Mexico Center: A Platform for Research and Public Service
Since 2005, The University of Texas at San Antonio Mexico Center, under the direction of Dr. Harriett Romo, has been committed to the advancement of research regarding Mexico, providing funding for UTSA faculty and students for research in Mexico, collaborating with domestic and Mexican institutions to promote research developments, and public dialogues about U.S.-Mexico relations.
In addition to promoting research on U.S. and Mexico relations, the Center hosts cultural performers, academics, and professionals from Mexico or Mexico-related organizations and institutions, wherein issues such as immigration policies and how they affect familial and communal entities are addressed.
The Center’s goal is to introduce the San Antonio community to not just Mexican scholars and writers but to also highlight Mexico’s rich, creative culture.
Moreover, Romo, a professor in the Department of Sociology at UTSA, affirms that the Center’s primary goal is to encourage an academic, analytical, and bilateral discussion on public policy issues rather than a political and unilateral focus. Through research promulgation, instruction, and public service engagements, the Mexico Center assists in transnational concerns regarding immigration, economic development, families and children, health, and education and how those issues affect both sides of the border.
Romo’s research foci involve Latino children and schooling, early childhood education, and immigrant families and children. Dr. Romo, as well as other university affiliates, are working on furthering research aimed at understanding the civic engagement of youth who are undocumented and living in the U.S.
“Our job as researchers is to tell the stories about what’s happening and explain what happens to these young people when they’re here and what’s going to happen to them in the future,” Romo stated.
The Mexico Center also collaborated with colleagues in Mexico and the United States in developing a special issue of a journal known as International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education which is focused on qualitative research on education in Mexico and Latin America.
Furthermore, in order to accomplish its goals, the Center also collaborates with organizations and institutions both in Mexico and the United States. Among them are the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG), the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Mexico (UAEM), and the Universidad Veracruzana.
Ensuring Practical Applications
According to Olivia Lopez, Program Coordinator at the Mexico Center, in addition to collaborative research, the Center provides grants to support research projects, is involved in community outreach, and engages students in courses related to Mexico and the border.
“So far, the Mexico Center has funded 28 small research projects from an array of disciplines ranging from Anthropology to Mechanical Engineering,” Lopez stated.
In the past, grant support has assisted students such as Cesar Lopez, an undergraduate International Business and Honors student, who collaborated with Dr. Viviana Rojas, an associate professor in the UTSA Communication Department, on Mexicans’ perception of U.S. retirees living in their communities.
Edith Lopez Estrada, a public policy graduate student and intern at the Center, conveys the encouragement she receives from the Mexico Center and the gratifying exposure she acquires.
“My experience has been great and I really love it here. I am challenged every day which is always good. It gives me confidence in my field and in conducting research,” Estrada stated.
Recently, the Center reached out to a group of ten public school teachers from Mexico and organized a two-week English Language Learners Institute for them, to assist with implementing English within Mexico’s new bilingual curriculum.
Through collaboration with instructors from UTSA, school districts in San Antonio, and other early childhood education organizations, the visiting teachers were exposed to different strategies and classroom management for bilingual education and interactive English language instruction.
Romo asserts that by sharing the stories of undocumented youth through the research at the UTSA Mexico Center, negative public perceptions regarding these young people will lack merit once the public hears the real stories about the youths’ academic achievements, how difficult their current status makes it living in the U.S. and the need for immigration reform.
Such difficulties include minimal access to educational opportunities and the lack of opportunities to work. The Center also delves into studies regarding entrepreneurs who have come to San Antonio on investment visas and the social and economic contributions they have made to the regional economy. Such studies are made possible through funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
According to Romo, these migrants create jobs, enrich the Spanish language environment in their communities, and bring economic resources that add to the dynamic economy in Texas.
As a result of the Mexico Center’s explorations and achievements, the Center remains at the forefront of academic research, instruction, and public engagement while assisting scholars, students, and transnational communities in cultivating educational advancements and social change.
Published in the UTSA Discovery 2013 Volume 6.