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April 23, 2014 | last updated April 23, 2014 11:36 am

LePage seeks trade options, visits UNE Morocco campus

Government and college officials celebrated the University of New England's new science-focused campus in Morocco at a dedication ceremony this week.

Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Dwight L. Bush Sr. and school President Danielle Ripich were among the guests at Tuesday's event.

During the hour-long ceremony, LePage urged UNE's inaugural class to come back to Maine after finishing school there. The Republican governor was reportedly exploring trade opportunities while on his trip to the northwestern African country.

"As one of the most important free trade zones in the world, Morocco has aggressively developed its infrastructure to become a gateway to North Africa and the European Union," LePage said in a UNE press release. "There are excellent opportunities for Maine companies to expand foreign investment in our state. To keep creating jobs here at home, we are doing everything we can to reach new customers for Maine-made products abroad."

The Morocco campus, which opened in January, was expected to enroll 30 students for a pilot program that combines international experiences with American-style science classes, Ripich told Mainebiz last December. The campus, located on the grounds of the American School of Tangier, is part of UNE's 10-year "Vision 2017" strategic plan. Plans were finalized in 2012.

Ripich previously said UNE chose Morocco as part of its expansion efforts partly because Anouar Majid, the school's associate provost for global initiatives, is Moroccan.

"Fewer than 1% of U.S. students study abroad because they can't get U.S. science courses," Ripich had said, referring to statistics from the Institute of International Education.

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