WPI Doctoral Student Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Help Restore Historic City of Fès in Morocco

Hajar Jafferji Will Work with Local Craftsmen and College Students on the Rehabilitation of the City
May 11, 2015

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) doctoral student Hajar Jafferji has been awarded a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to study in Morocco.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists. Jafferji will represent the United States as a cultural ambassador while overseas, helping enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people of Morocco. She will join over 100,000 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni who have received grants since the program began in 1948.

"I am honored to receive the Fulbright award," Jafferji said. "I hope to learn more about Moroccan culture and to bring back lessons learned to enhance my future education and professional experience by continuing to establish, expand, and explore these vital international connections."

A resident of Salem, N.H., Jafferji designed her Fulbright project to focus on the historic city of Fès. Once a booming urban area, Fès is known for its architecture and the beauty of its palaces, mosques, and monuments. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1976, the city is now in need of critical restoration due to the deterioration of many of those structures.

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While in Fès, Jafferji will work with Ader Fès, an organization aiding the city's rehabilitation, and students at Al-Akhawayn University to investigate the traditional and modern building materials used in its deficient structures. Drawing on her background in structural engineering and infrastructure materials, she will also identify socioeconomic factors that led to the adoption of one type of material over another and investigate both the engineering and socioeconomic reasons for the failure of these materials.

"I believe that by restoring Fès, the history of the city can be preserved," Jafferji said "In particular, I look forward to working with the native artisans of Fès who continue to practice and safeguard their irreplaceable crafts."

Jafferji is currently pursuing a PhD in civil and environmental engineering at WPI, where she previously completed a BS (2011) and MS (2012) in the same field. A member of the Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon honor societies, in 2013 she presented a paper at the Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering Conference and was co-author on a paper presented at the International Conference on Cement Microscopy.

"Being a Fulbright scholar requires a variety of skills and talents," says Aaron Sakulich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who is Jafferji's advisor. "Students must have a solid technical background in order to carry out their research; must be self-motivated and self-reliant, as they will be thousands of miles from their home institutions; and must be socially aware, since they will be acting as cultural ambassadors of the United States. During the two years that I have been Hajar’s advisor, she has displayed all of these traits."

Upon completion of her doctoral studies, Jafferji’s goal is to pursue a career in academia, where she will seek a teaching position that allows her to maintain international connections. Ideally, she hopes to work at an institution that—like WPI—includes a study-abroad or global projects program as an integral part of the curriculum. Jafferji also plans to continue to be involved in STEM outreach programs for women by encouraging minority students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States. Operating in more than 155 countries worldwide, it has provided approximately 318,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach, or conduct research in other countries to exchange ideas.