The University of Texas at Austin has greatly enhanced its academic ties with Latin America, signing three agreements with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). These agreements, focused on student exchanges and collaborative research, strengthen a long-standing strategic relationship between UT Austin and Mexico.
The agreements will expand links between Mexico and the United States at a crucial time in the two nations’ relationship. Mexico’s energy reform in August 2014 has opened the door for UT Austin and UNAM to enhance education in engineering, geosciences and technology and bolster research on subjects of mutual interest.
“Many of our graduating international students return to their home countries and excel in government, industry and academia. The agreements signed today with UNAM create new avenues for UT faculty and students to advance major collaborations with our closest neighbor, Mexico,” said Gregory L. Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin.
The agreements directly support the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, a federal initiative that expands cross-border innovation through educational exchanges and scientific research partnerships. They also reinforce other bilateral programs such as the U.S. presidential initiative 100,000 Strong in the Americas, the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship and the Mexican initiative Proyecta 100,000.
“The UT-UNAM agreements offer a tremendous opportunity to develop science, technology and innovation together in strategic topics, so that the already strong partnership between Texas and Mexico can evolve to greater heights. Just in 2014, U.S.-Mexico trade rose to a record 534 billion USD, a 5.5 percent increase from 2013,” said Sergio M. Alcocer, Mexican undersecretary for North America in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also a UT alum. Alcocer was instrumental in linking UNAM, where he had served as provost prior to government service, and his alma mater.
The new relationship between UT and UNAM is a natural fit. More than 350 graduate students from Latin America and the Caribbean have studied at UT every year for the past five years. The university is home to more than 1 million Latin American books, magazines, journals and works of art housed within the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, Blanton Museum of Art, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Harry Ransom Center. Most recently, the Ransom Center acquired the archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. In September 2014, UT established the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, the first academic department to study people’s movement along the Mesoamerican corridor.
UNAM is the largest university in Latin America, with six campuses across Mexico City and many schools across the country, and it is the oldest in North America. UNAM’s researchers are prolific, publishing articles on a vast array of topics including mathematics, physics and history. Of the scientific articles published by Mexican scholars in 2014, 30 percent of them were authored by UNAM researchers. UNAM counts three Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni: Mario J. Molina for chemistry, Alfonso García Robles for peace and Octavio Paz for literature. UNAM has already made advances toward goals established by the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, taking part in the launch of a binational Web portal to help students find educational opportunities in Mexico and the United States.