UC-Mexico Initiative Kicks Off in Ensenada

By: Carolina Dominguez

The first formal gathering for the UC-Mexico initiative occurred this past week in Ensenada, Mexico.

The UC-Mexico initiative was launched in January 2014 by UC President Janet Napolitano and has been led by UC Riverside. The goal of this initiative is to build a sustained, strategic and equal relationship between campuses in California and Mexico. Along the way, the initiative will identify common areas of interest and address critical issues.

“This series of meetings in Ensenada between University of California representatives and those from Mexican universities, government agencies and research and cultural institutions is a chance to brainstorm, roll up our sleeves and advance our common agenda,” Napolitano said. “We’ve made substantial progress already building relationships and cementing our mutual commitments to work together. These meetings are about next steps and opportunities.”

The structure of the initiative includes an advisory board, working groups, an internal coordinating committee and initiative administration.

The advisory board advises on strategic direction, policy and resources issues and it is co-chaired by Napolitano and Jose Narro, director of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Working groups currently oversee areas of energy, education, environment, health and arts and culture. These groups foster collaborative research and scholarly activity on critical issues. Each working group will develop opportunities for increased student and academic exchange. The members of these working groups are faculty from the campuses and laboratories of all 10 UC’s, as well as partners from Mexican universities and government agencies. Each group has been granted $10,000 per year in order to fund meetings. It is expected that each group meets at least once a year, with locations alternating between California and Mexico.

The Internal Coordinating Committee, coordinates UC systemwide activities and interests. It includes working group chairs and vice chairs from each group, as well as directors of UC centers focused on Mexico.

The Initiative administration’s executive sponsor is UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox. The project lead is UCR Associate Chancellor Cindy Giorgio. Its assistant directors are Alberto Diaz and Veronique Rorive, who both have experience working with the University of California.

Since the 1980s, UC student exchanges have been helping build relationships between California and Mexico. Through the UC Education Abroad Program, UC students can study at UNAM, which is recognized as a leading research university in the Spanish-speaking world. Students can also conduct field research through the UC Center Mexico City Program. Research is conducted in Oaxaca, Yucatán, Chiapas, Querétaro, or Mexico City, where students work one-on-one with Mexican professors on a research project. Seven of the 10 UC campuses also offer faculty-led study abroad opportunities. These programs are aimed to foster stronger partnerships between the next generation of both Californian and Mexican scholars.

Upcoming events of the initiative include a UC Mexicanistas Conference set to take place at UCI on May 14-16, a Going Global Conference proposed for June 1-2 in London and a Renewal of the UC-CONACYT (National Council for Science and Technology) Agreement taking place June 2015.