School construction in Mexico

UTSA Mexico Center to highlight south-of-border ties

By Alison Beshur
Public Affairs Specialist

(Feb. 22, 2006)--UTSA's recently opened Mexico Center has begun creating avenues for bilingual and bicultural expression. A series of brown-bag lunch lectures, highlighting the university's ties with Mexico, began today.

The purpose of the UTSA Mexico Center, an umbrella institute for bi-national learning, is to connect existing Mexico-related expertise at UTSA through cross-disciplinary collaboration on research, projects and service activities. Additionally, the center will promote a better understanding of Mexico and its relationship with the United States by engaging students, faculty and staff.

The center, which will partner with Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and other Mexico-related organizations, provides a forum for communication among policy makers, scholars, business representatives and professionals from both countries.

In the first lunch-time session Feb. 22 at the UTSA Downtown Campus, Sue Ann Pemberton-Haugh discussed the UTSA College of Architecture's participation in the construction of an adobe boarding school in Norogachi, Chihuahua, Mexico.

"The brown bag lunch discussions are one way of letting people know about the involvement of UTSA students and faculty with Mexico," said Harriett Romo, UTSA associate professor of sociology and director of the Mexico Center. "Although the UTSA Mexico Center is new, we already have a number of exciting projects underway."

Romo said the Mexico Center serves as a starting point to develop the framework for a Global Institute at UTSA that eventually will include other nations.

The architecture project in Mexico includes a study and construction of passive solar earthen architecture, study and documentation of a Spanish Colonial mission church and research on indigenous architecture.

During the past two summers, graduate and upper-level undergraduate students at UTSA's College of Architecture have learned how to adapt ancient earth-architecture of the region's indigenous people to modern buildings.

Pemberton-Haugh said the experience is important to student learning, because it removes students from what is familiar and requires them to be resourceful to implement their design education.

"They cannot `Google' for information," Pemberton-Haugh said. "Students have to learn by their own observation which way the wind blows, where the sun rises and sets and what impact that has on their design ... they learn a lot about themselves and beyond themselves."

This summer, Pemberton-Haugh will go back to Norogachi with another group of students to continue working on the project.

When complete, the building complex will include a dormitory to accommodate 25 boys from nearby communities, a dormitory for 25 girls, a kitchen and dining area, a library and a research facility.

In May, the Mexico Center will centralize its administrative offices in the Monterey Building at UTSA's Downtown Campus. Initially, it will include offices for the UTSA architecture and liberal and fine arts colleges, the extended services and extended education programs, the UTSA Institute for Economic Development and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

As the center develops, more programs and colleges will be added. For example, UTSA's Institute for Economic Development is working with the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG) to stimulate small business development in Mexico.

Additional brown-bag lunch lectures highlighting other projects included in the new initiative will follow on March 29, April 26 and May 31.

For more information, contact Laura Perez at (210) 458-2692.

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