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Queretaro, Arkansas State Leaders Break Ground for Historic Campus in Mexico

02/20/2014

QUERETARO, Mexico – More than 2,000 leaders in government, education and business gathered at the Centro de Convenciones here today to celebrate plans to start construction of a privately funded Arkansas State University campus.

The Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (AIEM), a private business foundation, organized the event and announced it 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.

Featured speakers and attendees included Queretaro Gov. Jose Calzada Rovirosa; U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne; Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (AIEM) President Oscar Franco; Edmundo Ortiz, the General Director of AIEM who leads the campus development project on behalf of all Mexican partners; Jose Salgado, head of the Ministry of Urban Development and Public Works of Queretaro; and Arkansas State Chancellor Tim Hudson. About 50 members of the Mexican media covered the event.

“This is something that has been never seen in our country, a campus of a prestigious American university, here,” Calzada said. “Today begins the story of Arkansas, which will be a great success. It is the first campus of a public university in Mexico, in history, and that is a very important thing. It is not a matter of appearance; it is a matter of substance for this university to come to Queretaro.

“This serves as an example of what we can achieve together, the United States and Mexico, when we combine forces regarding the most valuable things we have, which are our youth, the future, the progress of the nation,” Calzada added.

“This is a historic day for Arkansas State,” Hudson said. “This will be a benefit to our students and faculty who participate in this project. It will create leaders who have an empathetic understanding of different cultures, who are comfortable working in a global environment. The idea of a residential campus where people from different walks of life meet each other, interact and learn from each other outside the classroom – this is unique in Mexico and around the world. To be competitive in a global economy, you need highly trained and highly educated individuals.”

In addition to Hudson, Arkansas State’s delegation to the event included Dan Pierce and Ron Rhodes, who are members of the ASU Board of Trustees; Dr. Yvonne Unnold, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, who is the project coordinator for the new campus; Julie Isaacson, chair of the Faculty Senate; George Krennerich, president of the Chancellor’s Cabinet and president of Brackett-Krennerich and Associates of Jonesboro; Dr. Lynita Cooksey, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and research; Dr. Rick Stripling, vice chancellor for student affairs; the university mascot “Howl”; student representative Stephanie Overby; Dr. Abelardo Martinez, a Jonesboro cardiologist; and Mark Young, president of the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Mike Beebe was unable to attend because of the fiscal session of the Arkansas General Assembly, but in a letter to Hudson congratulated the university and its Mexico partners for making history with “an international partnership that will enhance higher education in our two countries.

“The creation of the first comprehensive U.S. public university campus in Mexico is a remarkable and innovative undertaking,” Beebe said. “I commend the business and government leaders in Queretaro for their visionary leadership and substantial investment in working to make the campus a reality. This public-private partnership will be transformative, not only for A-State, but also for the citizens of Mexico and the United States.”

The Mexico campus, which will open for classes in 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 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.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Ambassador Wayne said: “My staff and I have been following this project with great interest and support for all that it proposes to bring in terms of increased student mobility between Mexico and the United States, as well as deepened understanding and relations between our future generations. Efforts like that of Arkansas State University are perfect examples of what is possible when government, academia, and the private sector on both sides of the border work together to realize this shared vision.”

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. 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. A-State ultimately will receive a percentage of revenues.

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.

Franco, who is also CEO and founder of Grupos Proyectos, 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.

Mexico campus rendering
Architectural rendering courtesy of AIEM of portion of Querétaro campus

Hudson media
Chancellor Tim Hudson addresses media at Queretaro gathering