U.S. Colleges Help International Relations

By Spellmann, Dennis C. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 26, 1996 | Go to article overview

U.S. Colleges Help International Relations


Spellmann, Dennis C., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The higher educational system in the United States is a unique entity to many other countries: a mix between private and public, tax-supported and privately funded. While certainly not perfect, U.S. models are increasingly used by emerging countries when establishing higher educational systems of their own. These countries view education as the key to freedom and independence for their emerging economies. Many need better educational opportunities to help create a stronger middle class.

Panama is one such country. The country and its people are moving from a period of reliance on others and entering the 21st century with greater autonomy and independence. By the year 2000, Panama will stand on its own. The United States will turn over all property it currently owns to the government of Panama as stipulated in the 1977 treaty.

An agency, known as Autoridad de la Region Interoceanica, or ARI, was created in Panama to administer the properties of the withdrawing United States forces. ARI developed a concept called the City of Knowledge to be housed in one military base. The objective of the City of Knowledge is to convert Panama into an international center of educational services of the highest standards. The government will make Albrook Air Force Base, scheduled to be vacated soon, into a complex for scientific research centers as well as education and training institutions that take advantage of the country's environment and complement its position as a commercial, industrial and financial center in the region.

The concept is aimed at strengthening economic and social structures in Panama. But not only Panama would benefit. Panama believes in the future and the value of a good education. The City of Knowledge would benefit other nations in the region, allowing students to come, study and take back what they have learned, applying the information to their own country's needs. Panama would act as a coordinating point for education in the Latin American areas.

The City of Knowledge is based on three fundamental elements: an American-style university, research institutions and private enterprise training centers. Its stated mission is to "create a multinational community that can develop educational, scholarly, social and economic initiatives to address themes of global significance in which Panama can become a one-of-a-kind demonstration site."

That vision, and Lindenwood College's innovative approach to higher education, prompted an invitation to visit Panama from the First Lady, Dora Boyd de Perez Balladares.

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