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MMA Strengthens Alliance with University in Puerto Rico

CASTINE, Maine - Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) and the college's Loeb-Sullivan School of International Business and Logistics recently hosted a contingent of more than 20 students, faculty, and administrators from Puerto Rico in early October. The visit, held Oct. 11-16, served to strengthen the college's ongoing relationship with the Catholic Pontifical University of Puerto Rico (CPUPR), located in Ponce with campuses in Bayamon and Arecibo. In addition to students and faculty, the visiting party will include Dr. Jorge Velez-Arocho, president of CPUPR.

Dr. William DeWitt, dean of MMA's Loeb-Sullivan School, and Dr. Elaine Potoker, director of Caribbean and Central American outreach for MMA, and faculty host of the special visit, arranged a number of programs to facilitate the exchange of ideas on various topics of mutual interest at administrative, faculty, and student levels. Focused panels and lectures explored contemporary events and measures impacting transportation and logistics in Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America. Dedicated discussion time surrounded the advancement of mutual faculty and student exchanges, and explored possibilities for the expansion of distance education.

The collaboration of the two institutions was conceived in 2004 to attract sustainable enrollment to both colleges on site and, more recently, through distance education. With the formal adoption of Memorandums of Understanding in 2006 and 2007, and a renewal of agreement in 2011, this important strategic alliance for both institutions taps the specialization and expertise of Maine Maritime Academy to meet the particular needs of Puerto Rico's island economy and potential for maritime trade growth in response to expansion of the Panama Canal. It also provides for a diplomatically friendly environment in which to offer significant exposure to cultural diversity, and student and faculty exchanges in several program areas, including foreign language, maritime trade and operations, and international business.

According to organizers, the MMA community rallied behind the visit at all levels of the college. The recent formation of a new student club, International Student Ambassadors (ISA) in preparation for the visit  provided one-on-one hosts for the 13 graduate and undergraduate students from Puerto Rico. "The energy around the visit was tremendous," said Potoker. "Our friends and business partners in education, including the Port of Portland and L.L. Bean, volunteered to showcase Maine's international business climate in action through on-site tours. Our dining service team offered Puerto Rican-themed meals in celebration of this exchange, and our mutual heritage of the sea was embraced in a sail aboard our schooner Bowdoin."

Throughout their stay on campus, students from Puerto Rico attended class with MMA's ISA student volunteers, while administrators and faculty meet to discussed goals and processes for advanced educational cooperatives. All  joined together to participate in a transportation and logistics workshop that will featured a series of integrated faculty panel discussions centered on key contemporary issues. The academic exchange culminated with a special lecture by Dr. Jaime Santiago, dean of the CPUPR College of Business administration, entitled "Impact of Panama Canal on Shipping in Caribbean/South America and the U.S. Northeast." The lecture was open to the public.

Friday's activities found guests on tours of L.L. Bean's order fulfillment center in Freeport, and at Maine's largest seaport, the Port of Portland. Scenic and recreational activities on Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park rounded out the last day of the visit. The group returned to Puerto Rico on Sun., Oct. 16.

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