What's a few days of wearing a tie or a skirt if it helps to set up the rest of your life?
Leaders from 29 universities in Mexico visited the University of Arizona campus last week to learn about potential partnership opportunities with the UA.
UA Global Initiatives hosted the delegation of university rectors, professors and other leaders in an effort to get members of both the UA community and the Mexican higher education community thinking about opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships in research, teaching, business, student engagement and other areas. Such collaborations could serve to enhance, among other things, students' workforce readiness, an important priority for UA President Ann Weaver Hart.
"We want them to get to know the University better and think about the interests they may have and how they could look to the University as a partner," said Sean Manley-Casimir, the director of Latin American collaborations for UA Global Initiatives. "Our university community could also gain a lot from working with them. This is not just about us being a service provider, but rather a mutually beneficial exchange."
The visiting delegation included representatives from several of Mexico's technological universities, which offer two-year professional training programs geared toward moving students into the workforce, and also several of the country's polytechnic universities, which offer science, technology and math-based education through associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs.
Over the course of their three-day stay, the leaders visited the UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, BIO5 Institute and Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Ariz. They also heard presentations from several college deans and other campus leaders.
"We have a deep set of relationships between us and Mexico, and we are proud of those relationships and look forward to elevating them even further," said UA Provost Andrew Comrie during a welcome reception held at the Arizona State Museum.
"We hope this is a seed from which a very large tree will grow," he said.
The visit stemmed from discussions earlier this year between representatives from the UA and Mexico's Ministry of Education during the 15th conference of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration, or CONAHEC. CONAHEC is a nonprofit membership organization that connects higher education institutions interested in building or strengthening collaborative academic programs in North America.
One important partnership already in development is between the UA's Center for English as a Second Language, or CESL, and universities in Mexico.
The UA center is working to become the official English language-training provider for a number of Mexican universities, offering training for English language teachers as well as subject-matter instructors.
"There is a need in Mexico for preparing people to work in English-speaking contexts," said Manley-Casimir, who also serves as the executive director of CONAHEC.
During their time at the UA, the Mexican university leaders toured CESL, in the UA's College of Humanities, to learn about its educational offerings and support services. They also visited the UA's National Center for Interpretation, a research and outreach unit charged with promoting intercultural communication.
In an increasingly global culture, language is key to making connections and enabling collaborations that can positively transform communities, Suzanne Panferov, director of CESL, told the group during a luncheon.
"The real value of all this," she said, "is breaking down borders and building opportunities in ways our universities wouldn't have otherwise."
Last week's visit was part of a larger ongoing effort by UA Global Initiatives to build the UA's international partnerships, said Dale LaFleur, director of institutional relations for UA Global Initiatives.
In line with that goal, the UA will host a delegation of university leaders from Brazil next week who are on a "Higher Education Mission to the U.S." to learn more about the U.S. system of higher education and credit transfer agreements between U.S. and Brazilian universities.
"Expanding the partnerships with institutions in Mexico and Brazil and elsewhere is critical to the long-term success of University of Arizona engagement in these countries," LaFleur said. "When they seek collaboration with an institution in the U.S., we want them to consider the University of Arizona first."