From left to right, Brenau Executive Vice President David Barnett, Brenau President Anne Skleder and Director General Bernardo Meneses and Secretary General Ileana Molo pose for a photo after signing an agreement for a partnership between Brenau and IFARHU, Panama’s financial aid agency, on campus in Gainesville on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Panamanian agreement strengthens Brenau international partnerships

Nov 16, 2020
Ben McDade

Brenau University continues to strengthen its international partnerships through inking an agreement with Panama’s financial aid agency that sponsors students abroad. The partnership was formalized on Nov. 16 at a socially distanced signing ceremony on Brenau’s historic Gainesville campus.

Panama is five years into a 20-year reform of their educational system, which focuses on creating access opportunities to bridge the equity gap and bilingualism as the keys to becoming a more competitive economy. Educating students abroad is an integral part of the effort. Instituto para la Formación y Aprovechamiento de Recursos Humanos (IFARHU) is Panama’s financial aid agency and provides aid and student loans at all levels of the educational continuum.

“We are thrilled to enter into this mutually beneficial and strategic partnership with the Panamanian government,” said Brenau University President Anne Skleder. “I’m proud of Brenau’s more than 143-year tradition of supporting high achieving and academically motivated students who may have fewer avenues to pursue a higher education. We know education changes lives and the trajectories of families. 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.”

Bernardo Meneses, IFARHU director general who serves on the cabinet of Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo and led the four-person IFARHU delegation, said the Brenau partnership is an ideal one for the students they are looking to serve.

“I’m very excited to sign this agreement with Brenau University as there will be many benefits made possible through our partnership,” he said. “I am especially looking forward to the exchange programs with the Panamanian universities for the students to come and go.”

Rosi Ponce, Brenau University’s executive director of international strategy and partnerships, said that the university checks many boxes the Panamanian initiative seeks in forming partnerships. “It is our goal to establish a long-lasting relationship with the country of Panama and to work with IFARHU going forward,” Ponce said. “Brenau University has the resources and expertise to provide Panamanian students with the skills required to help them be successful in their academic pursuits.”

Ponce said other important qualities that Brenau provides to the partnership include a student-centered culture within a diverse community where every student voice matters, experience in international collaborative partnerships, a safe and nurturing environment supported by well-qualified, caring and dedicated faculty and staff and an array of enriched campus experiences with multiple extra-curricular activities to enhance learning in and outside of the classroom.

Ponce added that as part of Brenau’s internationalization efforts, the university will help facilitate academic collaborations through partners in Panama to benefit students, faculty and staff from the wealth of possibilities the country has to offer.

Brenau University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Eck said that he looks forward to supporting faculty as they serve these students.

“Our faculty have a long and demonstrated track record of dedication to planning and implementing successful programs for domestic and international students,” he said. “The campus will welcome this new opportunity with enthusiasm and an excellent educational experience for which Brenau is known. We are pleased to add to our cultural diversity as it is a significant benefit to all Brenau students.”