February 2012—The University of Oregon is drawing nearer to signing an historic agreement with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). UNAM is the second oldest (established in 1551) and largest (roughly 206,000 students) university in the Americas. Its campus is a city within a city, offering a variety of environments—from urban to pre-Columbian—that earned it a World Heritage Site ranking in 2007.

Negotiations between the Office of International Affairs at the UO, the Latin American Studies Program, the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and UNAM to start a student exchange program next year are well underway. The steering committee formed by Lynn Stephen (Anthropology), Carlos Aguirre (History) and Pedro García-Caro (RLL) submitted a proposal to the Office of International Affairs. The proposal was approved and the committee met with the UNAM vice provost for international relations here in Eugene. We are now awaiting confirmation of the final text of the agreement to be signed this winter between the two university presidents.

This will be the first one-to-one student exchange between the UO and a Spanish-speaking university, with two to four undergraduates from any discipline traveling in each direction annually. We project that there will be an open invitation for interested students for the 2012-13 academic year, pending the legal approvals of the Memoranda of Understanding between the two universities. A selection committee will pick students based on merit, linguistic and cultural preparedness, and the quality of academic projects (courses, advanced undergraduate research, etc). Graduate students will also be able to participate in the exchange program, but the details will be defined on a case-by-case basis given the contractual commitments of students at UO.

UO’s exchange program with UNAM will broaden international offerings and options for our students in a fundamental way: students will now have the opportunity of experiencing higher education in Latin America directly, first-hand. They will live in one of the most thriving cities in the world and will go to class in the Ciudad Universitaria—a “city within the city”—one of the most active research centers in the world. Here in Eugene, our classrooms will benefit from the voices of visiting Mexican students and their perspectives on the world. UNAM students will benefit from our renowned friendliness and enthusiasm for knowledge. As exchange students go back and forth, they will create new relationships between the United States and Mexico and will reinforce our commitments to human values and scientific innovation.—Reported by Pedro García-Caro