2017 Heiskell Award Winner: International Partnerships
Nomination submitted by: Dr. David Shaw, Vice President for Research and Economic Development
In the two years since Mississippi State University initiated the three-pronged Mississippi- Morocco Partnership through faculty and diplomatic channels, it has grown from a dual academic award program with International University Rabat’s Schools of Automotive and Aerospace Engineering supporting the nascent transportation economy in Rabat into a broad partnership involving the Mississippi Development Authority and the Governor’s Office. Its innovative approach has garnered the partnership attention at the highest levels. The Moroccan Ambassador visited MSU to speak with students and faculty, and the Government of Morocco invited MSU’s president, former Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Keenum, to serve as Honorary Consul to the Kingdom of Morocco.
The development initiatives began by focusing on start-up ventures in manufacturing technologies mutually beneficial to both Mississippi and Morocco, and have expanded to encompass working to improve K-12 education systems, develop teacher education programs and redesign workforce training in automotive, aerospace, smart agriculture, forest and environmental management sectors. All are enriched by professional and academic exchanges.
MSU's first large scale, multi-sector, cross-college global endeavor was ignited by an engineering faculty member's passion for the globalization of engineering in Morocco. University leadership seized upon the opportunity to build ties with the newly created International University of Rabat, which is adapting the U.S. model of higher education. The two campuses developed a dual degree program consisting of three years of study at IUR in mechanical and automotive engineering, followed by a senior year at MSU, with BS degrees awarded at both schools and automatic entry into the Masters programs at MSU.
This dual award and master's pathway has propelled Morocco into the list of top ten senders of international students to MSU. Students from the Southeastern United States have developed friendships, while Rabat students became local celebrities, opening a dialogue on gender and race in engineering while spawning international agribusiness.
In an era of budget cuts at the state level, this program not only augmented international student enrollment for MSU, but more importantly it brought talented students to Mississippi to be trained in economic sectors of importance to both countries. The initiative was linked to state-level economic development strategies to attract foreign direct investment by providing research and development opportunities that capitalize on MSU strengths in agricultural and software engineering while engaging dormant capacity within the state's manufacturing facilities.
“MSU is committed to working with Morocco in multiple areas of mutual interest, including education and economic development. Further, our strengths in capacity-building enable Mississippi State to address many of the world’s most challenging problems, such as global food security.”
-Mark E. Keenum, President, Mississippi State University