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While the National University of Mexico (UNAM) is, like other public universities in Latin America, collapsing in chaos, the private University of the Americas in Puebla (UDLA) is blossoming. Esteemed WAISer Ed Simmen is emeritus, but still very active. He reports:
I am just back from DC (a scorching but Capitol Fourth!) to check on our students who are serving as interns there for six weeks during the summer. The program which I started in 1993 and continue to direct as part of my duties as Professor Emeritus is truly a success. This year we sent eight, five men and three women. Two are serving at the Mexican Embassy in the office of NAFTA and six are scattered about the House of Representatives with Congressmen Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona, a Stanford graduate), Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX), Martin Frost (D-TX), Joe Barton (R-TX), Ken Bentsen (D-TX), and Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX). Others in the past have been Bill Richardson, Kika de la Garza, Pete Geren, and Ronald Coleman. The program began when I visited with then-congressman Bill Richardson during the inauguration of President Clinton in 1992. Richardson's father was the first president of our Board of Trustees, and Bill studied here during the summers when UDLA was Mexico City College. I took notice of the interns in his office and asked if he would take two from the UDLA.
And have we grown! Over the years, we have had 40 students participate. The selection is quite rigorous. In addition to being completely fluent in English and computer literate, they all have grade point averages of 9.3 or better. And they have to pass an interview with the rector, Enrique Cardenas, other University officials, former interns, and myself. Then they spend the Spring semester attending a three to four hour seminar each Friday learning about the legislative system in the US, US history, economic system, geography, and literature. The United States Information Service, with the enthusiastic help of the Cultural Attache, provides the books and videos. The students, by the way, are responsible for paying their own way with the exception of a small stipend that they receive from the University.
This year we have students from economics, law, industrial engineering, computer science, literature and business administration. In the past, the students have also been from international relations and communications. Graduates of the program generally continue their studies. We have one who just finished at Stanford studying there on a Fulbright. Four others, also on scholarships, have graduate degrees from Georgetown and another from Penn State who is transferring to Notre Dame to complete a doctorate. We have another who is in a doctoral program at the LSE. They all return to Mexico transformed by their experiences on the Hill. Before they leave, they always meet with the American ambassador to Mexico and while in DC they have a special meeting with the Mexican ambassador.
It is really thrilling to work with such special students. As you can see, the UDLA continues to make and effort to build better bridges of understanding between the US and Mexico.
Ronald Hilton - 07/16/99