May 1, 2013

Demonstrating the Power of People-to-People Exchanges

Professor Paul Heck of Georgetown University’s Department of Theology, is a 2008 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program alumnus who lectured in Arabic on the role of religion in the United States at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco. Dr. Heck worked with Moroccans he met during his Fulbright exchange and other exchange alumni to launch a new educational and cultural exchange program to foster the joint study of religions between citizens of the United States and Morocco. Heck is honored as the May 2013 Exchange Alumni Member of the Month for his efforts to foster mutual understanding.

As a Fulbrighter, and as the first non-Muslim U.S. lecturer of comparative religions in the Islamic Studies Department at Mohammed V University, Heck built strong relationships with fellow professors and exchange alumni. For example, Heck and Dr. Mohammed Amine Smaili, a professor of Islamic studies and an International Visitor Leadership Program alumnus, worked closely to establish the foundation for the eventual Morocco-U.S. interfaith exchange program.

Back in the United States, Heck worked with the U.S. Embassy in Rabat to bring his idea to fruition. He initiated an exchange program between graduate students from Georgetown University and from Mohammed V University. To implement the program, Heck again reached out to the exchange alumni network and partnered with several Moroccan exchange alumni professors at Mohammed V University. The exchange program, which has already hosted more than 20 religious-studies students and scholars from the two nations, aims to promote religious understanding across cultures and shape global religious thinking in the 21st century. This exchange program includes seminars and presentations as well as site visits, cultural activities, and scholarly discussions of religious traditions today. Finally, students who participated in this exchange program, as well as other religious scholars around the world, can continue the dialogue on the program’s new Study of Religions Across Civilizations (SORAC) website.

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Throughout May, Paul Heck’s work will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website for the more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.