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Chancellor Hudson Will Travel to Queretaro, Mexico, for Next Steps Toward Setting Up ASU Campus There

12/13/2012

JONESBORO – Following Board of Trustees approval of a historic proposal from Arkansas State University to proceed with negotiations to establish an ASU campus in Querétaro (pronounced ke-‘re-ta-ro), Mexico, Chancellor Tim Hudson announced he will be traveling to Querétaro to continue due diligence on this project.

Hudson’s trip will include a helicopter flyover of potential campus sites, meetings with possible land and scholarship donors, a summit with the Governor of Querétaro Jose Calzada, and planning for a national event to inaugurate the project.

Chancellor Hudson commented, "Arkansas State University will change the trajectory of higher education in Mexico with a partnership in Querétaro that will help A-State fulfill its mission of preparing students to be global citizens. The benefits to all students will be far reaching."

In addition, he said the project offers great potential for faculty and student exchange and enrichment experiences.

During the Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 7,  ASU System President Dr. Chuck Welch said the campus in Querétaro “ . . . will be an opportunity to significantly raise the profile of Arkansas State on the national and international scene by establishing a public American university there.”

Dr. Welch added, “We feel very comfortable, with conservative enrollment and financial projections, that this would easily be a self-sustaining program based solely on tuition revenue.”

Welch reviewed with the Board the steps that have been taken thus far at the Jonesboro campus under the leadership of Chancellor Hudson and Provost Lynita Cooksey.  “They have been working with campus stakeholders to share information and discuss the advantages of setting up the campus in Mexico.  The Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association leaders have endorsed the project.”

Numerous multinational corporations have expressed interest in hiring student interns, graduates and making use of faculty expertise to improve their business processes.

“Located in the highlands two hours north of Mexico City, Querétaro is a very progressive, prosperous state, and one that is safe.  More than 800 multinational companies operate there including Unilever, Nestle, Bombardier, Gerber, Eurocopter and New Holland,” he continued.  “Our faculty and other representatives who have visited Querétaro say corporate connections will be available there that don't currently exist at Arkansas State.”

Trustee Dan Pierce of Jonesboro moved to approve the resolution authorizing ASU to move forward with the project.

“I consider it an honor to make this motion, what I consider to be a historic decision for Arkansas State University,” Pierce said.  “We’re taking steps to be a global university for a global economy.  I am so excited about the potential.”

Recently, Dr. Yvonne Unnold, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and Dr. David Beasley, dean of the College of Engineering, traveled to Querétaro to further investigate the feasibility of a campus there. “Industry after industry expressed the need for a more educated workforce,” said Dr. Beasley. “We experienced overwhelming support from local officials, corporations and investors. The potential is significant.”

Arkansas State officials have been working with the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (AIEM), a non-profit corporation, and private investors from Grupo Proyectos who have indicated their investment could total more than $30 million to provide facilities and start-up costs associated with the new campus.

Dr. Hudson commented, “An educated populace can better sustain a functioning democracy and move Mexico closer to a meritocracy, where advancement is based on performance and merit. The investors and donors in Mexico have a strong desire to see that happen.”

Last September, representatives from Grupo Proyectos joined the governor of the State of Querétaro, Jose Calzada, and a delegation of government representatives visited Jonesboro to discuss prospects for an ASU campus in their country. 

The group met with City of Jonesboro officials and Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce representatives then toured the city with stops at several prime locations including Nestle and Unilever.  Both of those companies also have production facilities in Querétaro. 

At a dinner with university officials and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, the delegation further discussed the possibility of a partnership between Querétaro and ASU.  Gov. Beebe underscored the proposal’s significance by talking about why the initiative with Querétaro is so important.

“It’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking.  It’s different, but it’s the kind of difference we all should embrace.  It’s progressive, but it’s the kind of progressiveness that many just talk about but few put into action,” Gov. Beebe responded. 

Following his visit to Jonesboro, Governor Calzada made several observations.

“I feel very much excited about the opportunity we could have between the university and Querétaro. This is very important for us. We could expand the education offerings in Querétaro, and share with the students from Arkansas the opportunities of knowing our culture.  I am very much impressed with the technology and the investment you have put into this university."

Gov. Calzada said Querétaro is attracting industry and is one of the most dynamic states in Mexico, and demand for higher education is increasing.  Additionally, Querétaro has had the most stable economy among all Mexican states since the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“We are doing very well, but we are missing one important key factor – that is education.  Only three in 10 students have access to higher education, so we are missing one of the key parts not only for economic growth but also for Mexico’s social development.”

“That’s what brings us here . . . plus the power and the good will of friends,” he continued.  “We are hoping to make our educational dreams come true with the help of a great state like Arkansas.”

Gov. Calzada told the local leaders that he met in February with 21 U.S. governors during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C.  As president of the Mexico’s comparable organization, he was invited to attend, the first time for Mexico to be represented.

“Many U.S. governors are aware of the trade and business opportunities . . . trade comes along, businessmen get together and do business, companies come and go,” he continued.  “But, education is the crucial key that policymakers have to talk about.”

Gov. Calzada is a third generation political leader in Querétaro, the son of a former governor and grandson of a former mayor of Querétaro City.  He earned his college degree at New Mexico State University.  Having identified enhancement of educational access as a cornerstone of his administration, he is very supportive of that concept.

“All the elements are in place for Arkansas State to lead this innovative and important initiative,” said Dr. Unnold, who will head the project for ASU and is fluent in Spanish and an authority on Latin American cultures.

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