UMaine, Orono High School to collaborate | News

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UMaine, Orono High School to collaborate
News, Schools

The Orono School Committee Wednesday night 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.

Under the agreement, which takes the form of a memorandum of understanding, UMaine will reserve up to 56 residence hall living spaces to accommodate these students.  The program will begin in the fall of 2011. Orono High School currently has 12 international students with verbal commitments for 50 students next school year.  Those commitments derive from Orono's relationships with a placement agency and the high school's "sister school" in Changsha, China.

The students will all live in close proximity in a designated part of Gannett Hall, with a live-in residential life professional staff member assigned specifically to their supervision.  The Orono School Department will employ that staff person, who will be fully integrated into the university's residence life operation.  In addition to housing, these students will have access to UMaine's dining facilities, recreation and social life programs and all the services available to any resident student.  They will travel by bus to Orono High School for classes and activities associated with their roles in that community.

As the program grows, it is likely that more staff members will be hired.

"Access to UMaine facilities and programs will enhance the opportunities for these international students in significant ways while enriching the experiences of UMaine students," says Robert Dana, UMaine's vice president for student affairs and dean of students.  "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. This sort of partnering strengthens our academic and social program and we are thrilled to be moving in this direction."

UMaine currently has nearly 400 international students among its total student population of 11,501.  It has residence hall space for 3,800, currently operating at 94 percent capacity.

Orono High School principal Jim Chasse is currently leading an aggressive international student recruitment effort.  He traveled to China last spring to foster connections with schools in that country, and he is planning to visit Sweden later this year.

"The high school has always benefited from our successful AFS student exchange program.  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 says. 

He describes a threefold purpose behind the initiative:

 1) a better local yet global education for Orono High School students

 2) a U.S. educational experience for qualified international students and

 3) maintaining a 380-400 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 says. "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 this arrangement to be long-term.  It will be evaluated in December 2011, June 2012 and annually thereafter, to be sure that it is meeting the needs of the students, the Orono community and the university.

News, Schools