MANKATO — Top officials from Minnesota State University's International Student Services center are traveling to Sudan late this month, part of a delegation looking to develop partnerships between American and Sudanese institutions of higher education.

MSU's Jacy Fry and Hamdi Elnuzahi were selected to be part of the American delegation, which will meet for five days starting Oct. 28 at Khartoum University to discuss possibilities for cooperation between colleges in the two countries.

About 60 Americans from universities ranging from Stanford to Johns Hopkins are part of the delegation, which was chosen by the Washington-based Institute for International Education, according to an article in the Sudan Tribune.

Fry is the director of the Kearney Center for International Student Services at MSU, and Elnuzahi is assistant director. They will be representing MSU's division of Global Education.

The Institute for International Education began discussions last year with officials in Sudan about opportunities for cooperation between post-secondary institutions in the two nations.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and Sudan's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research also were involved. When the forum — the first of its kind between the United States and Sudan — was scheduled, the IIE set up a competitive proposal process to pick members of the American delegation.

Running through Nov. 1, the forum will include a higher education partnership workshop, cultural activities and site visits to Sudanese universities.

MSU already has more than 200 students from Arabic-speaking countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Iraq. Sudanese students have studied in Mankato since the early 1980s, according to MSU. Elnuzahi, who is from Sudan, has served as the key contact for students from Sudan and from other Arabic-speaking and Gulf countries.

Elnuzahi also has led efforts to create unique cultural support systems for students, resulting in high satisfaction levels and retention rates for MSU students from that part of the world. Designated prayer areas and feet-washing stations have been added on campus, and a heavily attended annual prayer event is held at Centennial Student Union. Mankato's police force also includes an Arabic-speaking officer.

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