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Georgia Southern participates in grant-funded program to build North American cooperation

In an effort to build community among the three largest countries in North America, an international group of educators led by Georgia Southern University has developed a program to encourage cooperation in academic programs, increase student exchanges, and open more educational opportunities among colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a grant of $1,071,000 over the next four years to implement the program. The funding will be shared by Georgia Southern, Bowling Green State University (Ohio), the Universidad Veracruzana (Xalapa, Mexico), the Universidad de Sonora (Sonora, Mexico), Wilfrid Laurier University (Ontario, Canada), and Mount Allison University (New Brunswick, Canada).

‘Despite the remarkable economic achievements over the past decade resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), limited progress has been made in the cultural and political dimensions of community-building on the North American continent,” said Georgia Southern Political Science Professor Debra Sabia. ‘We developed this grant to educate a new generation of leaders who will recognize and understand the political, social, and cultural dynamics”and potential solutions”of the underlying problems in North American integration.”

“The activities supported by this grant exemplify our commitment to providing students with an education that bridges theory with practice and extends the learning environment beyond the classroom,” said Nancy Shumaker, director of the Center for International Studies at Georgia Southern. ‘Students will develop professional skills and intercultural competencies that will enable them to become leaders in the political, economic, and social spheres of our society.”

The grant funding will allow educators at all six institutions to develop a North American component to their existing humanities and social science curricula. The resulting programs will focus on encouraging students’ language proficiency and cross-cultural communication by supporting study abroad opportunities and the use of new technology.

‘Our plan will also create extracurricular activities, internships, research opportunities, and service-learning experiences for students so they can obtain career-related skills and intercultural competencies in different North American cultures and communities,” said Sabia.

Sabia has a long association with administrators at Universidad Veracruzana, one of Georgia Southern’s sister institutions, so it was relatively easy to bring that institution into the program. Those administrators helped her bring together additional institutions from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

‘We all agree that if further integration is to succeed between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, governments must acknowledge that NAFTA goes beyond economics and trade,” said Sabia. ‘All three countries must develop greater citizen cooperation, and we see this program as one way to move toward that goal.”

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