A proposal by The University of Texas at El Paso has been selected as an Innovation Grant winner in 100,000 Strong in the Americas Competition #9: Promoting Study Abroad in Engineering, Physics, Geology and Geophysics. The White House, U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators made the announcement of winners at an event on Dec. 14 in Washington, D.C., where Vice President Joe Biden addressed grantees and sponsors.
The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, President Obama’s signature education initiative in the Western Hemisphere, is to increase the number of U.S. students studying abroad in the Western Hemisphere to 100,000, and the number of Western Hemisphere students studying in the United States to 100,000 by the year 2020. The initiative is aimed at enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, increasing prosperity, and preparing a more globally competent workforce.
“The grant will allow us to reach out to students in the engineering programs who have not been participating in other study abroad opportunities,” said Carlos Ferregut, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Engineering. “The faculty teams from UTEP and Universidad de Guadalajara (UdeG) have been working together for almost two years to identify opportunities for collaboration and funding. This is the first of a string of collaborative projects that will be initiated in the near future with UdeG.”
The $25,000 awarded to UTEP and UdeG will pay for student expenses related to their participation in the program, including airfare, meals and accommodations. Both universities are contributing an additional $58,000 toward administrative and instructor expenses.
For the current competition, UTEP and eight other winning higher education institutions submitted innovative proposals that will create or build on existing partnerships to increase study abroad opportunities for STEM students. The competition, sponsored by ExxonMobil, was open to institutions in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and Mexico.
UTEP’s project, “U.S.-Mexico Bidirectional Study Abroad Program on Smart Cities,” partners with UdeG to expose students to international engineering, business, social and cultural practices in order to provide them with a clear understanding of how individual infrastructure works into a smart city. Through the proposed program, students will attend classes, take field trips, and carry out projects addressing current issues faced by cities undergoing a transformation into smart cities.
“This study abroad program is a collaborative effort between five departments at two universities,” said Professor of Civil Engineering Ruey Kelvin Cheu, Ph.D. “Other than learning the technical fundamentals about smart cities, students will acquire leadership skills by learning how to work in an international, bilingual, multicultural and multidisciplinary team.”
UTEP also received funding from 100,000 Strong in the Americas during its fourth competition in 2014. The University collaborated with CETYS University in Ensenada, Mexico, to develop a study abroad program with community impact that would showcase lasting examples of sustainability both locally and globally through involvement of students in a community-driven sustainable project.
The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is a public-private collaboration of the White House, U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in January 2014. Since then, 70 Innovation Fund grants have been awarded to teams of 153 higher education institutions from 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The Innovation Fund awards promote transnational institutional partnerships rather than direct scholarships. The announced awards are up to $25,000 each and will leverage commitments from the selected universities to increase student mobility, address institutional barriers that prevent STEM students from studying abroad, and promote study abroad in engineering, physics, geology and geophysics in the Western Hemisphere. It is expected that approximately 132 students will study abroad as a result of the nine grants awarded.