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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

That's a stark difference from nearby Florence, he said, which is home to about 50 American university programs. With such a heavy concentration of American college students, Boren said, university officials were concerned that OU students would socialize only with other Americans rather than with local people.

As a way to foster a relationship between the campus and the city, students will be required to take a class that gets them involved with the community, said Zach Messitte, dean of the OU College of International Studies. The university is also looking to organize a program similar to OU's Big Event, an annual student-run service project at the OU-Norman campus.

Having a permanent campus overseas will increase the number of students who study abroad, Messitte said. Traditionally, he said, students who study abroad tend to be language or international studies majors, with a few students in other programs like art history.

A permanent OU campus makes studying abroad a more viable option for students in other programs, he said, because it will allow the university to offer a greater variety of courses in Italy. OU will be sending a professor to Arezzo to serve as the faculty member in residence, Messitte said. That faculty member will teach courses in his or her own discipline, he said, but they will be geared toward a more general audience.

For example, he said, if the faculty member is an engineering professor, he or she might teach a course on Roman aqueducts. If he or she teaches international studies, courses might be offered in issues like human trafficking and combating the Mafia. These courses would be supplemented by other classes taught by adjunct faculty members from the area, he said.

Even as they complete those courses, Boren said, students will be exposed to Italian life and culture. Making such overseas programs available to as many students as possible is a top priority of the university, he said. It's especially important as those students graduate and enter an economy that is increasingly global in nature.

“The vast majority of these students will in one way or another need to be able to interact with people in other countries,” he said. “To be fully literate, they need to be globally literate.”

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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