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Professor Shares Business Expertise through Fulbright, Aims to Erupt Economic Development on Volcanic Island of Rodrigues

April 28, 2016

This summer, Dr. Merouane Lakehal-Ayat, a professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance in the School of Business, will travel to Rodrigues, a small volcanic island in the heart of the Indian Ocean. His second trip to the island, he’ll be meeting with government officials and members of the Chamber of Commerce to analyze plans to grow the small country’s economy and ecotourism.


Lakehal-Ayat was tapped to serve as an expert counsel to the country through the Fulbright Senior Specialist program.

Lakehal-Ayat was named a Fulbright Specialist in 2013, joining a roster of experts from across the country who are available to engage in short-term collaborations with institutions and organizations from more than 140 countries.  Government officials from Rodrigues selected Lakehal-Ayat to aid in their economic development plans because of his past Fulbright experience in Malaysia, international relations expertise, and fluency in French.

His first visit to Rodrigues was in August 2015 to gain an in-depth knowledge of the economy, government, and culture of the country.

“My main objective was to set up a new structure in order to provide opportunities for the business community of Rodrigues to become a positive influence on the economic and social landscape of the country,” he explained.

Lakehal-Ayat and members of the Rodrigues Chamber of Commerce.

Lakehal-Ayat’s recommendations involved enlarging the island’s airport, which can only accommodate small to mid-sized planes, developing solar energy resources, expanding its export and fishing industries, and building ecotourism. The country benefits from unique vegetation and ecology and has little pollution, creating the necessity to balance a desire to expand its economy while preserving its pristine environment.

“Part of what I did was show what benefits advanced development can bring, from education and health care to infrastructure and technology. But I also shared things that developed nations have done that they now regret, so they can avoid it,” he explained.

Part of Lakehal-Ayat’s proposals are being implemented now, and will be reviewed when he returns in August.

Collaborations such as this are what Lakehal-Ayat said makes the Fulbright such an impactful program.

“Globalization is a key value in today’s landscape, and this kind of exchange really fulfills the mission of the Fulbright,” he said. “We can offer guidance and expertise while gaining an appreciation and respect for other cultures, creating an enriching experience on both sides.”

Fisher faculty members interested in learning more about the Fulbright U.S. Scholars program can attend a sponsored research workshop from 10 to 11 a.m. on Friday, May 6, in Room 102 of the Wegmans School of Nursing. Sponsored by the Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Relations, the workshop will feature Lakehal-Ayat and Dr. Jim Bowman, who received a Fulbright grant to Turkey this spring. Interested faculty can register for the workshop online.