Drury welcomed Arabic professor Mouhcine El-Hajjami to campus this year as part of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship program. The prestigious State Department-run program brings visiting professors from around the world to teach on college campuses in the United States.
This year marks the twelfth consecutive year that Drury has been granted a Fulbright scholar to teach Arabic in the university's Middle East studies program.
"Fulbright is a highly competitive national program and the fact that we have been able to get this for 12 years is a good testament to Drury's academic programs," says Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg, Director of Middle East Studies program.
Drury offers a Middle East studies minor, an interdisciplinary program that allows students to take classes in wide range of topics including politics, history, art, architecture, and literature.
"The ability to offer Arabic to Drury students with someone from the Arab world is really a foundation of that program," says VanDenBerg. "Many students build strong, lasting relationships with the professors who come through this program. Those people help our students with different Arabic language programs in the Middle East."
Previous Fulbright scholars to Drury have come from across the Middle East, including Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.
El-Hajjami is a Moroccan native. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Studies and Masters of Arts in Cultural Studies; and is currently a doctoral researcher in the area of gender and cinema studies at Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University in Fez, Morocco. He brings experience teaching both English and Arabic to a diverse audience of students.
However, teaching Arabic is only part of what El-Hajjami hopes to accomplish during his time at Drury.
"I'm also here as a cultural ambassador," says El-Hajjami. "Today there are a lot of clashes going on – religious, cultural, and ethnic clashes. The further you are from me, the more I will build up misconceptions about you. The closer we go, the better we know each other and we become much more likely to understand each other."
In this way, El-Hajjami's visit is about more than just learning a language. It is about cultural exchange, international cooperation, and Drury's mission to educate students to be engaged global citizens.
El-Hajjami's impact will extend beyond just students in his Arabic classes. During his time here he will also give guest lectures in English literature classes, gender studies classes, and to the Drury community as a whole. He'll even serve as an expert commentator as part of Drury's annual Moxie film series.
"The lessons and opportunities permeate throughout the campus," says VanDenBerg. "It's a good reflection on a Drury education."