New UT System partnership looks to enhance ties with Mexico

Van Nguyen

The UT System established the ConTex office last week to oversee the partnership between UT System institutions and Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology, also known as CONACYT.

The ConTex office will facilitate programs that will provide Mexican Ph.D. students educational opportunities at UT System institutions, allow for the exchange of postdoctoral and faculty fellows, and enable visiting students to participate in research projects. The collaboration will help organize missions for professors as well as projects for students and professionals to work on.

The ConTex office is located on the UT San Antonio campus and will support the new programs created in the partnership with CONACYT.

“The CONACYT collaboration provides a unique opportunity on an unprecedented international scale that will ultimately enrich the academic experience of all UT System students,” said Steven Leslie, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven signed an official memorandum of understanding with CONACYT last year to strengthen ties with Mexico, as well as create joint academic and research programs in STEM-related fields at all 14 UT System institutions.

“Mexico is more than just our friend,” McRaven said in a statement. “Each one of our academic and health institutions benefits from our proximity to and relationship with Mexico, and the same can be said of Texas itself. Our partnership with CONACYT is essential to building a knowledge exchange to make new discoveries in science, health care and technology.”

In addition to the memorandum, an official agreement of cooperation was established and signed in June 2016. The collaboration’s programs are currently being developed and will start in the fall of 2017.

The new programs will be open to faculty, staff, students and postdoctoral researchers at all institutions. Workshops will be developed, and the exchange of ideas relating to scientific and technological information is encouraged for those involved in the programs.

Rene Zenteno, vice provost for international initiatives and senior international officer at UTSA, will serve as executive director of the ConTex office and programs. 

According to the UT System, there have been 530 students from Mexico that have been supported through agreements with the CONACYT in the past. This new agreement will expand that number.

“Knowledge is global,” CONACYT director Enrique Cabrero said in a statement. “The signing of this memorandum represents an important step in new areas of true cooperation.”

Several UT System institutions already have existing programs in collaboration with CONACYT for research and funding.

“What is new with this agreement is the timing during a period in which we wish to strengthen our ties with Mexico and its institutions, increase the numbers of students who will be supported and establish a cooperative research program,” said Randy Charbeneau, the UT System associate vice chancellor for research.

Dan Jaffe, vice president for research at UT-Austin, said STEM programs will be benefiting from the program, with new Ph.D. students coming to study here as well as new research opportunities opening up for current faculty members and students.

“We are very excited to further the already existing deep relationships we have in Mexico through research and exchange of graduate students with the CONACYT agreement,” Jaffe said.