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Have drama, will travel
Gainesville State College begins a collaboration with a Moroccan university
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Brent Maddox, center, assistant theater professor at Gainesville State College, teaches an acting workshop this past summer for students at Hassan II University in Morocco. Maddox was part of a group of Gainesville Theatre Alliance professionals, along with faculty from Gainesville State College's Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis, to make the trip to Morocco for a collaboration with the university there.

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Chaudron Gille, director of Gainesville State College's Center for Teaching and Learning, talks about academic partnerships with Hassan II University in Morocco.

Gainesville State College is looking to add a Moroccan touch to its theater and geographic information system programs.

The school, along with three other state colleges and the University of Indiana, is exploring ways to develop partnerships with four universities from the North African nation through the Consortium for Moroccan and U.S. Higher Education Cooperation.

The effort has helped GSC "meet the requirement (of) the Board of Regents that we ... work on faculty exchanges, student exchanges and internationalizing the curriculum," said Mary Lou Frank, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Frank, who is in her third year at GSC, worked previously at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County, which had started a Moroccan exchange effort with a group of presidents in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

When she arrived at GSC, Frank inquired about the program with Kennesaw State and found that the effort had fallen dormant.

She pushed for restarting the effort, eventually getting agreements from Kennesaw State, as well as Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

"The University of Indiana (already) was doing something on its own," Frank said.

An agreement establishing the consortium was signed in May in Morocco, with Frank and GSC president Martha Nesbitt in attendance.

Chaudron Gille, director of Gainesville State College's Center for Teaching and Learning, now serves as the U.S. schools' coordinator for the consortium.

"We talked about various areas where we have strengths, areas that we were expanding, and we looked for areas where (the Moroccan universities) had strengths that would match," Gille said.

"They have an international university theater festival every summer and we thought that was a natural area to try to look for partnerships. We have our repertory company that travels every other year and we're exploring the possibilities of taking students over for that."

Gainesville State's Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis also caught the attention of the Moroccan schools.

"Our approach to teaching it is very different, and they were intrigued," Gille said.

She said GSC and the Moroccan schools are talking about other partnerships, "but there were clearly defined areas for projects in those two fields that we felt like we could begin immediately."

GSC theater and GIS faculty used an international theater festival in July to take a trip to the country, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Strait of Gibraltar and Mediterranean Sea and features the famed city of Casablanca.

Brent Maddox, assistant theater professor, taught a workshop. Jim Hammond, artistic and managing director of the Gainesville Theater Alliance, served as a jurist. The alliance is a collaboration of GSC, Brenau University and theater professionals.

And Gille, whose background is in 17th-century theater and cultural studies, participated in a roundtable discussion.

Hammond said Morocco doesn't "really have within their public universities actor or theater training programs."

"That is an area they are wanting to develop and that's one of the reasons they're interested in what we're doing here. ...They are wanting to see what our curriculum is, how we develop professional actors, directors and designers."

Hammond noted that his jury experience was an interesting one.

"All the plays were in Arabic, French, Spanish, German and Czech," he said. "I didn't understand a single word spoken from the stage, but interestingly enough, there's a lot you can evaluate other than the spoken word."

Lewis F. Rogers, director of Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis, said Hassan II University's Letters campus (the equivalent of a college of arts and sciences), in Mohammedia, wants to develop an introductory class "very similar to ours."

One of that program's coordinators has been to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship.

"If things work out, he'll probably come over here, we'll give them some intensive training, then (we'll) probably go over there and help him get set up," Rogers said.

Hassan II "has some real interest in doing some studies on their watersheds and so forth and that's one of our (specialties)," he added.

"We'll probably have students doing research with them, (as) we can do it over the Web."

Also, the country is "very concerned about climate change, sea level rise and studies in regard to that," said Rogers, a geologist.

Gille said Gainesville State is "primarily looking at curriculum development and opportunities for our students to be involved in the international arena, be that in person, by participating in theater festival or through projects that can be done in GIS."

The goal is to eventually take students there, but not as part of the traditional study abroad.

"We're much more interested in integrating our curriculum and having ongoing contact and some of their faculty come here, as well as opportunities for growth that our faculty experience by going over there," she said.

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