The University of New Mexico has entered into a memorandum of understanding with New Mexico State University and the University of Texas at El Paso to create the Border Research Network, designed to advance research and scholarship on border-related topics collaboratively.
The UNM Regents entered into the agreement on behalf of both the Latin American and Iberian Institute and the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute. At NMSU, the Center for Latin American and Border Studies is involved; and at UTEP, the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies.
Christine Sierra, director of SHRI said that the MOU grew out of an immigration conference hosted by UNM in June of 2012. "At that point, we agreed on the importance of fostering border research in partnership across our respective universities. The three universities share many commonalities - geographical, cultural, regional - as well as being Hispanic-serving research universities."
Susan Tiano, director of the LAII, said that this is the first time that LAII and SHRI have collaborated. "The opportunity to collaborate from within UNM and with our partner institutes at NMSU and UTEP will be the foundation of exciting collaborative research. The opportunity to combine resources toward shared goals will help us move toward improving border communities," she said.
The planning process behind the MOU began, in part, with recent symposia which LAII held in collaboration with faculty from SHRI, as well as from NMSU and UTEP. The most recent of the symposia was held in Fall 2012. Titled "Borderline Slavery: Contemporary Issues in Border Security and the Human Trade," it helped illustrate the joint strengths of the three institutions and enhanced discussions regarding how to create more formal avenues for collaboration. Those discussions just recently coalesced when all three institutions signed the MOU for the Border Research Network.
All three universities have concentrated research in border studies. "By combining the strong faculty expertise at these institutions, we can make a mark nationally and internationally," Sierra said, adding that the Border Research Network also directly benefits students who are now able to collaborate across institutions, as well.
The agreement calls for developing joint research projects, as well as courses, conferences, symposia and lectures. It allows for exchange of research and teaching personnel and students, as well as exchange of materials of common interest. Exchange and cooperation in cultural projects is also included. Possible research topics for collaboration include immigration/immigrants, human rights, border communities' civic engagement, political incorporation of immigrant women, public health, sustainability of resources and border infrastructure.
"Another potential topic is cross-border security, redefined in terms broader than militarization efforts, with comparisons across northern and southern Mexican borders," Sierra said.
Richard Schaefer, associate professor, Communication & Journalism, is a co-founder of the Cross Border Issues Group. He said, "As a researcher who works on and across the border, having access to partners at NMSU and UTEP is a great benefit to me. They offer their expertise and proximity to the border, as well as their resource of students who are from towns on both sides of the border."
Image: Provided courtesy of Susan Tiano; cover image of "Borderline Slavery: Human Borderline Slavery: Mexico, the United States, and the Human Trade" (Ashgate Press, 2012).
--Reprinted (with minor revisions) Monday, October 14, 2013, from a UNM Newsroom Article.