An international initiative this summer gave Rice undergraduates the opportunity to meet students from Mexican and American universities to promote collaborative, multidisciplinary research on issues central to relations between the two countries.
The second annual undergraduate research experience, held in Miami this year, also focused on promoting effective communication of research findings to leaders and decision makers. The initiative is presented by the Consortium Puentes, which consists of five universities and is housed at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
A cohort of 25 students from partner universities – Rice, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Universidad de Monterrey, Universidad de las Américas Puebla and the University of Miami – participated in two weeks of courses on research methodologies, practical workshops, sessions mentoring and guest speaker presentations. Students must complete their research at their home institution this fall, for which they will receive academic credit and have their papers published in scientific journals.
The Puentes Consortium was created 10 years ago by former Rice president David Leebron, who wanted to not only strengthen ties between universities, but also give undergraduate students a taste of collaborative research.
“The consortium is unique because it requires both regular dialogue between university presidents and leaders of government, business, and other institutions concerned with Mexico-US relations, as well as research active by binational teams of academics,” said Ivonne Cruz, Program Manager, Puentes Consortium Administrator and Baker Institute’s Center Collaborating Expert for the United States and Mexico.
“What sets the Puentes program apart is the unique opportunity it offers students to be advised and mentored by an international and interdisciplinary team of professors as they design their research projects,” said Nia Georges. , Rice’s anthropology professor who has taught several courses that include international research components.
The Puentes faculty includes Georges who will mentor and guide students in their projects. Tony Payan, Françoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexican Studies and Director of the Center for the United States and Mexico, is part of the operating committee.
“The very core of this program is joining universities in the US and Mexico for a variety of projects, and that’s what I find so cool about it,” said sophomore Erika Alvarez. “As someone interested in political science and specifically conducting research on immigration, I think it’s absolutely invaluable to consider cross-cultural perspectives on such a critical issue – something you can’t usually find in literature. unilateral approach that the United States often adopts when studying subjects outside its borders.
Alvarez is working with two students from Tecnológico de Monterrey on his project, which focuses on the immigration crisis at the border. Other topics of Rice’s student projects include water shortages and health diplomacy.
Senior Sriya Kakarla boasted that his project allowed him to combine his interest in public health and health policy.
“It was a great experience to gain a new perspective on the variety of issues that impact the US-Mexico border and how I might work there as a doctor,” she said.
International cooperation will be crucial in guiding future technology policy decisions, said junior Jamal Sayid, who studies relevant interactions between the United States and Mexico.
“I hope to foster greater cooperation between the two countries using a mixed-methods approach using qualitative and quantitative measures, cross-country case studies and comparative analyses, interviews with industry experts, and a review of existing research literature,” Sayid said. “My double major in political science and social policy analysis, along with my pre-Rice research experience, have greatly assisted me in articulating my findings, and I look forward to working with Professor Nia Georges and Dr Ivonne. Cruz this semester to prepare my research for publication.”
Puentes Consortium institutions share responsibility for improving the quality of life in the United States and Mexico by conducting research on issues of social, economic, environmental, and political significance and agree that challenges are best addressed through research and collaborative, binational and transdisciplinary action. To learn more, visit www.puentes-consortium.org.