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Undergraduate Researchers

Asif Majid, Interdisciplinary Studies

"The Moroccan Diaspora: An Identity Struggle"

Juxtaposing their experiences against a backdrop of living in the Global North, members of the Moroccan diaspora undergo a unique identity struggle, given the already complex nature of Moroccan society.  A multicultural environment, Morocco is influenced by Berber, Arab, African, and European traditions with incredible variety ranging from north to south.  Accordingly, this research project seeks to examine the challenges that Moroccans living outside Morocco experience in cultural, political, social, geographic, and economic terms.  Through an interdisciplinary analysis, I plan to explore how this identity struggle is experienced and what lessons may be derived from it so that peace may develop or be maintained despite whatever diasporic challenges exist.  Through a video documentary, I plan to then extrapolate the multicultural and identity-based nature of this research project into possible implications for peace both in Morocco and within the diaspora community.

When and how did you find out that you could do independent research or creative work as a UMBC undergraduate?
I first found out that independent research was an option while searching for colleges and determining whether or not UMBC was the right choice for me.  This was late 2008 or early 2009.

How did you find a mentor and decide on a project? How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
I found a mentor that shared my interests and with whom I felt I had a good connection.  She happens to also be the advisor for my self-designed major.  I knew I wanted to do this project because of my background investigation as well as my intention to study abroad and match up my interests in that manner.

How much time do you/will you put into this research/creative work?

My research will require me to do interviews, background investigation, and edit video footage.  This will probably be at least a month of intense work, in addition to forming the questions and answers throughout the prior semester.

What academic background did you have before you started on this research?

Before starting the research, I will have developed language skills, field study basics, and knowledge of what identity means within a Moroccan context.  These will supplement my experiences and understanding of the Middle East in a way that will help shape my project.

How did you learn about applying for the Undergraduate Research Award? Was the application hard? Did your mentor help you?

I learned about the URA around the same time that I knew of the opportunities to pursue research at UMBC.  I did not find the application to be too difficult, but a few revisions were necessary.  My mentor was very helpful throughout this time, giving me advice and commenting on drafts.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Research is about asking questions.  I think that if there is a question that any student is interest in, they ought to pursue it in a manner that will lead them to inquire.  Doing so is personalized and individualized, and should be encouraged as it is at UMBC.  Students should take advantage of the opportunities available and answer the questions that they have.

What are your career goals
I plan to participate in Peace Corps, work for USAID, achieve a PhD, or all three.