Programs Created to Welcome Students from Mexico to the UA campus

In 2014, President Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico discussed how to address the small number of students studying between Mexico and the U.S. Each country developed programs aiming at sending 100,000 students to the other country by the year 2020.

To help them reach this goal, several programs have been developed to welcome students from Mexico to the UA campus. Two such programs are the Latin American Summer Research Program and a summer Architecture Seminar in partnership with the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture and the Instituto de Tecnológico de Monterrey Sonora Norte Campus. These programs brought a total of 31 students to campus this summer.

Dr. Nadia Alvarez Mexia, the director of the Office of Latin American Partnership Initiatives, said this program is about more than improving your language skills. “Coming to the University of Arizona is a very different world. You are exposed to so many cultures, to students and professors of different backgrounds. It is important to invest your time in having different academic experiences.”

While addressing these students during their welcoming breakfast, Ricardo Pineda Albarran, Consul of Mexico in Tucson, said programs like this are “the only way in which we are going to increase the communication between the three of our countries.”

Summer Architecture Seminar

The Summer Architecture Seminar hosted 14 architecture students from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), Sonora Norte Campus with a focus on heritage conservation and regional architecture. Dr. Brooks Jeffery, Associate Vice President of Research, was fundamental to the development of this collaboration between the two universities. This summer, the students participated in a three-week intensive seminar with Dr. Suzanne Bott of the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

“I have been very impressed by their knowledge, even as undergraduate students, and by their interest in studying here in Arizona and by the level of participation and excitement they are bringing to the program,” Bott said.

Czarina Oviedo, a student in the program, said she came to the UA to meet new people and experience the U.S. culture. She said her experience at the UA has expanded her knowledge in architecture and made her more aware of the importance to preserve historical buildings.

Latin American Research Program “A Learning Research Experience”

The Latin American Research Program lasts 10 weeks and was created for undergraduate students from Latin America who are juniors or seniors at their home universities and are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the U.S. The LASP has been positioned as one of the best international research programs for undergraduate students across the country.

Janet Sturman, the associate dean in the UA Graduate College, said it has been her great pleasure to work more closely with the Latin American Summer Research Initiatives these last four years and the UA is very proud of the progress these programs have made in creating new opportunities for students.

“I am so impressed at the kind of work the students accomplish in such a short period of time and what they are able to take back to their home institutions and use in building their careers,” she said.

Daniel Zayas, an industrial engineering student from the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, said he came to the UA to expand his knowledge on his future career in engineering through the Latin American Summer Program. He is currently developing a computer simulator to develop and analyze manufacturing and service systems.

Zayas said his main objective is to use agent simulation with virtual reality to develop a simulation that will react based on its environment – for example, a tank which will automatically navigate around barriers such as mountains and trees.

“I think it is a big opportunity for me and for the students that come to this program because we learn more English and learn more about our careers,” Zayas said, “we learn how to talk with people from the United States, learn the culture and make new friends.”

Dr. Son, department head in Systems and Industrial Engineering, is supervising the lab Zayas has been working in. He says this program is “the best way to share the exciting research we do with the community and the future workforce of the world.”

Bridges of Understanding and Collaboration

The Latin American Summer Research Program, now in its 10th year, has also helped many students go on to complete their master’s degrees and PhDs here at the UA.

One such student, Ricardo Palos Pacheco, a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, presented to the students during the Graduate School Symposium. This symposium was an opportunity for the students to learn about pathways to graduate school here at the UA. Pacheco said that his time in the summer research program was vital to getting into graduate school. It was an opportunity for him to get to know faculty members and for them to get to know him, and that relationship is key to admission, and success, in a graduate program. 

Consul Pineda reiterated that these programs have created a bridge of understanding and collaboration between Mexico and the U.S. that has continued to grow over the years. He added, “We are very lucky to have this progress and to be fostering this type of change.”