UNT fosters ideas in Mexico

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As University of North Texas officials continue their sustainability efforts on campus, they are simultaneously working with schools in Mexico to learn and share ideas about sustainable curriculum and research.

Members of the UNT Office of Sustainability as well as faculty in the College of Business have begun building strong partnerships with two schools in the Guadalajara area: SuBire Business School, which serves K-12 students, and Colegio Union Mexico, a brand-new school that caters to kindergartners through ninth-graders from lower-income families.

Professor Stan Ingman has volunteered in Mexico building villages for more than 15 years, and one of his friends from Mexico contacted him about SuBire, which focuses on sustainability education in business. Now, over the past two years, the working relationship between UNT and SuBire, and now Colegio Union Mexico, have further developed intellectual passageways, Ingman said.

“It’s a two-way street of learning from each other, how we can have better K-12 education, and how we can make universities more responsive to this sustainable education model,” Ingman said. “It’s also the diffusion of [UNT professors’] ideas and their research outside of the region. It becomes a kind of laboratory for teachers and researchers on this campus to try to implement some of their lessons.”

Now, there are collaborations between the Mexican schools and UNT’s sociology, music, business and engineering departments, as well as the Office of Sustainability, Ingman said. For example, Office of Sustainability employees are spending this week at SuBire to run workshops for corporate leaders, parents and even students about green business, all paid for by SuBire.

The sociology department has been heavily involved in the schools, as Ingman is part of the department faculty, and members have worked with the school to create sustainable educational programs for the parents to help teachers.

With UNTs help, SuBire is installing a solar panel, adding a regional “exploratorium” on sustainable technologies and agriculture at a farm, and working with a women’s group to build about 400 houses for low-income families.

Francisco Guzman, a professor in the College of Business, recently took a trip with other UNT professors to learn about the school, and also help as a cultural liaison, he said, as he is Mexican and fluent in Spanish.

Since the school is a private, international, business-focused high school, it is prime ground for recruiting more diverse students who are well prepared for academia, Guzman said.

“Finding students who are trained in a good, private, well-developed program with the resources to come to the United States with the sustainability mentality and the business school mentality — it’s a huge win for us,” he said.

The dean of the college was already interested in finding K-12 schools outside of North Texas that focused on sustainability education, so the partnership between the College of Business and SuBire seemed natural, Ingman said.

The partnership will continue this school year, and some recent UNT graduates will be joining the team at SuBire this January. Professors will also continue to visit the schools, especially as they work to build a second SuBire campus.

“The whole reputation of the University of North Texas can be enhanced by having these kinds of partnerships,” Ingman said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.


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