Strategic Centers in the sharing of technology with the U of A

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Randall B. Woods, Interim Dean, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, 479-575-4804, rwoods@comp.uark.edu

Mounir Farah, Associate Director, King Fahd Middle East Studies Program, 479-575-4771, mfarah@comp.uark.edu


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