When UNT doctoral student Adriana D'Alba needed some financial assistance to conduct research for her dissertation, she didn't have to search very far.
D'Alba's advisor and mentor, Greg Jones, associate professor of learning technologies, received an award from a research fund established for joint projects between faculty members and graduate students at UNT and at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico. UAEM is located in Toluca, which is 39 miles southwest of Mexico City.
Jones' award allowed D'Alba, who had received her undergraduate degree from UAEM more than 10 years before, to return to UAEM and test a 3-D virtual environment that she created for an exhibit on permanent display at the University Museum. She worked with Bertha Abraham, an investigator at UAEM's Research Center in Social Sciences and Humanities.
"I could not have done this research without the assistance of UAEM," says D'Alba, who received her doctoral degree in educational computing in May 2012. She says she faced barriers when she contacted other museums about creating virtual environments of exhibits.
"Bertha did all of the paperwork to allow me access to the museum, and recruited the students to test the 3D environment," D'Alba says.
Created in 2010, the UAEM-UNT Research Seed Funding Program is one of several connections that UNT has to UAEM. Beginning in October 2012, representatives from both universities will celebrate the universities' 10-year partnership with a luncheon, performances by a folkloric ballet troupe and a music trio from UAEM, and the opening of an exhibit at UNT on the Square that will showcase works from three Mexican artists.
Witold Brostow, Regents Professor of materials science and engineering, was the first UNT faculty member to establish a connection to UAEM when he began collaborating on research with UAEM chemistry faculty member Gonzalo Martinez Barrera. Barrera had met Brostow when he worked in Brostow's Laboratory of Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials.
With the help of Warren Burggren, then the dean of UNT's College of Arts of Sciences, a formal agreement allowing the two universities to work together on research was signed in July 2002.
Burggren now serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs and is a professor of biological sciences. Burggren has participated in the UNT-UAEM connection by conducting biological sciences research with UAEM faculty members, as well as representing UNT as an administrator. Burggren's research contributions and collaborations with UAEM faculty recently led to him being named Rector Honoris Causa, or Honorary President, by UAEM officials. UAEM has given out 14 other such awards in its 128-year history, and Burggren is the first recipient from outside of Mexico.
Supplementary agreements between UNT and UAEM created the Research Seed Funding Program in 2010. The fund has provided 23 awards to faculty members from seven of UNT's 12 schools and colleges.
Bruce Hunter, acting director of UNT's Institute of Applied Science, has visited UAEM five times since 2004 as part of a team evaluating hydrologic environmental services at one of Mexico's national parks. Hunter also taught two short courses in Toluca on geographic information systems in January 2010.
"When our students go to Mexico and see the people in their ordinary lives, their eyes are opened," Hunter says. "We can learn a lot from Mexico about the way that environmental resources are used. We take water for granted in the U.S., but in Mexico, water is often used more wisely."
Other initiatives that have resulted from the UNT-UAEM partnership are:
- The opening of an academic liaison office for UAEM at UNT in 2005 to promote the exchange of students and scholars between the two universities and provide information on academic programs, contacts and other assistance.
- A scholarship program that provides full tuition to UAEM graduates who enter doctoral degree programs at UNT.
- An exchange student program that allows UNT and UAEM undergraduates and graduate students to study at each other's universities for one or two semesters.
- A summer institute hosted by UNT's Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication that provides UAEM students and faculty with two weeks of intense English language instruction and activities to introduce them to American culture.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at Nancy.Kolsti@unt.edu.