US ambassador to Mexico visits campus to discuss educational cooperation between countries

Tim Hyon/Staff

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E. Anthony Wayne, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met with a group of Mexican students and a campus professor Friday to discuss avenues for increasing educational cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting was attended by a group of graduate students from Mexico and associate professor of Ethnic Studies Alex Saragoza. During the meeting, Wayne and the attendees discussed the need for more cultural understanding between the two countries and particularly greater cooperation among universities because of the countries’ deeply intertwined economies.

Wayne specifically touched on the UC-Mexico Initiative, which is spearheaded by the University of California Office of the President and aims to create a relationship between the university and institutions in Mexico to “solve problems and advance knowledge on issues of mutual importance,” according to its website.

Saragoza said cooperation includes exchanges of intellectual information and students, professors and researchers. He added that although exchanges are taking place right now, they are “passive rather than proactive.”

Given California’s large population of Mexican ancestry, Saragoza believes that the university should be the leader in reaching out to Mexican students and providing readily available information about applying to U.S. universities. This can attract excellent Mexican students while also stimulating other universities to take similar actions, according to Saragoza.

Manuel Sescosse, a second-year MBA and Master of Public Health student who also attended the meeting, said there remain many barriers for Mexican students to study in the U.S. Mexican students are not used to the U.S. university application process and the large number of standardized tests, according to Sescosse.

High tuition combined with few available grants and scholarships, particularly at the undergraduate level, present another barrier for Mexican students to study in the U.S., Sescosse said.

Wayne said that grants are available although they can be hard to find and that work is being done to make grant programs more institutional. He also added that language remains an obstacle for many Mexican students as Mexican public schools generally do not have good English programs.

Wayne reached out to students about the meeting, according to Octavio Narvaez-Aroche, a PhD student in mechanical engineering who attended. Narvaez-Aroche said that, although Mexico has decent PhD programs, UC Berkeley offers facilities and cutting-edge research in certain specific fields which Mexican universities do not offer.

Before meeting the students, Wayne said he met UC President Janet Napolitano and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to discuss the university’s various programs with Mexico. Additionally, at its annual awards gala Thursday night, the International House honored Wayne as its 2015 Global Ambassador of Peace and Public Service.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.