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Brenau welcomes 16 students from Panama as part of new program
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A delegation from Panama tours the Brenau University campus Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, led by Welcome Center Coordinator Sahara Outler. A group is partnering with Brenau to send cohorts of 15-20 students to the university as part of a 20-year reform of their educational system, which focuses on bilingualism as the key to becoming a more competitive economy. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville’s Brenau University rolled out the welcome mat for 16 students from Panama as part of a new international partnership.

The students, who were chosen for a five-year program after a selection process considering academic merit and financial need, arrived as part of a partnership signed in November between the school and Panama’s Institute for the Development of Human Resources.

“This is a group of students who are immensely bright and committed to learning,” Brenau University President Anne Skleder said in a statement. “They were at the top of their classes at each of their schools, and they have incredible ambition to be the first in their families to pursue college degrees of any kind.”

Skleder previously told The Times said the plan was for one year of intensive English learning and cultural immersion and four years of undergraduate study.

“We know education changes lives and the trajectories of families,” Skleder said in a statement. “Through this partnership, we know all of us will grow, including our domestic students by increasing their cultural awareness as they prepare to compete in a global society. We are humbled and honored to be a part of this effort.”

Brenau said Panama was now a quarter of the way through its 20-year educational reform plan that includes greater opportunities to break out of the cycle of poverty.

“We’re going to make sure they have the support they need to be successful,” said Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Emily Zank in a statement. “This includes a structured assessment communication plan and surrounding them with all of the resources available during their time at Brenau.”