UArizona Awarded IDEAS Grant from U.S. Department of State's Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad

May 19, 2021
The grant, which includes Lecturer of Architecture Sandra Bernal-Cordova, will expand the Navigating Education in Borderlands Program, through which UArizona students can build cultural competencies and learn about the history, people and culture.
Smart phone with world map

The University of Arizona has been selected to receive an IDEAS (Increase and Diversify Education Abroad for U.S. Students) grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad. UArizona, a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), is one of 26 colleges and universities from across the United States, selected from 132 applicants, to create, expand and/or diversify American student mobility overseas in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. This U.S. government program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and supported in its implementation by World Learning.

The $35,000 IDEAS grant will expand the institution’s Navigating Education in Borderlands Program (NEBP), a program through which UArizona students will build cultural competencies and learn about the history, people and culture from the intersecting borderlands area where UArizona resides. The program seeks to utilize the institution’s positionality and expertise to offer a signature study abroad program on the Borderlands that will engage traditionally marginalized undergraduate students such as Black, Indigenous, people of color, first-generation, low-income and DACA students.

The IDEAS grant will support capacity building efforts including program redesign with COIL and Border Pedagogy, conducting recruitment efforts and strengthening collaborations that will take the NEBP from being a one-time summer program to being a distinguished educational offering at UArizona.

The NEBP was co-developed with the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and University of Sonora-Mexico, and hosted at the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Department of Mexican American Studies and Native Nations Institute and other partners such as the Mexican Consulates in Tucson and Douglas. The IDEAS proposal was developed across Mexico Initiatives, Global Experiential Learning and Digital Learning on the University of Arizona campus.

“The U.S. Department of State is committed to expanding study abroad opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds studying at colleges and universities across the United States. Americans studying abroad serve as citizen ambassadors by building relationships within their host communities, demonstrating American values, and countering stereotypes. They also gain critical job skills abroad that in turn benefit their home communities. We are committed to continuing our strong support for U.S. colleges and universities as they build their study abroad capacity now, in anticipation of a strong return to U.S. student mobility in the future,” said Heidi Manley, USA Study Abroad Chief, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Leading the four-member grant recipient team is Nadia Alvarez Mexia. Alvarez Mexia serves as the director of Mexico programs, Mexico initiatives within the Office of Arizona Global, and is an assistant professor of practice in teaching/learning and sociocultural studies in the College of Education. Alvarez Mexia is a member of the first cohort of the University of Arizona’s Hispanic Serving Institution Fellows, and is an Academic Leadership Institute Fellow (2020-21). She is dedicated to creating safe learning spaces and remarkable academic experiences that have brought recognition from the University of Arizona, as well as from NAFSA in the U.S. and institutions of higher education in Mexico. Since 2018, Alvarez Mexia has been coordinating, co-mentoring and designing learning-experiential activities for the NEBP.

Sandra Bernal-Cordova

CAPLA's Sandra Bernal-Cordova, a lecturer in architecture, brings her experience in the arid regions on the border between Arizona and Sonora. Bernal is a member of the third cohort of the University's Hispanic Serving Institution Fellows (2020-21). Bernal will contribute to the design of online learning environments and tools that will enhance the NEBP, using the frameworks and standards of Quality Matters and Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) for educational purposes offering an alternative to in-person classes.

As the associate vice provost for digital learning and online initiatives at UArizona, Melody Buckner will coordinate and develop the digital learning aspects of the COIL model for the NEBP. Buckner, who has served as interim dean of UA South (the branch campus on the U.S./Mexico border and the home of the College of Applied Science and Technology for the University of Arizona), brings her expertise in research and teaching in the areas of educational technology, digital and creative literacies, multicultural education and cross-border youth development programs.

Dan Xayaphanh is the founding and current director of Global Experiential Learning under Diversity & Inclusion at UArizona. Xayaphanh has created over 30 unique GEL programs since 2016 that integrate travel, multicultural education and service learning to provide diverse and inclusive experiences domestically and internationally. He is an Academic Leadership Institute Fellow. As a part of a land-grant, research intensive Hispanic Serving Institution, Xayaphanh established the GEL program to be affordable and accessible to all students with a focus on historically marginalized populations such as low-income, first generation, DACA and students of color.

The IDEAS program seeks to increase the capacity of accredited U.S. colleges and universities to create, expand and diversify study abroad programs for U.S. students. In addition to the IDEAS grant competition, the program also offers opportunities for faculty, staff and administrators at U.S. colleges and universities to participate in a series of free virtual and in-person study abroad capacity-building activities.

“I believe that connecting different cultures, worlds, realities, academic fields and backgrounds can give us a better sense of this world and can help us understand and appreciate different contexts,” said Alvarez Mexia. “The IDEAS grant will help us continue the important work we are doing to build understanding and bridge cultures that we have already started here at the University of Arizona, and continuously improve how we educate and innovate.”

For a full list of 2021 IDEAS grant recipients, as well as information on a free IDEAS webinar series on building study abroad resources for U.S. campuses, please visit the Capacity Building Program for U.S. Study Abroad website. Funded projects are supporting such activities as developing new international partnerships and programs, training faculty and staff, internationalizing curriculum, creating resources to engage diverse student groups in study abroad and creating virtual exchanges. Once international travel resumes in full, these IDEAS grant recipients will be better equipped to deliver impactful and inclusive study abroad programs around the globe.

Header image by Pexels, courtesy Pixabay.


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