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1/26/15 - Moroccan diplomat meets with MSU, state officials

A visit to Mississippi by Morocco's top diplomat to the United States continued on Wednesday [Jan. 21].

Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal spent the day in Jackson where he addressed Mississippi State's Executive Lecture Forum, and also met with state economic development and elected officials.

Established in 1983, the Executive Lecture Forum provides a unique outreach program. It hosts internationally respected speakers from around the globe to address the membership. Its publications reach government agencies, think-tanks and major libraries. It is sponsored by the university's Janos Radvanyi Chair in International Security Studies and MSU International Institute.

"We are exploring a number of opportunities that will benefit the university and the state, as well as Morocco," said Jon Rezek, the interim executive director of the International Institute, which sponsored Bouhlal's visit.

"The potential impact on education, research and economic development is significant -- and very exciting for our students and faculty," he said.

As part of the burgeoning relationship, Mississippi State will begin offering study abroad opportunities in Morocco during the summer, Rezek said.

An international collaboration in automotive materials engineering between MSU's Bagley College of Engineering and the Universitie Internationale de Rabat in Morocco's capital city is also underway.

Additional announcements are expected next week when a delegation of senior administrators from MSU visits Morocco, Rezek said.

Among other activities while in the capital city, the ambassador and MSU President Mark E. Keenum and other MSU officials participated in a briefing with the Mississippi Development Authority and met with Gov. Phil Bryant.

"Mississippi State's global impact is growing, and we see tremendous potential working with Morocco in the near- and long-term," said David Shaw, the land-grant institution's vice president for research and economic development.

International trade, ports and shipping, automotive manufacturing, and engineering and agriculture research are among the many possibilities under discussion, he said.

On Tuesday [Jan. 20], Bouhlal was on campus to share information about his country and learn more about the university.

The ambassador toured two of Mississippi State's major research centers: the High Performance Computing Collaboratory and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.

At Bouhlal's public presentation, Fowlkes Auditorium in Colvard Student Union was filled to standing-room capacity with students, faculty and administrators.

Bouhlal emphasized religious freedoms and democracy are prized by Moroccans, and the nation, governed by constitutional monarchy, seeks equal protection of rights for all citizens.

Following the 2010 Arab Spring revolutionary movements in Arab nations worldwide, Moroccan leaders have implemented a strategy to fight radicalism, including educating young people, promoting religious tolerance and emphasizing equality, he said.

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Jim Laird | Public Affairs

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