For 10 years, Jalal Ismaili taught English to students in his home country of Morocco. This year, as part of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship program, he is teaching Arabic to American students at Drury University, creating an important cultural exchange that emphasizes Drury's global studies mission.
Ismaili teaches elementary and advanced Arabic courses as part of Drury's Middle East Studies minor. Arabic is the official language of Morocco and 21 other countries in Africa and Asia.
The Fulbright program is funded by the U.S. State Department and managed by the International Institute of Education. It involves a rigorous, competitive application process and provides opportunities for students, professors and scholars from the United States to teach and study abroad, and vice versa. Six Drury professors, and even some former students, have been granted Fulbright awards to study and teach in their fields overseas.
For nine years, Drury has also hosted an Arabic Foreign Language Teaching Assistant through the program.
"One of the great benefits for Drury is that we get the opportunity for people to come from the Middle East and teach an important and challenging language," says Jeff VanDenBerg, professor of political science and director of the Middle East Studies program. "More significantly, we get a view of the Arab world in a human way — a cultural exchange and understanding that's not just through news headlines."
Ismaili holds an M.A. in multilingual translation and is currently working on his Ph.D. in English. During his time at Drury, he hopes to act as an ambassador for his country. He teaches Arab culture, history and customs in his language courses and has guest-lectured in other professors' classes.
"I think many students have misconceptions about the Arab world just as I have had misconceptions about Americans," says Ismaili. "People tend to overgeneralize on both sides. Changing those views is one of my priorities. I don't just want to tell others about the culture, I want to bring them into it and into the environment."