Arkansas State Expects Ground-Breaking For $50 Million Mexico Campus in February
JONESBORO, Ark. – Plans to build a privately funded $50 million Arkansas State University campus in Queretaro, Mexico, continue with construction expected to begin early next year, Chancellor Tim Hudson said today.
A nationally prominent project launch featuring Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 5, 2014, in Queretaro, according to Fernando de la Isla, Queretaro’s Secretary of Education.
The ASU Board of Trustees authorized Hudson to proceed with negotiations for the campus in December 2012, and the university has since been working with project advocates and partners in the State of Queretaro. A key supporter of the campus is Queretaro Gov. Jose Calzada Rovirosa, who will visit Arkansas for a second time in December to meet with Gov. Mike Beebe, economic development leaders and Arkansas State officials. In addition, he will deliver a speech on Mexico and the State of Queretaro at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock on Dec. 13.
The Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (AIEM), a private business foundation, has acquired approximately 2,000 acres for a comprehensive land development plan near Queretaro. The A-State campus will be the focal point of the project, which will include commercial, residential and recreational components. Arkansas State will utilize funds generated from private gifts for startup costs, and AIEM will underwrite any operating deficits for up to three years after course offerings begin.
Arkansas State will become the first comprehensive U.S. university in Mexico with an American-style campus and offer unique academic opportunities, such as introducing an academic “living learning” community in a country where almost all students commute, as well as professional exchanges for faculty, students and staff. The first phase of academic space on the 200 acres allocated for the campus is being designed to accommodate up to 5,000 students, with a goal of 1,000 students in the first year, Hudson said.
“The campus will be transformative for Arkansas State and energize our mission of creating globally competitive opportunities for our faculty and students,” Hudson said. “The business and government partners share our interest in educating students who will contribute to a sustainable democracy and socioeconomic progress in Mexico.”
Hudson said the demand for higher education is rising rapidly in Mexico, along with its growing affluence and economy. In addition, Hispanics are an expanding demographic in the U.S., and Arkansas State will be better equipped to fulfill related needs and opportunities.
The Mexico campus, with a target opening date of fall 2015, incorporates the A-State brand and logo and the university’s curriculum. Courses will be taught in English by credentialed faculty approved by Arkansas State. The academic programs targeted for offering at the campus in Queretaro are being processed for additional accreditation by the Ministry of Education in Mexico.
Queretaro has been recognized as one of the safest, most prosperous states in Mexico with a population of 1.9 million. The annual “Report of Most Livable Cities” in Mexico released recently by the independent Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica (GCE) ranked Queretaro as having the highest quality of life of Mexican cities, and identifies it as among the most livable cities in Mexico based on its quality of housing, schools, transportation, governmental effectiveness and cultural options. The New York Times has described Queretaro as ‘the other Mexico’ because of its extraordinary economic development and social progress.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better location in Mexico to establish this campus and this latest recognition is a testament to the state’s leadership and commitment to progress,” Hudson said. “More than 800 international companies have chosen Queretaro for operations, and we look forward to building relationships that will lead to jobs, international internships, and research projects for faculty and students.”
Current A-State faculty will be able to teach, conduct research and provide service at the Queretaro campus for summer or semester terms. Students will have the chance to study at the campuses interchangeably, build bilingual skills and gain experience with international companies.
Hudson said details of the financial operation are still being drafted by AIEM, which will submit an operating agreement for consideration in response to A-State’s recommendations. Plans call for A-State to receive a percentage of the revenue generated.
“The campus will benefit Arkansas State financially without the investment of public funds,” Hudson said. “But we’re even more pleased about the project’s potential for expanding our market, accessing new potential donors and enhancing relationships with multinational companies.”
AIEM is a formally registered, nonprofit organization authorized to engage in all operations needed to support A-State’s mission there. AIEM will finance and build the campus, ensuring that Arkansas State will have no liabilities in the country, Hudson said.
Edmundo Ortiz is the General Director of AIEM and leads the campus development project on behalf of all Mexican partners.
“I always say we are assembling a dream – one that will enhance higher education in Mexico and build the foundation for better understanding among the future leaders of two of the most important countries on the globe,” said Ortiz, who has visited Arkansas several times during the past 18 months. “Arkansas State has proven to be the perfect partner for this ambitious project.”
Oscar Franco, CEO and founder of Grupos Proyectos and President of AIEM’s Council of Directors, originally discussed the concept of an American style university with Hudson because of his interest in replicating some of the best aspects of his own American university experience in his home country. In addition to major contributions to assist the project, Franco will be a key investor in the comprehensive development, which has attracted significant capital from well-known Mexican developers such as the Oleszcovski and Mena families, who manage global land development projects, and the highly regarded, American educated entrepreneur Rodolfo Amieva.
“Our Mexican partners believe in us, are investing in us and are asking us to help change the trajectory of higher education in Mexico by doing what we as an academic enterprise do best,” Hudson said.
A-State’s project director is Dr. Yvonne Unnold, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures. “With the addition of the Queretaro campus to the Arkansas State University family, we have been given a unique opportunity to embrace our mission of educating leaders, enhancing intellectual growth and enriching lives in a truly innovative, and international, manner,” she said.
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