UM to house foreign high school students

Posted Nov. 05, 2010, at 11:18 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The Orono School Committee has approved an initial agreement that will set aside University of Maine housing space and create other university-based opportunities for international students attending Orono High School beginning next fall.

Under the memorandum of understanding agreed to last month, UMaine will reserve up to 56 residence hall living spaces to accommodate the students, according to a university press release. A dozen international students now attend Orono High School and 50 are expected in fall 2011 due to its relationship with a “sister school” in Changsha, China.

The students will live in proximity to each other in a designated part of Gannett Hall, with a live-in residential life professional staff member employed by the Orono School Department and assigned specifically to their supervision.

In addition to housing, the students will have access to UMaine’s dining facilities, recreation and social life programs and all services available to resident students. They will travel by bus to Orono High School for classes and activities associated with their roles in that community.

“Access to UMaine facilities and programs will enhance the opportunities for these international students in significant ways while enriching the experiences of UMaine students,” Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in the press release. “At the same time, we look forward to welcoming them to the university community, where we prize diversity and international perspectives.

“I expect this group of students to integrate seamlessly and to be broadly involved, both at Orono High School and as contributing members of the University of Maine community,” he said. “This sort of partnering strengthens our academic and social program and we are thrilled to be moving in this direction.”

UMaine now has nearly 400 international students among its total student population of 11,501, according to university spokesman Joe Carr. It has residence hall space for 3,800, operating now at 94 percent capacity, he said.

Orono High School Principal Jim Chasse is leading an international student recruitment effort, he said in the press release. Chasse traveled to China last spring to foster connections with schools in that country. He is planning to visit Sweden later this year.

“The high school has always benefited from our successful [American Field Service] student exchange program,” Chasse said. “This additional initiative is a natural fit for a community like Orono. Our model program will capitalize on the best elements of being part of a university town, and we will see the impact in our classrooms and our community.”

Chasse described a threefold purpose behind the initiative:

ä Better local yet global education for Orono High School students.

ä A U.S. educational experience for qualified international students.

ä Maintaining a 380- to 400-student enrollment level at the school.

“We refer to this as ‘the best of both worlds,’ providing opportunities that derive from access to a successful high school and major university,” Chasse said. “It will be nice to see students from across the world experience the benefits that Orono students have had for a long time.”

UMaine and Orono officials expect the arrangement to be long-term. It will be evaluated in December 2011, June 2012 and annually thereafter, to be sure it is meeting the needs of the students, the Orono community and the university, according to the press release.

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