UNM will continue to reach out to its southern neighbor this summer.
The University is working with the City of Albuquerque to establish an educational office and a trade office in Mexico City to help prospective American and Mexican entrepreneurs collaborate and connect, said Mary Ann Saunders, UNM’s special assistant to the president for global initiatives. She said she expects the office to officially open in July or August.
At the moment, the University is conducting interviews with potential managers of the planned educational office, Saunders said. She said the project will be very important for UNM.
“Our natural affinity is to Latin America and especially to Mexico,” she said. “We share a border. We share some history. We share DNA in some cases. We have always been very interested in expanding our profile.”
UNM started planning the office in 2012 when President Robert Frank took over the University’s leadership, Saunders said. In October of that year, she, along with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and other city officials, visited Mexico City to plan the projected offices, she said.
Saunders said that through the potential educational office, UNM will recruit more Mexican exchange students. She said that at the moment, the population of Mexican exchange students on campus is insufficient.
“We have very few students from Mexico here, and we really believe it’s a puzzle,” she said. “It’s interesting because they tend to go to the University of Texas at San Antonio or at the University of California in Los Angeles. They go east. They go west. They don’t go north. What’s up with this?”
Because there is a burgeoning middle class in Mexico, there is an increasing number of students who want to study abroad, so it would be easy to recruit more students to UNM, she said.
Also, through the office, UNM aims to double the number of outgoing exchange students to Mexico by August 2016, Saunders said. She said that although some places in Mexico are unsafe to visit, the country’s capital is an example of the contrary.
“Certain areas are, of course, to be avoided,” she said. “We would never put students at risk. We would never encourage students to go (to these areas). We might encourage their students to go up (to Mexico City).”
Saunders said the University has already initially allotted $75,000 for the educational office.
UNM plans to collaborate with the City of Albuquerque for the project, Saunders said. She said the state government and the City of Santa Fe have also expressed interest in the project, although the University has yet to receive a formal commitment from the two entities.
Randy Trask, manager of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Trade Alliance, said the city will manage the separate trade office planned alongside UNM’s in Mexico City. He said the city’s preliminary budget allotment for the project has matched the University’s amount.
Trask said the city decided to work with UNM mainly to offset the costs of the project. He said the two offices will work independently.
Because Mexico is one of the most integral trade partners of the city, building a trade office in the country would prove to be integral for Albuquerque, Trask said.
“The Mexican market for New Mexico is our largest market at about $800 million in 2013,” he said. “The goal of the office in the trade site is to have a trade representative on the ground in Mexico City, which will help any New Mexico company that’s interested in to find potential partners in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico.”
Trask said the planned trade office will help small businesses in Albuquerque find international export connections. He said the project would also help graduating UNM students interested in international business.
“It gives us the opportunity to help build New Mexican companies to enter Mexico,” he said. “If there is a small business that thinks that there could be some demand for their product in Mexico, then it’s one thing just to know there’s some demand. It’s another thing to do market research there.”
Trask said that within the next years, he also expects a large growth in the number of Mexican companies investing in Albuquerque.
Saunders said she is excited about the two offices.
“We know that we have a lot of work to do in terms of educating the people of Mexico that we exist,” she said. “And we are perfectly willing to undertake that task.”