University of Oklahoma renovates Tuscan monastery for use as overseas campus

The University of Oklahoma is renovating and restoring an 18{+t}{+h} century monastery in Arezzo, a city in Tuscany. Once work is complete, the university plans to use the building as a permanent campus overseas, said OU President David Boren.
by Silas Allen Published: April 22, 2012

The University of Oklahoma already has three campuses in the state.

Now, university officials are planning to open another location a bit further afield.

OU is renovating and restoring an 18th century monastery in Arezzo, a city in Tuscany. Once work is complete, the university plans to use the building as a permanent campus overseas, said OU President David Boren.

The idea behind the campus, Boren said, is to provide study-abroad opportunities for students who might not be willing to participate in one of the university's other overseas programs.

OU has exchange agreements with universities in countries around the world, including a small program in Arezzo. But many students seem to be apprehensive about going off to one of those universities and being treated more or less the same as any other student, Boren said. Likewise, he said, many parents have misgivings about sending their students to a foreign country where they aren't sure they'll be safe or supervised.

The Arezzo campus would serve as a sort of first step for those students and their parents, he said. Although the campus is on a different continent, he said, it's in a relatively small, safe city, and OU faculty and staff will be on hand.

“In a way, this is sort of an icebreaker,” Boren said.

All told, the project will cost about $20 million to complete, Boren said. The university plans to fund the project through private donations, he said. University officials have already raised about $14 million toward that goal, he said.

OU students are already studying in Arezzo, Boren said. Until the facility is complete, those students are housed with families and in hotel rooms, he said. Although the project is still two or three years from completion, there is already a waiting list for faculty members interested in teaching at the Arezzo campus, Boren said.

OU officials chose the location for the campus based on a number of factors, Boren said. Arezzo itself is a historic city, with a Roman wall and churches with detailed frescoes, he said. It's also convenient to other major cultural areas — Florence is a 25-minute train ride away, he said.

Although the city is in the middle of a rich cultural region, he said, it still provides an experience that is essentially Italian. Once the campus is open, Boren said, OU will be the only American university with a permanent presence in Arezzo. The only other college students in the city will be the roughly 2,000 Italian students from a nearby branch campus of the University of Siena, he said.

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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The vast majority of these students will in one way or another need to be able to interact with people in other countries. To be fully literate, they need to be globally literate.”

David Boren

University of Oklahoma president

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