News Release 2/14/05
President Cormier visits Morocco to explore partnership opportunities
The Royal Kingdom of Morocco, an intriguing Islamic old world country, is opening its doors to American educational opportunities. In January Longwood President Patricia Cormier was part of a delegation from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) that went to Morocco. The delegation of eight presidents/chancellors and AASCU's director of international education met with 12 of the 14 Moroccan university presidents. The purpose of the presidential mission was to explore opportunities for educational partnerships and exchanges between AASCU campuses and the colleges and universities of Morocco.
Dr. Cormier, who was accompanied by her husband, Dr. Raymond Cormier, chairs AASCU's Board of Directors. "AASCU's mission to Morocco has provided Longwood with its first opportunity to enter an academic portal to the Islamic world," said Dr. Cormier. "As a result of this trip, Longwood envisions possible faculty and student exchanges in the fields of education, library science, administration, English and Arabic language study and much more.
While Morocco has one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Qarawiyin University in Fez founded in 859 by a wealthy woman named Fatima Al Fehriya, today some 41 percent of the population is illiterate, many in rural areas and predominantly women. The current educational system has been described as obsolete, with substantial program duplication, poor graduation rates, a rigid grading system of pass/fail, and limited interaction with the business and private sectors.
Morocco recognizes its educational shortcomings and is undergoing major reform. In 1970 only 28 percent of Moroccan adults could read; in 2004 53 percent could read. The current plan to eradicate illiteracy provides invaluable opportunities for American universities like Longwood. "Morocco's desire to reform their educational system gives Longwood students and faculty an excellent opportunity to become involved with a country that is rich in ancient history and diversity of people, yet reflects a modern continental culture," said Dr. Cormier.
President Patricia Cormier and her husband, Dr. Raymond Cormier, enjoy dinner at Fantasia Chez Ali in Marrakech.
Morocco was the first country to recognize America as a new country in the late 1700s, and it remains today a strong ally and potentially a viable economic partner under a new free trade agreement. It is a nation of contrasts with many cultures and religions living side by side in harmony. Moroccans claim that the Berber tradition of openness and inclusion is what makes Morocco the most tolerant country in the Islamic world. Evidence of this is everywhere - in languages, cultures, dress, architecture, and food. Moroccans speak both Arabic and French fluently, and many learn English, Spanish, Italian, as well as German.
"This mission is the first step in opening the doors to a whole new world of education for our students and faculty," concluded Dr. Cormier.