Courtesy of Linda Luque Nunez
Wilkes University and Panama’s Department of Foreign Affairs, or MIRE (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Panamá), have partnered up to send diplomats from Panama to further their education here in America.
As a part of the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative, Wilkes University has built a relationship with the country of Panama and has established the Meduca program within the past two years. This program has helped public school teachers from Panama come to America to learn English and the American culture to use in their schools back home. Since this program has developed to help make Panamanian schools more bilingual, Wilkes and Panama have furthered their relationship to begin a new program to bring Panamanian diplomats in for a semester.
Specifically, the diplomats from MIRE expand their english speaking skills here at Wilkes University as well as taking classes that focus on Political Science and international relationships.
This spring semester there are four students who have come to Wilkes as a part of this relationship between the diplomatic academy of Panama’s MIRE. Their backgrounds of work and education range from bachelors to masters degrees in various majors. These diplomats come here for professional development purposes to bring back to Panama and use them in their various diplomatic positions.
Linda Luque Nunez is a Public Relations Official in Panama and is one of the students who have come to Wilkes University this semester as a part of this program. She has a Masters in Business Administrations. At Wilkes, Linda has also become apart of the Department of Diversity in her semester here.
“Here there is a lot of diversity, and I love that,” said Linda.
Francisco Javier Marquez Vega is an international analyst in Panama and is in charge of the Diplomacy Culture Department. Francisco has degrees in Tourism as well as Culture from the University of Panama.
“For me it’s very important and interesting to understand the American society,” said Fransico, “I am really enjoying this time here, it is very nice because it is my first time in the United States.”
Aileem Itzel Mejia Jovane works in the Department of Human Rights and has a masters in International Protection of Human Rights from the University of Alcalá in Spain, and a major in Law and Political Science.
“I can share what I learned with my colleagues, and just share the experience [of Wilkes],” said Aileem.
“It’s really interesting,” answered Aileem about how Wilkes differs from Panama.
Mario Alberto Morales Lopez is the fourth and final student that has joined the Wilkes University campus this spring as a part of the program. For MIRE, Mario is a Third Secretary of Diplomatic Career. He also has a degree in Law, Engineering, and Computer Science and is very experienced in his field.
Dr. Andrew Miller, advisor of these students and Wilkes Political Science professor, also takes time out of his summer to teach for a week in Panama as a part of this partnership.
“You are able to have students in class, in an International Relations class, that are literally International Relations professionals,” said Dr. Miller. “You try to make it good for them, but also good for Wilkes students to have this opportunity to interact with people that work with international relations out in the field.”
“The program is designed so they have full immersion experience on an American campus, the opportunity to learn more; especially on courses that have to do with the American government and institutions to add to their perspective,” said Rosi Ponce Executive Director of International Engagement.
The program takes the students to visit UN Panamanian representatives, the Panamanian representative in the organization of American States, and the Panamanian Embassy. It also welcomes them to join many of the opportunities and organizations on Wilkes’ campus.
“[The program] is a little bit of the theory from classrooms, but also a program that is enhanced with other opportunities for them to do a little bit more of the practical side of the program.” said Ponce.
For the future, Rosi Ponce has a hopeful outlook for the program to help further our relationship with Panama with Dr. Miller and the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Dr. Paul Riggs to send Wilkes students to intern at MIRE in Panama.
“We hope to promote not just students from Panama coming to us, but creating opportunities for American students to be there,” said Ponce.
“From my perspective, as a staff member, I think that they have not only benefited from the expertise of Dr. Miller and other faculty that they are interacting with. I believe that one of the most rewarding experiences is being able to make friends and interact with our students. On the flipside it has been a very positive experience for our students and faculty to be working with them as they bring a completely fresh and different respective to class,” said Ponce.
“This office is all about empowering and inspiring; we are trying to do our best for the student who come here so they can take the most of this program and other programs that we have,” added Nik Baliakin, Graduate Assistant of the Office of International Engagement.
In the Fall 2018 semester there will be two more MIRE diplomatic students who will join Wilkes’ campus.