Researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Colegio de Postgraduados Campus Cordóba (Colpos Cordóba) in Mexico have received a $25,000 grant from the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to launch a pilot academic exchange program, the first of its kind in Mexico to be offered to UT students.
The fund supports the US Department of State initiative 100,000 Strong in the Americas, which creates partnerships between higher education institutions in the United States and those in other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Cosponsored this year by the Mexican institutions Fundación Banorte and Fundación Gruma, the fund provides students with access to new models of academic exchange and training programs.
“Exposing students to a different culture and travel experience should help them acquire valued skills to become successful professionals and improve their likelihood of employment,” said Carlos Trejo-Pech, an assistant professor of agribusiness finance and the project leader at UTIA. “Thanks to the generosity of the sponsors, students participating in this program will receive a scholarship to partially defray their travel expenses.”
The project will provide a platform for international collaboration between students and faculty from the partnering institutions. It will create a UT-faculty-led course in Mexico focusing on small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises and will benefit UT undergraduate students whose majors are underrepresented in current study abroad programs.
UTIA faculty will accompany the undergraduate students to Colpos Cordóba and deliver the week-long pilot course, tentatively scheduled for summer or fall 2021. Students will travel to sites throughout Veracruz, engaging in experiential learning activities such as visits to the preprocessing facilities of coffee cooperatives; farms growing diverse crops including coffee, citrus, and sugarcane; and ecotourism enterprises.
The collaboration will also benefit graduate students from Colpos who need international experience as part of their academic program. Graduate students and faculty from Mexico will come to the UTIA campus, where they will have the opportunity to conduct research with UTIA faculty.
Mexico is an important trade partner for the United States. The US purchases approximately 78 percent of Mexico’s agricultural exports and supplies about 80 percent of Mexico’s imports of meat and cereal grains. “This program proves to be timely, seeking to increase technical and intercultural competencies for Mexicans and Americans engaged in agriculture, which could ultimately increase human capital and improve the well-being of individuals in this sector of the economy,” said Trejo-Pech. Collaborating faculty and staff include UTIA’s Sara Mulville, Latin American and Carribbean program administrator; Adam Willcox, coordinator for study abroad and international agriculture; and Margarita Velandia, professor of agricultural and research economics, in addition to Colpos Cordóba faculty member Roselia Servin-Juarez.
Colpos Cordóba is a public research and teaching institution that is part of Colpos, a broader research center fully supported by the Mexican Department of Agriculture, with seven campuses across Mexico.
Students interested in the program can contact UTIA’s Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture for more information.
Patty McDaniels (615-835-4570, email@example.com)