Kennesaw State, Morocco partnership inspires graduate to work abroad

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 16, 2023

Over 4,300 miles may separate Kennesaw State University from Morocco, but one KSU graduate is taking the leap and starting a career there. The nearly 20-year collaboration between Hassan II University of Casablanca (H2UC) and KSU faculty helped to make that possible.

Planting the seeds 

Kennesaw State is no stranger to working with Morocco, with the initial partnership formed in 2005 by KSU President Emeritus Betty L. Siegel and then-H2UC President Rahma Bourquia. The two institutions have focused on projects over the years to foster global, cooperative research and teaching for the benefit of students, faculty, and staff. 

As part of the 2018-19 Year of Morocco, KSU Global Education offered a study abroad program for students to learn about the country’s history, culture, and human development initiatives. Students and faculty planted trees with the High Atlas Foundation (HAF), a Moroccan-based nonprofit organization that supports sustainable development in local communities through an emphasis on agriculture, women’s empowerment, literacy, and youth development.  

Dr. Nina Morgan, professor of English at Kennesaw State’s Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences (RCHSS), served as a member of the Year of Morocco Faculty Learning Community and has led numerous initiatives affiliated with the region since 2006. “It’s a relationship that dozens of KSU staff and faculty have worked hard to build and sustain, and due to our collective work, many KSU students have benefitted from transnational research opportunities and experiences.” 

Dr. Nina Morgan, Selah Randolph, Dr. Samir El Azhar, and Dr. Samira Rguibi (L-R) at Hassan II University (March 2023)
Dr. Nina Morgan, Selah Randolph, Dr. Samir El Azhar, and Dr. Samira Rguibi (L-R) at Hassan II University (March 2023)

Rooted in impact 

KSU has continued to foster meaningful relationships with H2UC, including an interdisciplinary cross-cultural women’s leadership virtual exchange (WLVE) program centered around digital storytelling from fall 2020 through spring 2023. Students from both institutions interviewed, wrote, and published a collection of biographies of women leaders from the USA and Morocco.

The work was supported by a grant from the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Morocco. The grant was co-written by KSU faculty member Dan Paracka and H2UC faculty and administrator Samira Rguibi and has facilitated virtual exchange courses taught by several KSU faculty members, including Dr. Morgan. 

The WLVE proved to be impactful across campus and inspired the KSU English department to take it a step further. Department chair John Havard credits the Stevens Initiative with fostering continued innovation. “Encouraged by what we observed in these courses, we have sought to scale what we learned from this experience by sharing strategies for building virtual exchange into relevant courses throughout our curriculum. We are grateful to our collaborators in Morocco for working with us to make these learning experiences possible.”

KSU and H2UC students together in Casablanca (March 2023)
KSU and H2UC students together in Casablanca (March 2023)

Seeing the opportunity to inspire the next generation of leaders, Dr. Morgan developed a course in which KSU and HH2UC students co-created and produced illustrated children’s books based on the biographies. With support from Dr. Havard, the idea quickly became a reality through curricular development, conference presentations, and related coursework for student involvement. 

Branching out 

As a commuter and working student, global opportunities had never been a priority for Selah Randolph. It wasn’t until participating in Dr. Morgan’s virtual exchange class focused on Morocco and women’s leadership in fall 2022 that the Class of ‘23 English (BA) graduate explored a more globalized approach to her coursework and career path. She talked multiple times a week to students at H2UC, developing key relationship-building skills in cultural teamwork and communication. Another valuable skill Randolph gained was grant writing to support production of the children’s books in alignment with KSU’s Quality Enhancement Program and Undergraduate Research initiatives. 

Selah Randolph on her second day on the job at HAF in Morocco visiting a recently completed solar-powered irrigation system
Selah Randolph on her second day on the job at HAF in Morocco visiting a recently completed solar-powered irrigation system

Along with three of her classmates, Randolph traveled to and presented her research at a conference in Morocco in spring 2023, with assistance from the RCHSS Dean’s Office’s student research support grant program. While in the country, she built her network, experienced personal growth, and gained an understanding of the world she might not have had without the commitment from faculty mentors. "I wasn't considering a career abroad before it was suggested to me by Dr. Morgan. This encouraged me to expand my professional and personal goals to a global context." 

Her professor connected her to HAF, the sustainable agriculture nonprofit Dr. Morgan had worked with years ago during her Year of Morocco trip; a few days later, Randolph was offered and accepted a position post-graduation as the organization’s communications manager. She will support English communications through grants and global partnerships and credits the opportunity to the support of her professor and the English department.   

Dr. Morgan believes that Selah’s story is a testament to the collaborative efforts across campus to support students. “When professors can include students in research because grant funds are available for it, when department chairs are able to support collaborative international academic projects when well-funded global education opportunities for student travel create the conditions for life-changing learning experiences—then we have paved the path to a student’s real-world success.” 

Selah moved to Morocco in May 2023, about a week after Commencement, but will always be connected to her time at Kennesaw State. "My professors were the single greatest benefit to attending KSU. I'm incredibly grateful for their personal investment in my education and future." 

— Justin Roth
Photos submitted

Related Posts