The University of Arizona is among the first higher education institutions selected to participate in U.S. President Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which aims to expand higher education access and study abroad exchanges.
The initiative involves a partnership between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas and NAFSA: Association of International Educators and is designed to increase both the numbers and diversity of study abroad participants while building innovative collaborations throughout the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this month announced the partners: the UA, the University of North Texas, the University of Rhode Island and Northampton Community College. Each institution will create international exchanges that enable students to improve their language skills while experiencing learning, living and research abroad.
Ultimately, the initiative, by increasing study abroad between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean, is designed to position students for a competitive advantage in their careers as global leaders, professionals and citizens while also increasing collaboration and innovation. Another goal is to strengthen jobs and middle-class professional opportunities.
"We are honored to have received this prestigious grant from Partners of the Americas," said Mary Poulton, who heads the UA's Department of Mining and Geological Engineering and is co-principal investigator on the UA project.
The application process was facilitated by members of the UA Office of Global Initiatives grants team, which specializes in highly innovative partnerships and rapidly developing proposals for large multidisciplinary grants and contracts. More than 100 proposals from all nine eligible countries were received in response to the first round of competition. Panels of diverse expert judges then reviewed the proposals and selected 14 finalists.
Along with the UA, each of the first four institutions will receive Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation grants to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000, and the number of such students studying in the U.S. to 100,000. Currently, about 40,000 U.S. students study in Latin America and the Caribbean and 60,000 Latin American and Caribbean students study in the United States annually, the organization reports.
Also, in the coming weeks, 10 more institutions, all of them in Latin America, will be named members as part of a separate competition supported with U.S. Department of State funding.
Through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, the UA will create a sustainable umbrella organization focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics for student exchanges related to sustainable resource development – the Latin America Natural Resources Academy – with partner institutions based in Peru and Chile.
The students from Peru and Chile who are chosen to attend the UA will start in the fall. To be eligible, the students must be undergraduates pursuing STEM degrees. During their semester at the UA, they'll attend classes and receive an undergraduate certificate in international sustainable resource development.
"We are thrilled to have received this grant from the Partners of the Americas, which will greatly support us in our commitment to increase student mobility between the U.S. and Latin America," said Harmony DeFazio, the director of Study Abroad & Student Exchange in UA Global Initiatives.
The UA Latin American Natural Resource Academy will provide students from the UA, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile with "a unique opportunity to enhance their intercultural and academic skills, better preparing them for careers their fields," said DeFazio, also co-principal investigator on the UA grant.
"STEM fields are borderless in nature but there are relatively few opportunities for STEM students to go abroad," she said.
Poulton said the financial support and involvement in the initiative would strengthen such partnerships "allowing us to develop a unique structure that will combine interdisciplinary discussions and international experiences.”