Rutgers and UADY-Tizimín Receive Innovation Fund Award in 2020 Mexico-U.S. Competition

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Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in partnership with Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán - Unidad Multidisciplinaria Tizimín, has been selected to receive an Innovation Fund award in the 2020 Mexico-U.S. Innovation Fund Competition by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas (100K) Innovation Fund at Partners of the Americas and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. 

Funds support the development of a new two-way study abroad program, “The Science of Corn: Empowering Youth through Community-Engaged, Language Development,” created by design teams at La Facultad de Educación’s Unidad Multidisciplinaria de Tizimín at La Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, and Rutgers Global. The program focus is on the development and implementation of English, Mayan and Spanish multilingual storytelling curricula around “De La Milpa a la Tortilla: the Science of Corn.” The program will target 16 pre-service teachers (8 from Mexico and 8 from the U.S.), who are completing degrees in schools of education and approximately 100 PK-12 students.

John McPhail, President & CEO of Partners of the Americas, notified Dr. Mary Curran, Director of Local-Global Partnerships at Rutgers Graduate School of Education and lead on the winning proposal, writing: “We are confident that your proposal —"The Science of Corn: Empowering Youth through Community-Engaged, Language Development"— will lead to innovative exchange and training programs that will benefit teams of students in Mexico and the United States. We appreciate your team's efforts to design this unique 100K partnership.” 

Dan Waite, Director of Rutgers Global - Study Abroad, expressed hope that the award will help energize expanded partnerships in Mexico and other Latin American countries that will meet the Fund's goal of helping more students work in teams, solve real-world problems, and gain technical, linguistic, and intercultural skills.  

According to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas website, the Innovation Fund is a hemisphere-wide education initiative between the U.S. Department of State, U.S. embassies, and Partners of the Americas in collaboration with regional private sectors, foundations, and academic networks to stimulate and support higher education partnerships between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

In particular, the Innovation Fund inspires U.S. higher education institutions (HEIs) to partner with HEIs in Latin America to create academic exchange programs that will provide more students with critical access to new models of training at their home and host institutions, work in teams, solve real-world problems, and gain technical, linguistic, and intercultural skills. 

In Mr. McPhail’s award letter, he notes: “Currently, Mexico is the leading country in this initiative to form partnerships and innovative student exchange programs with U.S. universities and colleges. As of July 2021, there are 20 Mexican states and 27 U.S. states that benefit from 71 Innovation Fund awards, which directly impact hundreds of students and faculty in both countries.”

When receiving the news, Dr. Curran remarked, “We look forward to the opportunity for both Rutgers and UADY students to learn from and with each other and local community members while developing multilingual and pedagogical knowledge and skills about the science of corn.” Dr. Curran and the team from Rutgers Global will work with the teams in Mexico to prepare for the program’s start in September 2021 with travel exchanges planned for the 2022 spring semester.
The Innovation Fund grant competition is supported by the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation, Coca-Cola Mexico Foundation, Sempra Energy, and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. For more information, visit the website.