Colorado State University has announced the launch of its first international research and teaching center, constructed through an innovative public-private collaboration with a Colorado-based company.

The center, located in Todos Santos, Mexico, will provide expanded opportunity for Colorado State students and faculty to participate in international scientific and cultural exchange experiences– using land and facilities largely donated by MIRA, a Mexican real estate investment and development company sponsored by Black Creek Capital, a Colorado-based development company.

The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center will provide teaching, research and service learning experiences focused on issues such as water, agriculture, infectious disease, elementary education, wildlife ecology, veterinary medicine, public health and environmental and social sustainability.

Center builds on existing ties with Mexico

The center will build on long-standing ties between Colorado State and Mexico, which include ongoing infectious disease research and multiple exchange programs with Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan in Merida, Mexico. The center announcement also comes on the heels of a recently announced U.S. State Department initiative calling for a doubling of the number of U.S. students studying abroad in Latin America.

MIRA is constructing and donating to CSU three buildings that include a small housing facility for up to 24 students and faculty, classrooms, a library and a kitchen and dining facility. Groundbreaking is slated for this spring.

“Colorado State values its rich heritage of international engagement, ranging from Maury Albertson’s early work to create the Peace Corps to our recent recognition with the 2013 Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization,” CSU President Tony Frank said. “The opportunities for collaboration in Todos Santos build on our existing partnerships in Mexico, and the range and breadth of the potential areas of work span nearly the entire university. Collaborations in Mexico are important given the vital nature of the Colorado-Mexico trade partnership. We’re excited to see the benefits of the new collaboration that will arise in the coming years.”

Donation establishes center

The CSU presence in Todos Santos will be established with the donation of three buildings and five acres in a Baja, California Sur community being built by MIRA, and is expected to open in the spring of 2015. In total, the donation from MIRA includes approximately $4.312 million in land and facilities.

“This project will allow us to expand hands-on learning opportunities for our students while preparing them to help put their education to work around the world. Clearly, Latin America is an increasingly important economic partner for the U.S. Improving our ties in this part of the world, and using our expertise to build true partnerships, makes sense for our university, our state and our nation,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda. “With CSU’s strengths in human and animal health, and our goal to be at the forefront of addressing critical global challenges, this provides an exceptional opportunity.”

CSU is looking into developing a variety of programs in Todos Santos, benefiting the university and local community. Some initial educational programing is expected to begin during the Spring semester, with an official center opening the spring of 2015.

Center offers research and teaching opportunities

Initial plans include:

  • International field experiences for veterinary students and alumni, with an emphasis on high-volume spay-neuter surgical experience to reduce the number of unwanted pets. This program would build on existing partnerships in Todos Santos and would support local veterinarians, with the aim of improving animal and community health. Last fall and this spring, CSU veterinary students and faculty took part in a community-led spay and neuter clinic in Todos Santos and helped provide surgeries for hundreds of cats and dogs. College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences leaders are examining a plan to increase the number of students in this effort, providing a dramatic increase in their surgical experiences at lower costs than other international programs.
  • Opportunities for CSU students majoring in early childhood development to partner with local schools and nonprofit organizations, and bringing the Kids Do it All theater program to Todos Santos, providing CSU students with international teaching and bilingual experience. This program will begin this summer.
  • Environmental health assessments, allowing students to gain hands-on experience analyzing issues including construction management, waste management, chemical handling and disposal, water supply delivery and management, and agricultural practices related to water, pesticide and herbicide use.
  • The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center potentially will include an Agricultural and Water Research Center, focusing CSU experts from various disciplines – civil engineering, agriculture and environmental health – on solving local, regional and global water challenges as well as applied research into agricultural practices. Students and faculty will work with local students and young adults at an Agriculture and Water Research Center to learn about crops, irrigation, pest management, effective water use and business skills.
  • Nutrition and public health research and outreach in the local community.
  • Starting in the spring of 2015, wildlife ecology students will travel to the center to learn about seabirds, marine life and desert ecology through local exploration and research and learning visits to the Sierra de La Laguna preserve near Todos Santos. The southern tip of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range was once an island and contains distinctive flora and fauna and is a global biosphere reserve, and students can study ecology related to the both the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez.
  • Recycling and waste management service-learning programs, giving CSU students an opportunity to implement strategies to support and expand local efforts to pick up trash and recycle.

Projects in Mexico focus on health, socio-economic issues

The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center intentionally builds upon long-standing education and research relationships between CSU and Mexico. The university has a partnership since 2006 with the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan in Merida, Mexico, focusing on addressing health and socio-economic issues in Mexico. That partnership and other efforts have created vast faculty and student research projects in the country, particularly in the areas of biomedical sciences and veterinary sciences, and student affairs experiences.

The partnership has resulted in a host of educational and research projects for CSU faculty and staff in Mexico, including:

  • A CSU archeologist’s discovery of and excavation of a lost, ancient city in central Mexico and ongoing work by CSU scientists through the use of NASA satellite technology to explore ancient civilizations
  • Numerous ecology and wildlife studies, such as studying fire management strategies, the impact of erosion on traditional farming, and wildlife conservation.
  • University veterinarians and veterinary students conducted vaccination and spay and neuter clinics for pets and stray cats and dogs in Mexico;
  • The study of infectious diseases through the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, particularly diseases that are transmitted by insects, such as dengue virus and malaria. Efforts include developing tests, vaccines and treatments for these illnesses;
  • Leadership, service and intensive language and cultural study exchange programs for students through the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan.
  • CSU students visit Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan to learn about local social service projects that solve current challenges by identifying social issues, assessing needs, creating solutions and then raising money and creating volunteer systems to implement those solutions through programs. Examples of past projects CSU students have studied include improving access to health care or preserving cultural heritage while increasing economic opportunities.

The new Todos Santos center will help address a national priority announced early this year by Secretary of State John Kerry to double student exchange between the U.S. and Latin America by 2020. In making the announcement, Kerry called on U.S. universities to increase ties and exchanges with Latin American nations, noting their strategic and economic importance to the U.S.

More information about the MIRA development, Tres Santos.