By Erin Holaday Ziegler
The University of Kentucky is one of America's first universities to receive students from the southwest Asian state of Oman in a five-year scholarship agreement with the nation's Ministry of Higher Education. UK welcomed 50 undergraduate students to campus last week.
Most Omani students will be registering for American engineering, computer science and business courses in January 2012, after an intensive English language program (IELP) at their respective university, but UK has the ability to enroll students now, due to its English as a Second Language Program's (ESL)'s mid-fall admit date.
"Our Center for English as a Second Language has increasingly become an integral part of the academic program at UK, as we seek to provide academic advising even before the students matriculate into credit-bearing courses," said Susan Carvalho, UK's associate provost for international programs. "We realize that, like many of our other ESL students, they are here not just to learn English but to earn an undergraduate degree, and we are ready to help them achieve that goal."
Oman's Ministry of Higher Education created a scholarship fund, sponsored by the Sultan, to provide 1,500 merit-based undergraduate scholarships to its 2011 high school graduates; 500 of these are for U.S. study.
The Ministry plans to offer 500 U.S. scholarships each year, with the goal of awarding 2,500 U.S. scholarships over the next five years. Students who are designated to receive scholarships to the U.S. are the top performers of all scholarship recipients, as determined by their high school exam results.
According to Carvalho, the Gulf region has been providing government scholarships for graduate students using this same model for quite some time. "This is the first time we have been part of such a program for undergraduate students, and we are honored," she said.
Some of the Omani students will be housed in UK's Global Village living-learning residence hall, where they can live alongside U.S. students who have expressed an interest in global communities. "International students add a welcome dimension to residence life and to classroom discussions for all of our undergraduates," Carvalho said.
Other U.S. universities hosting Omani students include California State-Long Beach, University of South Carolina, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Washington State University, University of North Texas, University of Nebraska-Omaha, University of Tulsa, San Diego State University, Oregon State University, Ohio University and the University of Minnesota.
“Our selection recognizes the University of Kentucky’s longstanding commitment and experience in building partnerships and providing opportunities for students from Oman and elsewhere in the Middle East," said Carvalho, "as well as the global reputation of our programs in engineering, computer science and business."