This week's dedication of the Tangier campus of the University of New England brought a number of dignitaries to Tangier, including Maine Governor Paul LePage and new US Ambassador to Morocco Dwight Bush (both men also visited the Legation).
We had reported back in January on the "soft opening" of UNE Tangier, where the pioneer group of students and faculty started using a facility that was still getting its finishing touches. Well, the paint has dried, and what a beautiful campus it is.
Much of the credit goes to two people: Dr. Anouar Majid, born in Tangier, whose "crazy idea" was pitched to his boss, Dr. Danielle Ripich, President of UNE. Getting a small, private university to break new ground and become the first American university to have its own campus in Morocco was no mean feat in normal times.
But Majid managed to convince President Ripich to take the gamble during the uncertainty surrounding the Arab Spring. No wonder the amusing dedication ceremony video compared Majid to Zorba the Greek – "a man needs a little madness" – getting his boss fired up to bouzouki music.
Now comes a different kind of hard work. The impressive building was put up in record time, but there's the long haul of populating the program with waves of students, developing courses to take advantage of their unique setting on the Strait of Gibraltar (UNE Maine has a Marine Science program), and building on partnerships with local and regional institutions.
This is where TALIM comes in. We've already welcomed UNE volunteers to help our in our research center and women's literacy program, and UNE staff and students are regulars at our cultural presentations. We'd like to see even more of this in future, and are thrilled that this center of American higher education is just up the road.
Not bad for a "crazy idea." Congratulations to visionaries Dr. Majid and Dr. Ripich.