August 15, 2008



Dr. Craig Wilson, Political Science Department, 657-2995
Dr. St. John Robinson, Modern Languages, 657-2966
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU Billings student accepted to Moroccan university for fall semester


By Dan Carter

MSU Billings News Service


Nicole Emmett’s life journey after high school had her starting off in medical school and then moving up from there as a doctor.

Nicole EmmettBut current events, a fondness for political science and a newfound affinity for the Arabic language are sending her in a new direction. About 5,100 miles around the globe, to be exact.


Interest what’s happening in the world today is a personal trait that she discovered during her senior year at Billings Skyview High School. The affection for political science and Arabic, she says, was developed at Montana State University Billings.


Now the 22-year-old Emmett is planning for a semester at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. She is the first MSU Billings student to be accepted into the program.


“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think everybody should get the opportunity to study abroad.”

Studying abroad was not her intentions when Emmett started her college career at the University of Colorado in 2004. A declared science major, she had her sights set on medical school.


News about the war in Iraq, however, which started during her last year at Skyview, continued to run in the background and drawing her interest while all things medical school-related faded. When she transferred to MSU Billings, she was “hoping for something a little different.”


“When I was taking some of my generals (a core of courses required for degree), I took some political sciences classes from Dr. (Craig) Wilson and Dr. (David) Hood and they were great,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for better professors.”


The different facets of foreign relations which get intertwined with politics – especially in the Middle East – drew her to the program. Soon, she declared herself a political science major and a history minor. She not only immersed herself into the programs, she jumped into the deep end of the pool learning everything she could about political science, world affairs, world history and cultures. 


She took part in a short trip to India with MSU Billings business professor Dr. Rakesh Sah in 2006, which she said cemented her desire to pursue a career abroad with the U.S. State Department.


“Seeing all those different cultures in India really did it for me,” she said. “It had a huge impact on my education, but also on my life in general.”


In the fall of 2007, she was one of the first students to enroll in an inaugural Arabic language class at MSU Billings. The class is taught by May May Hasan Naji Al Janabi, a native of Baghdad. As a student, Emmett said she was “extremely intimidated” when the class first started because the language was so different and the class was so new.


“There was the usual frustration by both her and the students,” Emmett said, “but because she was such a good teacher, she made it a lot better. We really got to understand things over time.”


Al Janabi was able to bring culture, history and current events into the language class, Emmett said, which boosted its appeal.

“I wish the class were available three years ago,” she said.


When the opportunity to study in Morocco came up this spring, she was encouraged by her professors to pursue it.


Wilson, chair of the political science department at MSU Billings, said the political science degree allows students the opportunities to follow their interests no matter what part of the country they happen to lie. Wilson, Hood and colleague Dr. Brian C. Reed all use their vast scholarly backgrounds to encourage students to move forward in different political science, international relations or foreign service.


“They were great. They make the learning of the subject really fun,” Emmett said.


The bachelor of science degree in political science is one of the newest degree programs at MSU Billings. It entails 120 credit hours of studies in which courses are oriented toward:

  • Preparing the student for citizenship roles in community and national affairs and providing a coherent knowledge of political and government activities;
  • Assisting the student to secure a broad liberal arts and sciences education;
  • Providing undergraduate preparation for those students who propose to study at the graduate level;
  • Offering general training for students who plan careers in government and public affairs;
  • Providing a sound background for those students who intend to enroll in law and other professional schools.

Right now, Emmett has her career sights set on the U.S. Department of State, specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. She is also preparing an application for the Peace Corps.


In the meantime, she will be busy planning her trip to northern Africa. She works 20 hours a week and will set aside as much money from work and loans to pay for the trip.


She had only a short time to persuade her parents (who now live in Minnesota) that studying halfway around the globe and delaying graduation for a little bit would be a good investment.


“This is a great opportunity,” she said.


Al Akhawayn is an American-style university and she will take some more political science and history courses to fulfill her degree requirements. She will have a Moroccan roommate and be able to travel through the country on weekends. Because French is spoken as much as Arabic in Morocco, Emmet will be able put her three years of French learned in high school to good use.


According to Dr. St. John Robinson, department chair of Modern Languages and Literature at MSU Billings, the 2007-08 academic year has been a banner year for students studying foreign languages overseas. 


The second point is that we are having a banner year for students studying language overseas. During spring semester, for example, the university had two students in Ludwigsburg University in Germany, three at Intercultura in Costa Rica and one at the Pontifica Universidad in Chile. 


Over the summer months, MSU Billings will have four students at Intercultura, Costa Rica, and one in the Netherlands at Maastricht. Next fall, the university will have one student in Germany at Ludwigsburg and two at Jilin University in China.


For more information about the MSU Billings political science degree, call 657-2311. For more information on foreign language studies at the university, call 657-2201.


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