AWC joins historic alliance, Arizona and Mexico campuses to work together

By Blake Herzog, @BlakeHerzog  Mar 29, 2017

AWC signing of MOU

Arizona Western College was the site Wednesday of a “historic” signing of an agreement between AWC, the three Arizona state universities and seven more campuses in the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.

The Four Borders International Academic Alliance is a five-year, nonbinding memorandum of understanding which encourages collaborations between the eleven schools on binational degree programs and classes, student exchanges, research and in other areas.

“For us, and for 4FrontED and the four borders alliance, this is really a remarkable day. This is the first of many milestones we expect, moving forward with our collaborative efforts,” said Paul Melcher, deputy Yuma County administrator and a representative of 4FrontED, a binational economic development alliance instrumental in putting the agreement together.

The bilingual ceremony drew representatives from the “Universities of Mexico” and “Universities of the United States” to sign the documents and talk about what might come out of the agreement, for their students and the whole region.

Maria de Los Angeles Murillo Flores, of Universidad Politecnica de Baja California in Mexicali, representing the Mexican campuses, said through an interpreter the governors of both Baja California and Sonora sent their greetings, and “this alliance has the objective of creating more and better opportunities such as innovation, technological development, research and educational processes.”

She said there will be further planning for the first year of the academic alliance at a meeting to be held next month. Areas the colleges are interested in collaborating on include engineering, health care, tourism and business.

The other colleges from south of the border signing the document were: Instituto Tecnologico de Mexicali, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, and the Universidad Techologica de San Luis Rio Colorado, Universidad Techologica de Hermosillo, Universidad Techologica de Guaymas, and Universidad Technologica de Etchojoa, all in Sonora.

The agreement is the largest product to date of the 4FrontED alliance between government agencies and economic development corporations in Yuma County and the San Luis Rio Colorado area in Sonora, and draws in schools as far south as Guymas, Son. and loops in high-tech institutes in Mexicali, a hub of that industry in the country.

“Education is GYEDC’s number 1 pillar, the most important pillar,” said Juile Engel, president and CEO of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation. “Education is going to drive the workforce, and that’s what makes us attractive, on both sides of the border.”

Melcher said, “We know we will continue to collaborate regarding education and training opportunities, but it also serves to create the foundation for economic development forums, for which we will be inviting our other partners on a regional basis.”

Dr. Linda Elliot Nelson, AWC’s vice president for learning services and the only speaker at the meeting who spoke and translated both English and Spanish, said after the ceremony she’s already spoken to AWC students excited at the possibility of taking courses in animation at Mexicali’s polytechnic university.

“It’s just an hour away, and they might be able to earn degrees in this very lucrative field,” she said.

Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona also signed the memorandum. Joel Hauff, UA’s associate vice president, said it already offers degree programs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and is currently working on two more with colleges in Mexico.

The signing of the academic alliance’s agreement is “a really good first step” in developing further collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico, he said.

Other speakers at Wednesday’s ceremony included Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls and Francisco Ortiz Serrano, director of the Instituto Tecnologico de Mexicali.