UTEP Funded by Obama’s Study Abroad Initiative
November 13, 2014 | UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS
The grant recipients visiting CETYS-Ensenada are, from left, Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., UTEP professor of civil engineering and director of global programs; Isaac Azuz, Ph.D., CETYS-Ensenada professor of engineering; Heidi Taboada, Ph.D., UTEP associate professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering and project principal investigator; Jose Espiritu, Ph.D., UTEP associate professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering; and Noe Vargas, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
The University of Texas at El Paso is one of eight universities that recently received funding through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative. Launched by President Barack Obama, the initiative's goal is to reach 100,000 student exchanges annually in each direction between the United States and the countries of the Americas.
"I am very pleased that UTEP has been awarded funding to expand educational exchanges within the Western Hemisphere," said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. "Creating additional international learning opportunities will enable UTEP to contribute to capacity-building for enhanced competitiveness, economic growth and prosperity throughout the Americas."
With the funds, UTEP will develop a partnership with the Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS University) Ensenada campus in Mexico to create the study program "Engineering Together Sustainable Communities." Students from both institutions will begin work together as early as next summer in a faculty-led study abroad course called "Engineering for Sustainable Community Development."
"This study abroad program provides a unique opportunity to engage in real, hands-on projects with local communities to design and implement sustainable engineering solutions," said Heidi Taboada, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering. "The objective of this transformative educational experience is to solve real problems, and in the process, train responsible leaders that are true agents of change."
The course will be taught by UTEP and CETYS University faculty over a three-week period during the summer of 2015. Students will kick off the class at CETYS-Ensenada, where they will learn for two weeks about engineering sustainability and work on community development projects, such as renewable energy applications in rural communities, ecotourism in indigenous communities, and water usage for local agriculture. The third week of the class will be conducted on the UTEP campus.
"This course intends to place engineering students in a real context beyond the classroom where the need exists," said Jose Espiritu, Ph.D., associate professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering. "Students who participate in our program will engage in service-learning experiences, providing engineering solutions that are sustainable from social, financial and environmental perspectives. This is an amazing opportunity for students to collaborate beyond our border and put their professional skills to work to provide critical services for communities in need."
A total of 21 students, including 15 UTEP senior and master's level engineering students and 6 CETYS University students from the graduate level sustainable development program, will be able to participate in the course.
Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., director of UTEP's Global Programs Office, said it is widely accepted that students who acquire global skills are better prepared to face the world's grand engineering challenges.
"As we prepare the next generation of engineers, we believe that it is imperative that our students develop a global perspective if they are to positively influence policy and the global economy," said Ferregut, who is also a professor of civil engineering. "Therefore, it is vital that engineering programs offer students opportunities to connect with the engineering challenges that are present in developing countries and with multi-national team members in order to better prepare them for engineering on a global scale."
The 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative underscores the critical relationship between educational opportunity and regional prosperity through an increase in educational exchanges in the Western Hemisphere.
UTEP's study program was selected as a recipient of $25,000 because it supports the goal of achieving mobility of students in both directions.
To achieve the ambitious objective of exchanging 100,000 students annually, the United States has been asking governments, the private sector, and the higher education community to invest in the future of the hemisphere. This round of grant funding was sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation; it focused on promoting study abroad in engineering, physics, geology and geophysics.