UTSA's Mexico Center

Universities share resources and research opportunities, benefitting UTSA and Mexico

NO MORE 'BRAIN DRAIN' Physics professor Miguel Jose Yacaman sends many of his exchange graduates back to Mexico to teach.

Economic development isn't solely focused on businesses; UTSA is also creating partnerships with several universities in Mexico to advance research knowledge on both sides of the border.

UTSA's Institute for Economic Development has focused on higher education as a means to help Mexico's academic communities in addition to helping the country's business community.

One of the strategic partnerships UTSA has established is with Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Mexico (UAEM), one of the country's largest public universities. The values and interests of UAEM align closely with UTSA, and President Ricardo Romo signed an agreement in late 2010 to promote a wide range of collaborative activity.

"Having established a good working relationship with UAEM through our small-business initiative in Mexico, it makes sense to add layers of academic and research collaborations next," said Robert McKinley, director of the Institute for Economic Development.

Driving partnerships Robert McKinley, director of the Institute for Economic Development, sees academic development as a part of economic development.

This summer, a group of UTSA administrators - including McKinley Romo, Vice President for Community Services Jude Valdez, physics chair Miguel Jose Yacaman, and others - visited with their counterparts in Mexico to discuss new ways the universities can work together.

As UTSA shares knowledge and resources, the university also benefits from new research opportunities made possible through the collaboration. Thanks to the agreement with UAEM, UTSA is able to conduct research with Pemex, a petroleum company owned by the Mexico government.

UAEM also benefits from the partnership. Science students from UAEM are able to visit UTSA for a year on scholarship, giving them access to some of the best equipment available, including the world's most powerful electron microscope, which belongs to UTSA.

As part of the physics department at UTSA, Jose Yacaman sees the partnership as a way to benefit the Mexican education system. Graduate students arrive at UTSA to study nanotechnology, biology and related fields.

Upon graduation, many of Jose Yacaman's students return to Mexico as faculty members to teach the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students.

"We don't keep them in the United States, so there's no ‘brain drain’ for Mexico," Jose Yacaman said. About 100 of his former students are now teaching in Mexico.

These new faculty have learned applied research while studying at UTSA, helping to solve real-world problems when they return to Mexico. "It's a benefit to society," he said.

Improving businesses and academia in Mexico has helped the country strengthen its own job creation and educational system, which benefits communities as a whole.

"It's a practical answer to the problems of migration and crime in Mexico," McKinley said.