The University of New England has opened a campus in Tangier, Morocco, and Gov. Paul LePage plans to attend an inaugural celebration there on April 22, in part to explore trade opportunities for the state of Maine.

UNE welcomed its first 23 students at its Tangier campus on Jan. 10, less than two years after entering into a formal agreement with the American School of Tangier, making it the only American higher education institution in the North African country, according to a news release.

UNE President Danielle Ripich said the new campus reflects “UNE’s commitment to advance the internationalization of higher education, create truly global citizens, and open new windows of opportunity not only for UNE students, but also the entire state of Maine.”

LePage noted that Morocco has aggressively developed its infrastructure to become a gateway to North Africa and the European Union.

“There are excellent opportunities for Maine companies to expand foreign investment in our state,” LePage said. “To keep creating jobs here at home, we are doing everything we can to reach new customers for Maine-made products abroad. I applaud President Ripich and her team for advancing higher education to the new Moroccan campus, which creates an educational partnership that will expand educational opportunities for UNE students and provide a Maine presence in the global trade economy.”

The university has invited dignitaries and representatives from Morocco, the city of Tangier, UNE’s global education partners, and the state of Maine to attend the inaugural celebration. Recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Dwight L. Bush Sr. also is expected to be there.

In addition to LePage and Ripich, expected attendees from Maine include Senior Education Policy Adviser Tom Desjardins, UNE Provost Jim Koelbl, UNE Vice President of Global Affairs Anouar Majid and UNE trustees. The university is covering the cost of the trip for LePage and Desjardins.

The UNE students’ inaugural semester in Tangier balances language and cultural enrichment courses with laboratory sciences that enable them to stay on track in their academic majors. Faculty members include UNE and Moroccan scholars who teach physics and chemistry, as well as basic Arabic and courses about Moroccan history and society.

The UNE students received Global Education scholarships funded by donor Josephine “Dodie” Detmer that paid for their round-trip airfare to the new campus. They have quickly immersed themselves in the culture and are actively exploring the region through trips to European and Moroccan cities such as Budapest, Amsterdam, Rome, Brussels, Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh.

Tangier is experiencing strong economic growth and cultural development. Its deep-water TangerMed cargo port is an active commerce and trade center located on the Strait of Gibraltar, at the crossing of two major maritime routes. It is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean Sea, connecting North Africa with the global import-export market.

UNE’s Majid, who is a native of Tangier, said Morocco’s King Mohammed VI just launched a five-year economic development effort that aims to transform the historic city into the most dynamic metropolis on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.

“UNE couldn’t have chosen a better location to build its first campus overseas,” Majid said.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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