New Agreement to Aid Rural Mexican Students
The UA continues to expand collaborations with higher-education institutions in Mexico and other countries around the world.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Relations - Communications
Dec. 9, 2015

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The agreement ceremony was held in the Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico.
The agreement ceremony was held in the Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico.


A new cross-border agreement signed by the University of Arizona and the National Association of Universities Polytechnic in Mexico will result in more Mexican students pursuing advanced studies and research opportunities in Tucson.

The UA's Office of Latin American Partnership Initiatives is facilitating the agreement, which involves dozens of polytechnic campuses in Mexico that are specifically targeting students in rural areas — and those who have interests in high-tech disciplines.

"We are so lucky to be this close to Mexico to encourage this type of partnership," said Nadia Alvarez Mexia, director of the office, which is housed within UA Global Initiatives. Alvarez Mexia traveled to Mexico for the signing with documents from Andew Carnie, the UA Graduate College dean.

Higher-education sectors and governments on both sides of the border are working to build greater capacities for binational access to graduate degrees and also research, innovation and economic development.

"The U.S. is seen as the door of the world, and it is well known for its research intiatives," Alvarez Mexia said. "Often, institutions in Mexico are trying to offer the best opportunities that they can, but they sometimes do not have the same resources."

The agreement, signed in November, comes as the UA continues to expand collaborations with higher-education institutions in Mexico and other countries around the world.

"This agreement advances our status as a preferred and trusted institutional partner supporting higher education in Mexico," said Mike Proctor, UA's vice president of global initiatives.

In particular, the agreement will support research stays for students and promote cooperation for the development of inter-institutional research projects and mobility teachers.

A Premium on Partnerships

The UA, under the charge of its Never Settle strategic plan, has greatly expanded its international partnerships to accelerate bilateral and inter-institutional student engagement and mobility, and also research and innovation.

Among numerous other examples campuswide, UA President Ann Weaver Hart and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM, signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year to establish a Center for Mexican Studies at the UA.

The UA also has led a number of outreach efforts through its statewide Cooperative Extension offices to help build a comparable land-grant network in Mexico. Called the Red de Extensión e Innovación Nacional Universitaria, also known as project REINU, it is a national university-based network of scientists and educators who provide resources and educational services across the country.

And the University maintains a partnership with the National Council for Science and Technology, also known as CONACyT, Mexico's equivalent of the National Science Foundation, which funds faculty.

The new partnership in Mexico builds on an earlier collaboration between the UA and Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa, and will focus on training students for master's and doctoral degrees to work in areas that include energy, information systems engineering and mechatronics. 

"In Mexico, there are few other ways for low-income classes to gain mobility. Studying in a high-tech university can bring more opportunities to students," Alvarez Mexia said.

In 2012, and under the supervision of the UA Graduate College, the UA and Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa collaborated to offer new research opportunities for undergraduate students from Mexico, pairing them with University faculty members. Maria Teresa Vélez, associate dean of the Graduate College, was a key supporter of cross-border, collaborative partnerships.

"The feasibility and effectiveness of links between universities can arise due to the world prestige of the UA," said Ismaylia Saucedo Ugalde, a professor and academic program director of engineering in computer science at Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa. "We are confident that our students will have the competencies and skills to be successful."

The Office of Latin American Initiatives Partnerships has faciliated those research experiences. All told, about 220 students sponsored by countries that include Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico have since been engaged through programs offered in the summer, winter and fall.

From Internships to Industry

Michelle Quintero was living in Mazatlan when she learned about the collaboration.

During her studies at the Universidad Politécnica de Sinaloa, she was able to gain a one-year, research-focused internship at the UA toward her professional goals to work in the pharmaceutical industry.

"I was able to put my English into practice, and I also expanded my resumé by reinforcing my skills in the laboratory," said Quintero, who now lives in Tucson and is in the process of applying to master's degree programs in chemical engineering. "Since the UA ranks among the best global universities, students from Mexico can expand their resumé and find great job opportunities."

Alvarez Mexia also points to political and social changes in Mexico driving the need for partnerships with global institutions such as the UA. 

She explained that access to higher education in Mexico historically has been reserved for individuals from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. A more recent emphasis has been on expanding competency-based higher-education access at all levels, with a strong emphasis on science and technology.

Also, Mexico has experienced a greater influence from countries that include Korea and Japan, which is influencing the need for stronger workforce development countrywide, Alvarez Mexia said.

Alvarez Mexia said that in addition to building the engineering capacity, the country is encouraging more training toward professorships. 

"Some states in Mexico are beginning to welcome international companies for business that bring job opportutnies," she said, "and these are not just workers — these are careers." 

Extra info

How a lifelong friendship involving the UA's Nadia Alvarez Mexia led to an international partnership for the University.

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Nadia Alvarez Mexia

UA Office of Latin American Partnership Initiatives

520-626-1132

nalvarez@grad.arizona.edu