2017-03-12 / Front Page

UNE builds educational, cross-cultural connections

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Maine university holds open house abroad
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — The University of New England is expanding its international recruiting efforts.

The university’s Tangier, Morocco, campus hosted its inaugural open house for Moroccan students interested in studying at the school’s campuses in Maine on Feb. 18.

About 250 Moroccan students attended the event to learn about UNE’s academic programs and its two campuses in Biddeford and Portland.

This was the first open house the university has held overseas. The university’s Tangier campus opened in 2014, under the direction of outgoing president Danielle Ripich, to allow Maine students to study abroad.

“We created our campus in the first place because we want to expose our students to different cultures and cultural traditions,” said Anouar Majid, the university’s vice president of global affairs and communications. “We chose Tangier because it sits at the intersection of many traditions.

“The main purpose was to send our students and give them that kind of experience,” he said Tuesday.

Studying abroad, Majid said, allows students from the United States to better understand cultures with which they may be unfamiliar.

“We’d be doing students a disservice in the United States if we did not expose them to other cultural traditions,” Majid said of Morocco, a Muslim-majority country.

“Our students get to see first hand, up close, how Muslims live in their own countries and that’s huge. To them when they come back they have an understanding of how those cultures really are,” he said.

And for those in Morocco, the same is also true. The value of hosting an open house, said Majid, is to encourage the reverse: to bring students from Morocco to Maine so they may better understand American culture.

“American culture is not as one-dimensional as it is represented in some parts of the Arab world or the Muslim world ... America is not just an imperialist nation,” Majid said. 

“The Islamic world and the United States seem to have oversimplified views of each other,” he added. “This kind of global education allows us to enrich our students culturally and help them  navigate the complex cultural environment.”

In addition, he said, education in the United States is desirable to people of foreign nations, and he’s hoping many Moroccans will take advantage of what the U.S. has to offer for them by attending UNE.

“There’s a core curriculum in all of American undergraduate education that doesn’t exist in the Moroccan system. It’s a very different way of doing education,” Majid said. “Higher education is one of the most attractive things about the U.S. overseas. It’s considered to be golden, actually.”

So far, 11 Moroccan students have applied to study in Maine, and Majid said he’s hoping to see more applications before the deadline, which is this Wednesday.

“It’s a start,” Majid said. “We’re dealing with a different socioeconomic demographic in Morocco ... it’s a different market. We’ll see how many are actually able to apply and study in Maine."

Although UNE is known for its strong curriculum and programming in the health sciences, Majid said a majority of those applying from Morocco are interested in traditional liberal arts programs, such as communications and political science.

“It’d be great if Moroccans can come here and boost our enrollment in those majors,” he said.

As the only Maine university to construct a campus abroad, Majid said UNE’s open house wasn’t just about recruiting new students; it was an “eloquent statement about UNE’s commitment to dialogue across culture.”

“UNE believes in the power of American education to build bridges and create a better world for all,” Majid said in a release. “Even if the current political climate is not optimal for encouraging Muslims to study in the United States, our faculty, staff and students on the ground dispelled any apprehensions Moroccan students and parents may have had about seeking an education in the United States.

“Actions like these make Americans shine abroad,” he said.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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