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SAHE students and CSU faculty visit Morocco

March 5, 2014

During Winter Break, 14 CSU graduate students traveled with four CSU faculty members on an international field experience to Morocco.

The graduate students are studying Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE), learning about college student development, administration on college campuses, and a broad range of other topics related to higher education and student services.

Over the course of 12 days, the group visited 10 higher education institutions and several student housing complexes in Morocco.  Visiting both public and private institutions, the students and faculty met with students, faculty, and staff across the country about current innovations and issues in Moroccan higher education.  Host institutions graciously received the CSU delegation, sharing information about their programs and services.  CSU students and faculty shared information about CSU and student affairs in the United States, and a great deal of mutual learning took place at every institution.

Cultural experiences in Morocco

The SAHE group learned about higher education in Morocco and established cultural foundations by participating in cultural experiences and visiting historical sites across the country.  Students and faculty had the opportunity to stay with Moroccan families in Rabat, the capital, for six days and experienced daily life in a Moroccan home.  In Fes, a graduate student seeking his Masters in History led the group around the old Jewish Quarter, or Mellah, where an ancient Jewish text from the 1600s was on display.  Also located in Fes is the oldest continuously operating university in the world, Al-Karaouine.  Courtesy of Dr. Hirchi, a Moroccan CSU faculty participant, and his mother, students and faculty partook in a delicious traditional meal of chicken and couscous.  The experience culminated with a trip to Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the third largest mosque in the world.  Hassan II Mosque had heated floors, a retractable roof, and the capacity to hold 105,000 people on the grounds for worship during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Course prepared students for experience

Students were enrolled in an elective course called Global Perspectives in Student Affairs and Student Services in Higher Education. The Moroccan field experience was a component of this course. The three-credit course met throughout the fall semester leading up to the field experience, preparing students for the field experience itself while also exploring general themes of international higher education and student affairs.  Students researched and presented on different functional areas within student affairs, comparing U.S. approaches with those implemented in Morocco.  Students and faculty explored different aspects of Moroccan culture, including learning more about Islam, Morocco’s primary religion, and its great impact on daily life.  The course was designed to give students a stronger understanding of international higher education, different models of student affairs around the world, and increasingly global nature of higher education, here in the United States and abroad.

Exchanging ideas, strategies

The CSU delegation included SAHE course instructors, Oscar Felix, Associate Vice President for Enrollment, Access and Diversity and the Executive Director of the Access Center; Andrea Reeve, SAHE faculty and former Director of the Academic Advancement Center; Jody Donovan, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students; and Dr. Mohammed Hirchi, a faculty member from the CSU Foreign Languages and Literature Department.  While in Morocco, the CSU delegation met with university presidents, deans, faculty, and students to learn about student services in Morocco and exchange ideas about the future of higher education, both in Morocco and globally.  Based on the French model, Morocco’s higher education system varies immensely from the U.S. model, and there was much to be learned with the hope of establishing mutually beneficial partnerships between CSU and Moroccan institutions in the future.

Dr. Hirchi’s participation also marked a new chapter in the Global Perspectives field experience.  As a partner on campus at CSU, his cultural knowledge of Morocco and the U.S., as well as his experience in higher education, made him an invaluable resource.  Language is a vital part of Moroccan culture, as well as some of the current trends and issues in Moroccan higher education.  As a multilingual country, students may be expected to take courses in French, English, and Arabic, which presents challenges for students who may have only learned one language in high school.  Dr. Hirchi’s insights were invaluable, and this interdepartmental partnership is one SAHE hopes to continue in the future.

Participants in the program

The SAHE graduate student participants in the Moroccan international field experience were:

  • Chris Carter
  • Kelli Frank
  • Carter Gilbert
  • Rachel Goold
  • Daniel Haddad
  • Emma Hart
  • Tony Ho
  • Tiffani Kelly
  • Maria Marinucci
  • Brittany Otter
  • Emily Pagano
  • Steph Parrish
  • Kalyn Stroik
  • Audrey Wilson

The SAHE program is located in the School of Education within the College of Health & Human Sciences.