As part of ongoing efforts to increase international opportunities for students, faculty and staff at the University of Houston-Victoria, President Tim Hudson recently made a trip to Spain during which he met with higher education officials and U.S. Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre.
Prior to his appointment as ambassador to Spain by President George W. Bush, Aguirre served as chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System. Hudson’s trip resulted from conversations between current regent Morgan Dunn O’Connor and Aguirre in which Aguirre expressed interest in facilitating study-abroad collaborations between the UH System and Spain.
“Study-abroad experiences for our students are critical to prepare them for leadership in an increasingly interdependent world,” said Hudson. “We are fortunate to have an ambassador with a connection to the University of Houston System who is willing to assist us in the development of these opportunities.”
Attention to the importance of international education and particularly to growing the number of U.S. Students who study abroad is increasing. Currently, only about 3 percent of all U.S. college graduates study abroad, a figure described by the Abraham Lincoln Commission as “woefully inadequate if America is to sustain its competitive advantage in a global society.” Composed of business leaders, academics and members of Congress, the commission recently released a report that calls for tripling the number of Americans who study abroad over the next decade.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has announced a conference in January 2006 where university presidents and business leaders will focus on the problem. Locally, the UH System Board of Regents has adopted the internationalization of its campuses as one of its strategic initiatives.
Hudson was accompanied to Spain by Dr. Jerry Strickland, a former University of Houston dean and interim provost. Together they continued work begun on a number of projects including negotiations to offer a UHV MBA to Spanish-speaking markets through GrupoSense S.A., a private sector educational group.
Hudson also met with Vice Rector Enrique Caro Guerra of the Universidad de Malaga to discuss possible collaborations. Hudson is particularly interested in developing a semester-long program that would encourage participation among business, education and science students who do not study abroad as often as their counterparts in arts and language.
Many factors make Spain an ideal location for international education. With a modern, vibrant economy, Spain is a vital member state within the European Union and its transportation connections to other European countries makes continental travel easy. At the same time, its rich history, including the 700-year Moorish occupation, and its geographical location close to Africa make it a unique window into the Islamic world. In addition, the utilitarian value of the Spanish language is clear for Texans and others as the U.S. population becomes increasingly Hispanic.
Trade between Texas and Spain is also increasing. The opportunity for business students to make valuable connections is an important consideration. While meeting with officials in Malaga, a busy port city on the Mediterranean, Hudson saw opportunities for economic development exchanges as well.
For more information about international education programs being developed at UHV, contact Vic Padelford, director of special projects, at (361) 570-4805.