By Melanie Cain
The journey that has brought international student Driss El Akrich from his native Morocco to has been nothing short of amazing. Along the way, Driss has taken advantage of some great opportunities and has added an impressive set of programs, honors, and activities to his credentials.
Though he has always been interested in government and public administration, Driss earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Moulay Ismail University and a certification in Communication from Mohammed V University & Rotary Clubs. He moved from Morocco to the United States in January 2002 as part of the Fulbright exchange program, becoming the first Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Arabic in the history of the U.S.
After coming to this country, Driss began to pursue his life-long interests in government and public administration. “From my earliest years, I have avidly followed political developments through newspapers, magazines, and television,” he says. “This area of study is crucial to the development of any country, including Morocco. Morocco is embarking on long-overdue reforms. It is important for the next generation of Moroccans who want to influence new policies and benefit from them to be prepared for this significant task.”
Accordingly, Driss attended Arkansas State University and earned two master’s degrees while he was there. In May 2004, he graduated with a master’s in Public Administration, and in May 2005, he added a master’s in Political Science.
During his time at Arkansas State, Driss also participated in a number of extracurricular organizations and programs. He was a language instructor in Arabic, became heavily involved with the Student Government Association, worked with the Office of International Programs and the Middle East Studies Committee, and participated in the Model United Nations group, as well as a number of other campus and community activities.
Leaving ASU, Driss knew he wanted to continue his education and involvement with political and international activities. Then he heard about UIS from a friend who worked at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and subsequently enrolled in the Doctor of Public Administration program. “As one of the leading educational institutions in the U.S., UIS is uniquely positioned in the state capital to provide me with cutting-edge educational knowledge and skills in my area of interest,” says Driss.
Driss also feels that the experience he is gaining from his studies at UIS will benefit him in his future endeavors. “The DPA program is enabling me to work with specialists and policy makers in the field of public administration. It’s helping me acquire the crucial skills to assist the specific needs of my country in remaining an active member in the international arena,” he explains. “My ultimate goal is to serve in government and to devise new and improved ways of better serving the public.”
Driss couldn’t be more pleased with his decision to come to UIS. “What I enjoy most about UIS is the high caliber of the faculty, the research-oriented mission of the institution, and its highly valued academic freedom in helping students get the expertise needed to make them better leaders,” he says. “I also like how much the university invests on its students, faculty, and staff to equip them with the cutting-edge information to compete not only nationwide, but in the international arena as well.”
“Being an international student at UIS is very rewarding,” says Driss. “I get to make new friends almost on daily basis. I also have the opportunity to share and exchange ideas and thoughts with highly cooperative and understanding faculty, students, and staff. It’s a great place, and I am very thankful to be within a community that embraces diversity and promotes respect for everybody.”