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NMI should invite US students to study here, says MVA board member

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THE CNMI should look into the possibility of inviting U.S. college students to study in the islands, Marianas Visitors Authority board member Chris Nelson said on Wednesday.

“We should look at some small universities [whose students] may want to come here to study,” he said during an MVA board meeting, adding that the CNMI is a unique place in the United States because it is relatively Covid-19-free.

In an email interview with Variety, he said the U.S. is “shutting down in-person learning for university students and I think with our location, our hotel facilities, and our relatively Covid-free status, the CNMI could be a great place for college students to have in-person, face-to-face learning.”

He added, “Marine biology is a natural fit and I mentioned it as an example, but so is just university learning in general.  We have just over 2,000 empty hotel rooms and I think long-stay guests are a natural fit because of quarantine rules and regulations.”

Nelson said he would “like to investigate the possibility of inviting some U.S. colleges to have in-person classes here in the CNMI.   They could bring their professors and their students and teach their curriculum.  Sort of like a ‘Semester at Sea,’ but in a U.S. territory that has done a really good job at keeping Covid out. I think it could be good for the colleges, good for the students, and good for the CNMI economy.  The suggestion I made was to see if it was safe to do so and to investigate the possibility.”

MVA board member Warren F. Villagomez, who also chairs the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force, said the CNMI has the natural resources for marine biology studies.

He said Japanese students can also conduct their research and marine life exploration in the CNMI.

Marian Aldan-Pierce, right background, presides over the board meeting of the Marianas Visitors Authority with the MVA management led by managing director Priscilla Iakopo, left foreground, back to the camera, on Wednesday. Photo by Junhan B. Todino

Nelson said the students could be housed in hotels. Compared to the monthly rent in the states, he added, hotel room rates on Saipan are more affordable.

“I don’t think tourism is going to be here as we know it anytime soon from what we’re seeing,” he said.

MVA board vice chair Gloria C. Cavanagh, who is also president of the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, said the hotels could still be closed next year, but some of their rooms could be used as dormitories for off-island students.

However, she said some hotels may not be ready to give up their rooms for six months or  an entire year.

Still, she added, there are other accommodations on island that are also safe and clean and available to off-island students.

MVA board member Ivan Quichocho said Nelson’s idea will help sustain the islands’ tourism infrastructure.

“I think destinations that continue to maintain and reinvest…in their [infrastructure] has the best probability of recovering sooner than later,” he added.

Another MVA board member, Masato Tezuka, said bringing U.S. or Japanese university students to the CNMI is a good promotional scheme for the islands.

“This can be a new way of inviting tourists to come to the Marianas,” Tezuka added.

 

 

 

 

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