Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UNM partners up to promote U.S.-Mexico border research center

UNM partners up to promote U.S.-Mexico border research center
By Kallie Red-Horse | Daily Lobo

UNM is joining other universities near the U.S.-Mexico border to create a resource center aimed at tackling an issue at the forefront of American politics.

UNM signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Feb. 16 to potentially collaborate with institutions bordering Mexico to create a Border Studies Resource Center, led by the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Antonio Zavaleta, associate provost at the University of Texas at Brownsville, said the creation of such a resource is paramount in today’s political climate.

“We feel that the U.S-Mexico border is one of the most important — if not the most important — region in the United States today,” he said. “Looking forward to the next presidential election and beyond, immigration-reform issues concerning illegal immigration, homeland security, border security — all that will become forefront in the American mind, and we believe that there is not enough information available to people about the border out there now.”

The on-campus meeting generated interest from a diverse range of University departments and resulted in signing a Memorandum of Understanding between UNM and UT Brownsville, said Vice President for Student Affairs Eliseo ”Cheo” Torres.

“The meeting was just basically bringing faculty from both universities together,” he said. “It was a meeting to get input and advice and to talk about collaborations here in the near future.”

Torres said UNM departments in attendance included the School of Public Administration, the Spanish Colonial Research Center, the Communication and Journalism Department, the Law School and University College.

The Memorandum of Understanding is not a binding contract, Zavaleta said, but just a means of facilitating communication between the institutions.

“It doesn’t commit us to any specific thing, funds or resources, but it does allow us to sit down and talk about potential collaborative projects in real time,” he said. “We will continue this process and will develop these partnerships along the border.”

The collaboration could provide UNM students with transborder research opportunities, Torres said.

“My guess is students would be involved in research projects on both sides of the border,” he said. “The students could play an important role in developing resources and would study different resources that would be beneficial to both Mexico and the U.S.”

Student Rachel Matthews said she considers immigration to be one of America’s largest perpetual issues.

“It seems like immigration has troubled the U.S. since the beginning,” she said. “In history, my teacher mentions immigration reforms and stuff at the beginning of last century. I would say it is still a problem, but I don’t really know much about it.”

The selection of partnering institutions was based on their educational strength and proximity to the border area to maximize information gathering potential, Zavaleta said.

“The U.S. Mexican border is 2,000 miles long and encompasses four American states and six Mexican states,” he said. “What we are trying to do is establish partnerships as we develop and roll out our center for border studies. We like to be partnered with strength.”

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