Colorado State University to Align Research, Students with Universidad Autonoma De Yucatan in Mexico

Colorado State University will enter into an international Memorandum of Understanding on Saturday, Jan. 21, with the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan in Mexico to cement existing agreements on research and to open opportunities for students at both universities.

Larry Edward Penley, president of Colorado State University, will lead a small delegation to Merida, Yucatan, this week for the ceremony.

As part of its strategic plan, Colorado State is committed to growing areas of study that address global challenges and creating international partnerships to face those challenges. The university has sought like-minded institutions that share its vision and values for higher education in areas such as China, Argentina, Chile and Mexico.

"Every day, Colorado State University tackles some of the world’s most chronic, challenging problems such as poverty, hunger, pollution and infectious disease. But we know those solutions aren’t confined to laboratories and classrooms in Fort Collins," Penley said. "Today’s global economy means problem-solving must come as the result of international partnerships and outreach."

Also traveling to Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan to meet with their counterparts to investigate other potential collaborations between the two universities are Tony Frank, provost and senior vice president; Jim Cooney, associate vice provost for international programs; Rick Miranda, dean of the College of Natural Sciences; and Barry Beaty, Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Beaty is working with the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan and the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico, investigating the dengue virus and Aedes aegypti mosquito origins of epidemic dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever in the Americas. The studies have been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health International Collaborations in Infectious Disease Research, and more recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In November, Beaty’s team, including colleagues at the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan, received part of a $50.7 million Gates Foundation grant to develop a new generation of environmentally sensitive pesticides and other measures to control the mosquito vectors of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever – diseases that have emerged as major public health problems in tropical America – and malaria, a disease spread by mosquitoes that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds.

Colorado State will receive more than $5 million of the $50.7 million awarded to the Innovative Vector Control Consortium led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool, England. The grant is part of a $258.3 million Gates Foundation grant program to fight malaria and dengue from multiple angles.

Beaty also has received grants to train doctoral students from Merida and other areas of Mexico.

Colorado State has memorandums of understanding with 53 institutions in South and Central America, 16 in Mexico. Most are in biomedical sciences, agricultural sciences and natural resources. The university has about 260 international MOUs on every continent in all areas of scholarly activity. Many involve students, both undergraduate and graduate, doing some form of research project abroad.

Colorado State administrators have made several trips tied to international education in the past six months.

Earlier this month, Penley traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend an international education summit with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. He was one of roughly 100 university presidents and other higher education leaders invited to attend the event, which covered such topics as the regulatory environment, preparing globally competitive U.S. students and visas and security.

This past fall, Gov. Owens invited Penley on a trade mission to Argentina and Chile where he conducted business for the university and on behalf of the state of Colorado. Penley investigated opportunities to establish beneficial institutional relationships with outstanding universities in both countries and promoted economic partnerships that promote and benefit all of Colorado. The trip was privately funded.

Penley also traveled to China last year. Colorado State has negotiated International Memoranda of Understanding to engage specific graduate research programs at Beijing Normal University, China Agricultural University, Tianjin University, the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Colorado State’s commitment to international collaboration is part of its strategic plan, which dictates four strategic research initiatives, or superclusters, including environmental sustainability; food, nutrition, health and well-being; infectious disease and biomedicine; and information science and technology. Annual research spending at Colorado State totaled about $244 million in 2005 – about $20 million more than 2004.

"The applications of fundamental research at Colorado State are universal to humanity," Penley said. "These great global challenges are the ones that the traditional agricultural and land-grant universities are positioned well to address, but only if they are willing to redesign themselves and accept the level of accountability owed to the public. As we confront the great global challenges of our time, we do so as one of America’s premier public research universities with our roots in agriculture and engineering. And we will confront them by building a model 21st century land-grant university – one with roots in the values of the agricultural university, but with its vision on the challenges of the next decades."

Colorado State has aggressive goals to increase its international emphasis. The university recently hired Cooney, a longtime international affairs expert with substantial experience at Harvard University, to serve as the new associate provost for international programs. He also oversees the Office of International Programs, which promotes internationalism through advising for international students, support to academic programs for enhancing international perspectives in the curriculum, and coordination of such programs as study abroad, Peace Corps, Fulbright programs and area studies programs. Colorado State hosts about 900 students from nearly 100 countries and about 300 visiting scholars and researchers.Approximately 600 students study abroad each year.

The university aims to send 25 percent of all students on an international learning experience by 2015 and to increase the total number of international students to 1,100 by 2010.