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Visiting Professor Leaves Lasting Impression on Students
RADFORD Abdelilah El Abdi may have returned to his native Morocco, but for the Radford University students who enrolled in his courses, his lessons left them with a lifetime of memories.
A political scientist from Mohammed V University in Morocco where he serves as chair of the department of public law and political science, El Abdi came to RU as a visiting Fulbright Scholar for the 2008-09 academic year. During his tenure, he taught government and politics in developing countries, comparative governments and a seminar in international comparative studies. According to El Abdi, the courses and seminar were intended to provide students with a deep understanding of political comparative studies, the phenomenon of democracy and the processes of democratization in the regions of North Africa and the Middle East. For the students, it was much more than a class -- it was an invaluable glimpse into a world they had not experienced.
“Dr. El Abdi brought a lot of knowledge to the classroom and introduced ideas and ways of thinking that American students often don’t get a chance to experience,” said RU student Amber Dinges. “I am grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know him and everything he had to offer as a professor.”
“Dr. El Abdi brought subjects to life and had a real passion for what he was teaching,” added Zachary Carroll, a student in El Abdi’s seminar course. “I consider myself lucky to have been able to take this class from a Fulbright Scholar, especially one with such expertise in the subject. It has sparked my interest, and I am finding myself looking for more information outside of the class.”
Christine Duncan wrote, “Dr. El Abdi taught us about the Middle East and encouraged all of his students to have a voice, to ask critical and challenging questions and to be experts on the topic. His students have a deeper understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict, a greater appreciation of the culture and religion, and will be more informed global citizens as a result.”
El Abdi said the key to building such a strong rapport with his students was expressing his pride in their work. “I pushed them to do their best -- I expected great things of them, but they had to prove themselves. They had to prove that I was right about the quality of work they could produce. That is how you develop a strong student-teacher relationship,” he explained.
El Abdi’s excitement and passion to teach and strengthen the knowledge of his students is emphasized in the words those in his class used to describe his teaching methods. “He was always energetic and enthusiastic about class material and made you want to learn,” said Justin Tolley. “Dr. El Abdi saturated the air with a contagious thirst for knowledge and constantly pushed his students to continue learning. I honestly cannot imagine learning more in this course with a different instructor,” wrote Daniel Johnston, another student enrolled in the comparative studies seminar.
El Abdi, who has master’s degrees in political science and international relations and a Ph.D. in political science from Mohammed V University, was selected for the RU position after RU’s International Education Center (IEC) applied to host a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence (SIR). The SIR program was designed to help institutions address curricular needs and stimulate faculty and staff development. The IEC was seeking an expert in the fields of political science, international relations, and the history and culture of North Africa and the Middle East.
“RU does not have a specialist in the politics of North Africa and the Middle East, so Dr. El Abdi’s residency has allowed us to fill a curricular gap and serve our students more effectively,” said Jon Stauff, director of the IEC. “His dynamic presentation as a professor has introduced students to a different approach to learning about political science and constitutional law. The entire RU campus has benefited in some way from Dr. El Abdi’s time in Virginia this academic year.”
In conjunction with the IEC, El Abdi is working to establish an exchange program between RU and Mohammed V University, a common goal he and the university share to provide students every opportunity to incorporate international education into their studies.
“Dr. El Abdi is one who believes it is vital for individuals to communicate and collaborate across cultural and national boundaries,” said Charles McClellan, professor emeritus of history. “What I have seen of his interaction with students has greatly impressed me. He is there for them as a facilitator, mentor and advocate. He challenges his students to exceed their expectations and to expect more from themselves for the future. I can only imagine that his motivational approach to teaching inspires greater self-confidence. While many teachers bring a similar pedagogical technique to the classroom, I’ve seen few use it as effectively as he does.”
El Abdi’s experiences during his time at RU were just as memorable. “It was an amazing academic year for me, and I will never forget all of the Radford University teachers, students and staff,” he said.
To learn more about RU’s International Education Center, visit intlprog.asp.radford.edu or call (540) 831-6200.
June 4, 2009