From Arkansas State University:
JONESBORO, Ark. - After receiving authorization in December from the Board of Trustees to proceed with negotiations for an Arkansas State University campus in Mexico, Chancellor Tim Hudson traveled to Mexico to consult with project advocates and partners in the State of Queretaro.
Following a breakfast meeting hosted by Governor Jose Calzada in his official residence, Dr. Hudson and the governor went on a walking tour of the historic center of the city. Trailing along were numerous news media representatives who interviewed Hudson (in Spanish) and Queretaro Minister of Education Fernando de la Isla whose agency will approve the campus.
When newspapers were published the next day, the story of Arkansas State University's plans to locate in Queretaro was on every front page, no real surprise given the interest the governor has shown.
"Governor Calzada remains totally committed to the project," Dr. Hudson said, referring to plans for Arkansas State to establish a campus in Queretaro. "He pledged, once again, any and all assistance to everyone involved to help make the project highly successful."
While in Queretaro, Hudson worked to sustain momentum for the first of its kind plan, meeting with key governmental and private representatives. Accompanied by various entrepreneurs and developers who will work together to make the A-State campus a reality once a location is selected, Dr. Hudson visited possible sites for the future campus in Queretaro, mostly by helicopter.
"Overall, the atmosphere was very positive - everyone realizing that this project will indeed be a reality and that the next phase of hard work is already upon us," he continued. "The caliber of the individuals now involved in this project could not be higher."
The primary option preferred by the project participants will embed the campus, expected to be approximately 150 acres, within a larger development. The site is convenient to the international airport and major highways.
During his visit to Queretaro in December, Chancellor Hudson was particularly struck by three major developments that underscore Queretaro as what the New York Times has called the "other Mexico," because of its extraordinary economic development and social progress.
First, the State of Queretaro won fierce internal competition to be the other terminus (along with Mexico City) for the first high-speed railroad line to be built in the Western Hemisphere. A Spanish-French conglomerate is scheduled to begin construction late this year, with a completion date of 2016. This link will reduce travel time between the two cities to one hour.
A second announcement was made concerning Mexico's initiative to establish its own deep space program over the next decade, with research and implementation activity headquartered in Queretaro. Hudson pointed out that the city's robust aeronautics sector contributed to its selection.
Also, Queretaro will complete construction of the country's first children's cancer research center and hospital, utilizing only privately raised funds.
During his visit to Mexico, Hudson traveled to Mexico City and met with all principals who comprise the newly created board of directors of the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (in Spanish, the acronym is AIEM), which is now a formally registered, non-profit organization authorized to engage in all operations needed to support ASU's mission there. AIEM will finance and build the campus ensuring that Arkansas State will have no liabilities in the country.
Oscar Franco, the chief executive officer of Grupo Proyectos, is the chair of the AIEM board, and Edmundo Ortiz, who heads up the project, is the vice chair. Franco, Ortiz, Governor Calzada, and several other representatives from Mexico traveled to Arkansas State and Jonesboro last September for an official visit, during which time they familiarized themselves with the university and its mission.
AIEM representatives have signed a management agreement with ASU that sets out expectations for both parties and ensures ASU academic oversight and control as the project moves forward, Hudson explained. AIEM will finance and build the campus ensuring that Arkansas State will have no liabilities in the country.
The next steps will include a possible visit to Arkansas by representatives of the group of developers, who are now preparing a comprehensive land development plan with the university campus at its heart. Also, they will seek the participation of the president of Mexico in a formal announcement ceremony.
Back in Jonesboro, Hudson met with a growing "Mexico Campus" interest group that included project director Dr. Yvonne Unnold, chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures and ASU project lead, Julie Isaacson, president of the Faculty Association, Dr. Lynita Cooksey, Provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Len Frey, vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, and Trustee Dan Pierce.
"Now that the spring semester is underway, Dr. Unnold and I will also be meeting with our own faculty and other campus leaders to discuss details regarding curriculum, space needs, and other aspects," Hudson added. In the meantime, AIEM will draft an initial marketing plan and strategy with a goal of opening the campus in the fall of 2015.