CORVALLIS - Oregon State University is one of 11 universities chosen to take part in the inaugural U.S. Department of State program that brings Muslim students from the Middle East and North Africa to study at American universities.

The program, Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies or PLUS, was created to promote educational exchange and cultural understanding between Americans and young people from Muslim-majority countries.

Oregon State will host six students - two from Morocco and Syria, and one each from Egypt and Saudi Arabia - in the College of Liberal Arts. They will arrive on campus next week.

"This program brings a different population to campus than we normally have and increases the diversity of representation in our international student population," said Valerie Rosenberg, director of International Student and Faculty Services. "The students are often from underserved regions and social groups in their home countries and might not normally have access to U.S. higher education."

The program's criteria includes two years of study in their home country, studying in the field of liberal arts, good academic standing, exhibit leadership skills and being part of an underrepresented group in the country.

Overall, 71 students are participating in the first year of the program. The students have been enrolled in intensive English language courses in Washington, D.C., for the past six months. Overall, they will be in the United States for two-and-a-half years.

"Part of the program is to be here and volunteer in community service so that they experience another aspect of life in the United States," said Marybeth Trevino, coordinator for Sponsored Student Programs in International Student and Faculty Services.

The other universities involved with the program are Montana State University, University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, University of Nebraska Omaha, Beloit College in Wisconsin, Denison University in Ohio, Grinnell College in Iowa, Juniata College in Pennsylvania, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Sweet Briar College in Virginia.

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Valerie Rosenberg, 541-737-4629