ASU chief wants ties to Mexico university
Republic Mexico City Bureau
Feb. 23, 2004
12:00 AM
Tessie Borden

MEXICO CITY - Arizona State University professors could teach students as far away as Argentina, and ASU students could earn degrees that prepare them for international careers under a partnership being forged with a prestigious Mexican university.

It's part of ASU President Michael Crow's vision of the "New American University," a multilayered effort to lift ASU into the ranks of the most up-to-date research universities in the United States. Crow's plan reaches into many areas, including the university's partnerships with government and business, and its research focus on problems specific to Arizona.

One part of the plan is the Pan-American initiative, an effort to make ASU the foremost school for research on the U.S.-Mexico border and on Latin America. An accompanying Asian initiative seeks partnerships between ASU and Pacific Rim governments and businesses to serve the needs of developing industries there.

"Our two principal foci for global engagement are China and Latin America," Crow said. "China, because of its economic power and unequivocal linkage to the U.S. economy. With Latin America, it's more a matter of connecting with neighbors that we should have been more connected with a long time ago."

The partnership with the Monterrey Technological Institute of Advanced Studies, widely regarded as one of the best universities in Mexico, will include three main efforts: aligning their civil, industrial and biotechnology engineering curricula so students can earn either double or concurrent degrees; taking advantage of each school's distance learning networks to reach more Hispanic students in the United States and more Latin American students on the rest of the continent; and building joint centers to study the problems of the border and the ways in which industry and business on each side of the border best complement each other.

Crow and a delegation of ASU professors met with their counterparts at El Tec, as the institute is popularly known, in Monterrey last month. It was part of a series of encounters between the two schools that has been going on for about a year.

Tec President Rafael Rangel Sostmann says most of the schools' joint plans should be in place within 18 months, and if the partnership works, it should be seamless within five years.

Crow has been impressed with Tec's extensive distance learning network, which consists of a web of community centers where students in countries as far away as Chile and Argentina can take classes from teachers based in Monterrey. Crow said that through sharing content, ASU professors might someday take advantage of that network.

Rangel Sostmann said he sees opportunities to bring Tec's college courses to Hispanics at ASU's campuses.

According to Crow's plan, described in the report "The New American University," the networks also may provide an opening for ASU to improve American understanding of countries beyond the southern U.S. border. He envisions interdisciplinary studies that focus not only on culture and society but aim to improve scientific and technological knowledge and to apply it to practical problems, like the struggle against poverty and the promotion of sustainable development.

Tec has parallel accreditation agreements with some schools in Texas, Rangel Sostmann said, and putting together a program that allows future civil and industrial engineers to earn double degrees from Tec and ASU should not be difficult.

But Rangel Sostmann wants to take the relationship a step further: to craft programs that allow students to attend both schools during their university careers and earning one degree that reflects expertise from both sides of the border. Both schools have strong construction engineering areas, for example, and civil engineers that come out of a joint program should be able to work anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Crow said similarities between Phoenix and Monterrey - in size, educational capability and business orientation - make the partnership a natural.

"The Phoenix metro area and ASU have had very limited interactions with Mexico, at least at the level that they should be happening," Crow said. "We should have more broad policy, education, research and economic initiatives. We needed to find a partnership that can help us to move in that direction."

Crow said that as the relationship intensifies, other departments at ASU are taking an interest. At the January meeting, members of the journalism department attended for the first time to see if there was room to combine areas of both programs. Crow said he wants to explore more of those possibilities.

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