In Spring 2015, MALAS student Julia Youngs was selected as a student delegate for US-MEX FoCUS, a joint effort through Stanford University and ITAM (Instituto Tecnónologico Autónoma de México) focused on bilateral relationships in the spheres of academia, business, civil society, diplomacy, and politics. The program was recently featured on CNN in an article whose title summarizes one of the program's main objectives: "Cómo cambiar la conversación sobre la relación México-EU."
FoCUS, or the Forum for Cooperation, Understanding, and Solidarity, calls together 60 student leaders each year from thirty universities across the United States and Mexico. These student leaders, or delegates, are selected on the basis of their dedication to social, political, economic, or technological issues. Through four annual summits, the students collectively consider how to address the issues in innovative was. The organization's mission is to bring together the future leaders of the United States and Mexico, providing them with opportunities and tools such that they become engines of growth and cross-national collaboration. Delegates work together collaboratively on projects, papers, or policy initiatives in between the formal summits.
In April, this year's delegates came together in Mexico City for one of the annual summits. As Youngs writes, "the week was fascinating, enlightening, and challenging (in a good way!). One thing I appreciated about FoCUS, and that I appreciate about the MALAS program, is its interdisciplinary nature. People came from a variety of backgrounds, which I think creates for a much fuller, engaged discussion. Certainly my interest in applying stemmed from my time as a MALAS student, and as a dual degree MALAS/MCRP student, as this experience has formed the foundation of my knowledge and understanding of Mexico and Latin America in general, and affirmed my commitment to studying human rights and development issues."
The theme of the summit was "Energy, Migration, and Social Activism," an intersection of topics which was explored through panel discussions. "Migration, for example, isn't just a question of policy, but of human rights, of urban planning, and of the environment," Youngs writes.
In the Fall, Youngs will attend a second summit at Stanford University. Throughout the process, Youngs sees her work in FoCUS as a testament to the way in which the MALAS program prepares students to participate in their respective fields in a professional capacity, and to be able to dialogue across languages, cultures, and topics. She writes that, "undoubtedly, the knowledge I gained at the conference will have an affect on my coursework as the experience provided me with a greater understanding of US-Mexico bilateral relations, and an understanding of the larger question of migration (in all forms: goods, people, ideas, money) between the US and Central America. Already, I've drawn on the experience in one of my current courses on economic development in Latin America, and I hope to continue to integrate the knowledge and perspective I gained through the FoCUS experience in my further studies of urban development and human rights in the MALAS program."
To learn more about this innovative program, visit the US-MEX FoCUS website.
Image: Illustration adapted from US-MEX FoCUS website.
--Posted Thursday, April 30, 2015.