In August 2020, NMSU Provost Carol Parker appointed two faculty fellows to lead NMSU’s international and border initiatives to support NMSU’s strategic plan, LEADS 2025.
Since then, Christopher Brown, faculty fellow for the Beyond Borders Community of Practice, and David G. Ortiz, faculty fellow for NMSU’s Center for Latin American and Border Studies, have hosted colloquiums and listening sessions, convened work groups on several shared initiatives, and awarded over $2,500 worth of scholarships.
Communities of practice are cohorts of people who share a passion for advancing collaborative work. Brown has brought together faculty, staff and students who are interested in interdisciplinary internationalization of the curriculum and border research and scholarship.
In fall of 2020, Brown and his team convened a campus-wide listening session with 40 faculty members from different disciplines to share their ideas of what border studies should be. Out of those sessions, several groups evolved with shared interests to create a shared space to collaborate on relevant topics.
“The topic tables we set up explore US-Mexico border economic development, adolescent mental health, education in the borderlands, and health, wellness, and human development.” Topic team members come from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and the College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.
“All of these things are already going on, we’re not re-inventing anything. Rather, we seek to harness the collective energy and talents of people on campus to achieve shared goals. We extend an open invitation to others on campus with shared interests to join these discussions,” Brown said.
Conversations during the listening sessions sparked the idea for “Border Stories” a storytelling series in collaboration with CLABS. “Bruce Berman (professor of journalism and media studies) told this unbelievable story, and we realized, ‘we should be telling these stories, not peer-reviewed scholarly talks, rather stories from members of the border community,” Brown said. Berman, Brown and Ortiz are working with the Creative Media Institute to develop short documentary video clips on the story tellers, who would then tell their stories in a program broadcasted by KRWG.
The Center for Latin American and Border Studies was created in 1979 through generous gifts from the Nason Family and others. The center’s mission is to promote excellence in scholarship, research and community outreach on issues concerning Latin America, the U.S.-Mexico border and general border studies across NMSU.
Ortiz and his team, with the aid of NMSU’s library, are cataloguing the Nason Collection, more than 2,000 books and artifacts from Latin America. The collection has several unique and rare items that deal with early explorations of Central America and rare Meso-American archaeological items. These items were gathered over nearly 50 years by Charles Nason, whose son Willoughby died unexpectedly at age 33 while studying at NMSU.
“It is very important to have the collection catalogued,” said Ortiz, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. “Having students, faculty and researchers around the world access the collection is a goal that the Center has had for many years and one that the Nason family envisioned.”
CLABS also hosts a speaker series with three talks each semester. The series highlights distinguished speakers from around the world and NMSU. Despite moving to a virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions, the sessions draw a sizeable audience.
“For the speaker series, hosting sessions via Zoom broadened our horizons,” Ortiz said. “The CLABS speaker series now regularly attracts scholars and community members from across the United States and the world. This has allowed us to bring national and international attention to the work we are doing at CLABS and NMSU on Latin American and border issues.”
To serve and support CLABS and its goals, Ortiz formed an advisory board of professors from each college across NMSU along with members of the community. Within the board there are five sub-committees working on various projects.
Through these committees, CLABS has awarded several graduate and undergraduate scholarships, reached collaboration agreements with universities in Spain and Mexico, worked towards an annual symposium on Latin American and Border Issues and supported the creation of a bi-national Ph.D. Program on International and Comparative Social Policy with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Mexico and NMSU’s College of Health, Education and Social Transformation.
Brown and Ortiz have also been working with the International Working Group, which is chaired by NMSU Visiting Senior Fellow for Global Affairs, Delano E. Lewis. Lewis, the former U.S. Ambassador for the Republic of South Africa, brings much valuable experience to the International Working Group.
Author: Amanda Adame – NMSU