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UW-Eau Claire Hosts Fulbright Scholar
From Islamic University of Gaza

 MAILED:  Feb.16, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is hosting Fulbright Visiting Scholar Mohamed Riffi from Gaza, Palestine, for the current academic year.

Riffi, an associate professor of mathematics at Islamic University of Gaza in Rimal, Gaza, is one of approximately 800 foreign faculty and professionals brought to the United States this year to teach and do research through the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Riffi teaches probability theory and mathematical statistics courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels at his home university. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt; a master’s degree in mathematics from Ohio University; and a Ph.D. in Probability Theory from Northwestern University.

While at UW-Eau Claire, he is researching the use of technology as a tool in the teaching of mathematics. In addition, he is teaching a statistics course this semester.

“I’m using technology as much as possible in the course I’m teaching,” said Riffi, whose research is focused on identifying and examining approaches to using technology in teaching university mathematics in a virtual learning environment and in a technology-supported classical classroom. He is examining various technology set-ups of a classroom in terms of the computers, lap tops, wired and wireless computer networks, projection systems and course management systems and investigating the technology tools and resources that can be used for this purpose.

Riffi said his home university, IUG, is committed to using technology as a learning and teaching tool and to making many of its programs open to anyone any place and time. In 2001, he directed a WebCT pilot project in which 40 IUG faculty members from diverse disciplines attended training workshops and are designing their courses for online delivery.

The project prompted technical and curriculum questions about how to use e-learning effectively to teach mathematics in the virtual environment and in the traditional classroom. For that reason Riffi pursued a Fulbright to come to a U.S. university to work in computer labs, visit mathematics classrooms and search the library for research papers and technical reports.

Riffi had three choices of universities for his project. He chose UW-Eau Claire because of its excellent computing facilities and its experienced faculty. He was familiar with mathematics professor Mohamed Elgindi, who worked on a project teaching differential equations using Mathematica and Maple software.

“UW-Eau Claire is well-known for its use of technology in teaching, and Dr. Elgindi’s work was related to what I wanted to do, so I chose to come here,” Riffi said. “It’s a wonderful place. Everyone is friendly and helpful, and I like the environment here very much, especially the rivers and rolling hills.”

Karl Markgraf, director of the Center for International Education at UW-Eau Claire, said it’s an honor to have a Fulbright Scholar on campus.

“Fulbright is the biggest international exchange program in the world,” said Markgraf, the campus’ faculty adviser for Fulbright. “More people have visited other countries through Fulbright than any other program.”

UW-Eau Claire is hosting two other Fulbright scholars, Carlos Villa Angulo from Mexico, and Rodolpho Valdes from Panama, who are here for six months to study English as a Second Language.

Markgraf is one of several UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff who have participated in Fulbright programs. He attended the Fulbright International Education Administrators Seminar in Germany. Others include economics professor Rose-Marie Avin, who received a Fulbright Summer Abroad Scholar Program grant to Brazil, and senior biology major William “Chris” Lamanna, the recipient of a 2003-04 Fulbright Scholarship to study microbiology and conduct research in Germany.

“The basic inspiration for the Fulbright program grew out of the horror of World War II,” Markgraf said. “Sen. Fulbright wanted to mitigate the possibility of another catastrophic war by establishing the program to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to democratic values world wide.”

The program’s goals are to increase understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchange; strengthen U.S. ties with other nations; promote international cooperation; and to develop peaceful relations between the United States and other countries.


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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(715) 836-4741

Updated: February 18, 2004