In 2011, the former University of Setif, in eastern Algeria, was split into two universities: Ferhat Abbas Setif 1 University for science, technology, and engineering, and Mohamed Lamine Debaghine Setif 2 University for humanities and social sciences.
Mami helped the young institution prosper and build connections.
“The first challenge was that we started from scratch,” she said. “It was a new university and a new department. All the infrastructure and international relations had to be built from zero. I contacted the people I know from all over the world to achieve that.”
Being a humanities and social sciences-focused university was the second challenge, Mami says.
“The majority here thinks there are no job or research opportunities in social sciences,” she explained. “We did our best to find a place for social sciences at Algerian campuses.”
Unimed was an early ally of the university’s internationalization strategy. “We have been partners since 2013,” Mami said. “Thanks to them, Setif 2 University has developed a very large network with other universities, and also in capacity building.”
Bridging Cultural Gaps
Mami conducted her post-doctoral research on educational psychology and foreign languages at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg.
It proved to be a challenging experience. She was forced to leave her first daughter, only four months old at the time, with her husband in Algeria. And it was her first ever trip to a European country.
“At the time, Algeria was just going out of the ‘Black Decade’ (1991-2002). In Europe, people had a very bad image of veiled Muslim women. They thought most of Algerians were terrorists,” Mami said.
However, Mami’s Swiss supervisor helped her overcome the cultural shock. “My supervisor’s long stay in Turkey helped her understand the culture and the religion,” added Mami. “Fortunately, they finally discovered who I am and explored a new face about Algeria.”
The challenges she faced abroad motivated Mami to do her best to help students find opportunities to study abroad.