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UCEAP Provides State Senate with Insights on California-Mexico Student Exchanges
DATE: 9/24/2012
UCEAP Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director Jean-Xavier Guinard discusses history and current state of exchange programs and emphasizes importance of ongoing cooperation.
Santa Barbara, CA (September 2012)—The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) recently provided expert testimony on student exchange programs with Mexico before the California State Senate’s Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation. The Select Committee studies and makes legislative recommendations regarding infrastructure, economic development, social and civic exchanges of mutual benefit, and border-related matters between California and Mexico. Speaking on behalf of the University of California, UCEAP Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director Jean-Xavier Guinard offered detailed testimony prepared with the help of Assistant Director Patricia Osorio-O’Dea at UC’s Office of the President, UCEAP’s Regional Director for Latin America Dr. Karen Mead, and Security Analyst Inés DeRomaña.

Guinard noted that “Mexico has been a prime destination for UCEAP students since the very early years of its existence” and outlined the successful history and current status of UC-Mexico exchange programs. UCEAP has a particularly strong relationship with UNAM—La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México—and over the years more than 3,500 UC students have taken advantage of the diverse course offerings on UNAM’s vast Mexico City campus.

Another great success story has been UCEAP’s Field Research Program (FRP) in Mexico. The FRP organizes serious field research experiences for UC undergraduate students supervised in one-on-one relations with Mexican professors in universities around the country. Guinard said that the Field Research Program “continues to provide UC students with amazing experiences that they regularly describe as impossible through any other avenue, and it is unique in the UCEAP portfolio.” UC San Diego student Richard Hong, a 2010 participant in the Mexico FRP, recently won the Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award for his work on Central American migrants.

While exchanges between California and Mexico have been fruitful and rewarding for both UC and Mexican students for decades, there are challenges in the current environment and Guinard addressed those forthrightly in his testimony. The security situation and drug-related violence in some parts of Mexico are serious concerns. UCEAP has suspended programs in the states of Michoacán and Monterrey and has imposed some restrictions on locations for the Field Research Program. Established policies and procedures are in place to help students minimize risk exposure and enhance personal safety; UCEAP has also commissioned two threat assessments by third-party security consultants. Guinard told the committee that Mexico City has had significant positive changes when it comes to security issues and that UCEAP students there are at ease and not apparently apprehensive. UC currently owns the Casa de California facility in Mexico City and the future of Casa in light of UC’s current needs was also discussed before the committee.

Reflecting on his testimony, Guinard emphasized the ongoing need for California-Mexico exchanges and UCEAP’s commitment to maintaining strong relationships with its partner institutions in Mexico. “California and Mexico are connected by deep cultural and economic ties,” he remarked. “Student exchanges, and the cultural understanding they engender, are one of the best ways of overcoming present challenges and producing long-term benefits on both sides of the border.”
 The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) 
Through international academic experiences, the University of California Education Abroad Program inspires students to explore and transform their lives, UC and the world. UCEAP is the only study abroad provider representing the entire University of California system. Its partner universities span more than 40 countries worldwide, and its UC-approved programs are fully integrated to offer UC credit, grades and financial aid.