70 Higher Education Leaders from the United States and Mexico Discuss Importance of Partnerships

Two photos: 1. Margaret B. Hug presenting from a podium; 2. Four college leaders standing and talking
(Left) Margaret B. Hug, Regional Education Initiatives Director, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S Department of State, discusses the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program and other initiatives run by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the Department of State that facilitate cross-border student exchange. (Right) Leaders from institutions in the U.S. and Mexico discuss partnership possibilities while enjoying coffee roasted at North Central College (IL). Pictured are Gabriel Domínguez García Villalobos, rector of Universidad Panamericana Bonaterra Campus; Miguel G. Albañez Espinoza, rector of Universidad Internacional de la Paz; Maria del Carmen Rodriguez Ruvalcaba, vice rector of Universidad Internacional de la Paz; and Maria G. Davis, provost and dean of the college, Olivet College (MI).

“Building bridges, not walls” was the emphasis of the second U.S.-Mexico Higher Education Summit. Hosted by CIC and the Mexican Federation of Private Higher Education Institutions (FIMPES), the Summit took place April 24–27, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. Seventy CIC presidents, rectors of private universities in Mexico, and campus leaders from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border discussed the critical importance of developing sustainable binational higher education partnerships.

CIC and FIMPES hosted a similar summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, in March 2017, and delegations of FIMPES rectors have participated in CIC Presidents Institutes since 2015.

The leaders of U.S. and Mexico higher education institutions discussed four key goals during the 2019 Summit. Through discussion sessions and visits, participants explored how to facilitate partnerships between individual institutions in the United States and Mexico; develop consortia for regular student and faculty exchanges, internship opportunities, and other partnership possibilities; launch nontraditional
partnership opportunities, including short-term student and faculty exchanges, project-based collaboration, and online course-sharing; and create opportunities for association-to-association (CIC-FIMPES) collaborative programs to facilitate bilateral partnerships.
The Summit included campus visits to five CIC institutions in the Chicago area: DePaul University, Dominican University, North Central College, North Park University, and Rockford University. Augustana College (IL) also made a presentation during the Summit. During each campus visit, Summit participants engaged in robust conversations about each institution’s defining features as well as unique opportunities for collaboration, including two-two degree programs, field placements, one-semester course collaborations, service-learning projects, and executive education programs. Breakfast meetings facilitated group discussions regarding student and faculty exchanges; summer programs and short-term exchanges; project- based partnerships; opportunities for association-to-association exchange programs between CIC and FIMPES; and opportunities to develop study-abroad consortia.

During welcoming remarks, Antonio Cuesta, then Acting Consul General of Mexico in Chicago, and Roberta S. Jacobson, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, expressed their support for and the importance of collaboration between U.S. and Mexican higher education institutions. Jacobson noted, “Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the United States. In terms of student exchanges, it is only the ninth (behind countries such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam),” indicating that there is ample room for development of student exchanges between the United States and Mexico. In a lunch discussion, Margaret B. Hug, Regional Education Initiatives Director, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State, asserted that on both sides of the border “students and faculty need to be workforce ready.” Hug encouraged cross-border collaboration while discussing the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program and other programs run by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the Department of State. These partnerships provide an important approach to preparing students and faculty members for today’s global economy.

Rebeca Vargas, president and CEO of the U.S.-Mexico Leaders Network, and Arturo Cherbowski Lask, director of Santander Universidades and Universia, challenged participating institutions to think critically about ways their students and faculty members could benefit from relationships with their peers from the other country. During his remarks, Rodrigo Guerra Botello, secretary general of FIMPES, stated, “The geopolitical context demands that we make the promises of this Summit come true.” Vargas, Cherbowski, and Guerra’s calls to action reinforced the critical importance of binational higher education opportunities highlighted by Cuesta, Hug, and Jacobson.

Throughout the Summit, it was evident to participants that partnerships with colleges and universities on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border are both necessary and attractive. The quality and diversity of CIC and FIMPES member institutions can provide students and faculty members with cultural, educational, and professional experiences that will make meaningful differences in their lives.

Yet several challenges, both real and perceived, associated with broadening exchange programs need to be addressed head-on: students not perceiving Mexico as an “exotic” study abroad location; security concerns on both sides of the border; visa regulations; and tuition differences and other financial considerations, including currency exchange rates. To address these concerns, institutions need to think critically about how to build bridges with partner institutions and how to market to their constituencies the numerous benefits of opportunities to study and work abroad. CIC and FIMPES member institutions’ shared educational philosophies, and deep, personal connections to their students and faculty members, make them well suited to develop long-lasting and meaningful partnership programs. As Donna Carroll, president of Dominican University emphasized, “Partnerships work best between institutions that understand each other.”

During the Summit’s closing session, the 70 participants expressed enthusiasm for a larger-scale platform for institutional collaboration. And since returning to their respective campuses, participants have begun to embrace the connections made and lessons learned during the Chicago meeting. They continue to discuss and develop cross-border partnerships, including for intensive summer language courses; summer business courses for undergraduate and graduate students; online translation and interpretation courses for students who are fluent in both English and Spanish; one-to-one tuition exchange programs; short-term travel courses; online collaboration between communications programs and programs in digital animation engineering; and faculty exchanges.

The 2019 U.S.-Mexico Higher Education Summit was made possible by the generous support of the campus hosts, CIC, and additional sponsors: Associated Colleges of Illinois; Baker & McKenzie LLP; Consulate General of Mexico, Chicago; DePaul University; Dominican University; FIMPES; Hunter Global Education, LLC; Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; North Central College, North Park University, Rockford University; Santander Universidades and Universia; and U.S.-Mexico Foundation.

A session on “Developing Binational Partnerships: Lessons and Examples from the U.S.-Mexico Summit” will take place during the CIC Presidents Institute on January 4–7, 2020, in Marco Island, Florida. The session will feature presidents of institutions in both the United States and Mexico whose efforts to develop thriving cross-border cooperation have been exemplary.


​Albright Stonebridge Group (DC)
Ashland University (OH)
Associated Colleges of Illinois
Augustana College (IL)
Baker & McKenzie LLP (IL)
California Lutheran University
Campbell University (NC)
CETYS University (Mexico)
Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago (IL)
Culver-Stockton College (MO)
DePaul University (IL)
Dominican University (IL)
Drew University (NJ)
Hunter Global Education, LLC (NC)
Instituto de Estudios Superiores del Bajio (Mexico)
Jarvis Christian College (TX)
Lewis University (IL)
Mexican Federation of Private Institutions of Higher Education (Mexico)
Mount St. Joseph University (OH)
North Central College (IL)
North Park University (IL)
Olivet College (MI)
Rockford University (IL)
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (IN)
Santander Universidades and Universia (Mexico)
Stillman College (AL)
Universidad Anáhuac Querétaro (Mexico)
Universidad Cristóbal Colón (Mexico)
Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico)
Universidad Fray Luca Paccioli (Mexico)
Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla (Mexico)
Universidad Internacional de la Paz (Mexico)
Universidad La Salle Nezahualcóyotl (Mexico)
Universidad La Salle Noroeste (Mexico)
Universidad Latina de América (Mexico)
Universidad Panamericana Guadalajara (Mexico)
Universidad Panamericana Bonaterra Campus (Mexico)
Universidad Riviera (Mexico)
Universidad Vasco de Quiroga (Mexico)
U.S. Department of State (DC)
U.S.-Mexico Leaders Network (NY)
Valparaiso University (IN)
Virginia Wesleyan University