Dr. Diana Natalicio,
Students and faculty members,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to participate in the centennial celebration of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
I would like to thank President Diana Natalicio for her kind invitation and Sebastian for his superb work and talent that is reflected today in this magnificent sculpture, Esfera Cuántica Tlahtolli. I would also like to recognize Altos Hornos de México, and Miriam and Avi Kotkovski for their kind support of this project.
The dedication of this sculpture is a unique opportunity to express the gratitude of the people of Mexico for the role the University of Texas at El Paso has played in educating thousands of Mexican and Mexican-American students during the past 100 years.
Starting with the first graduating class over 90 years ago, which included two Mexican graduates, this institution of higher education has become the alma mater of thousands of people in my country, and today UTEP is the American university with the highest number of Mexican students. This continuous exchange has contributed significantly to strengthening our bilateral ties and consolidating regional cooperation in an increasingly globalized world.
Mexico and the United States recognize that education is the key to progress and prosperity in North America. For that reason, education is now front and center on the bilateral agenda. Earlier this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations José Antonio Meade formally launched the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (FOBESII; for its Spanish acronym). It comprises a shared vision for the educational cooperation with a view to expanding economic opportunities in both countries, and developing a workforce attuned to the needs of the 21st century.
For a number of years, UTEP has increased its partnerships with Mexican academic institutions. As part of FOBESII, UTEP continues to contribute to the kind of exchanges that improve the quality of education in both countries.
Over these past hundred years, UTEP has been a key actor in developing the potential of our border region. It has adapted to the unique reality of this area: a bilingual, binational and bicultural setting, along our shared 2,000 mile border, in which there are 14 million inhabitants in 6 Mexican States and 4 U. S. States.
Since the 1980’s, under the presidency of Dr. Diana Natalicio, UTEP expanded the Programa de Asistencia Estudiantil (PASE) allowing Mexican students to pay in-state tuition. This is a major demonstration of commitment for a university in which almost 80% of the student body is Mexican-American, while 5% are Mexican citizens, nearly half of which commute daily between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.
The leadership of Dr. Diana Natalicio and the hard work of UTEP’s faculty have built a national reputation. As a result of these efforts, UTEP has been ranked among the best 10 universities in the United States for several consecutive years. It also remains the University with the largest Mexican student population, over 9% of the total student body (last semester there were 1,226 Mexican students out of 14,000).
These are important steps to achieve the “Proyecta 100,000” initiative presented by the Mexican FOBESII Advisory Group, which aims to send 100,000 Mexican university students, professors and researchers to the US by 2018, and is part of the proposed “100+50 Strategy”, which also aims to send 50,000 US students to study in Mexico by 2018.
UTEP has fostered engagement between the communities of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, understanding that our common border is about our people, our youth and generations of professionals that carry out the message of unity between our countries. For these reasons, I am delighted to present the Esfera Cuántica Tlahtolli.
This piece was specially designed by Sebastián, one of the most distinguished contemporary Mexican artists, to commemorate one hundred years of friendship between UTEP and Mexico. “Tlahtolli” is the Náhuatl symbol that represents the act of speaking. Beyond that, it represents the transmission of knowledge and ideas which this university will continue to pass on to future generations on both sides of our common border.