by Lee Hogan
Posted 2/24/2014 11:01 am
Updated 6 months ago
Arkansas State University officials and representatives of Querétaro broke ground Thursday on a $50 million, privately funded Arkansas State campus, which is expected to open for classes in fall 2015 in the north-central Mexican state.
More than 2,000 government, education and business leaders, including Querétaro Gov. Jose Calzada Rovirosa and Arkansas State Chancellor Tim Hudson, gathered for the ceremony at the Centro de Convenciones.
"This is an historic day for Arkansas State," Hudson said at the ceremony. "This will be a benefit to our students and faculty who participate in this project."
The campus, which will become the first comprehensive, American-style, U.S. university in Mexico, will offer courses taught in English by credentialed faculty approved by the university.
Courses include academic programs in biological sciences, biotechnology, business administration, electrical engineering, English, international business, mechanical engineering, sociology, strategic communications, technology, and world languages and cultures. Graduate programs include business administration, engineering management and science of engineering.
Arkansas State has worked with Mexico officials and gathered private dollars for startup costs since its board of trustees authorized the campis in 2012.
The nonprofit Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education (AIEM) will finance and build the campus, underwriting any operating shortfalls for up to three years after course offerings begin. Arkansas State has said it will ultimately earn a percentage of campus revenue. Hudson said these arrangement ensures that Arkansas State will have no liabilities in the country.
Arkansas State faculty will have the option to teach, conduct research and provide service at the Mexico campus for summer or semester terms, while students will have the opportunity to study at the campuses interchangeably.
"It will create leaders who have an empathetic understanding of different cultures, who are comfortable working in a global environment," Hudson said.
The campus, on a 2,000-acre development, is expected to be the focal point of the project, surrounded by commercial, residential and recreational components. The first phase of the campus will accommodate 5,000 students. University officials have a goal of 1,000 students in the first year.
"The idea of a residential campus where people from different walks of life meet each other, interact and learn from each other outside the classroom — this is unique in Mexico and around the world," Hudson said. "To be competitive in a global economy, you need highly trained and highly educated individuals."
An Arkansas State video of campus renderings shows a combination of academic buildings, mixed-use commercial property, a mixed-use town center, sports facilities and residential property in a 296-acre space.
Projects to construct the campus are divided into four phases and planned for 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2021. The first phase includes academics and services, along with some sports facilities and residential property.
The second phase, tentatively scheduled for 2016, calls for more academic structures, sports facilities and residential area. The third phase, scheduled for 2018, adds a mixed-use town center area and mixed-use commercial property, in addition to more academics.
The final phase, set for 2021, addresses additional academics, additional residential property and additional sports facilities.
During his ceremony address Thursday, Gov. Calzada called the endeavor “a very important thing” that has not been seen in Mexico.
“This serves as an example of what we can achieve together, the United States and Mexico,” he said. “When we combine forces regarding the most valuable things we have, which are our youth, the future, the progress of the nation.”