Arizona-Sonora Interuniversity Alliance hones in on cross-border issues

From produce to manufacturing to cars to you name it, there’s a lot of business being done between Arizona and Mexico. And these two neighbors share more than a common border that generates mutual economic benefits. Through the Arizona-Sonora Interuniversity Alliance, the two states are sharing education and ideas.

The Arizona-Sonora Interuniversity Alliance, a grouping of multiple universities from the two states has worked together for the past two years to promote science, education, and innovation while also opening up discussions around border issues, such as immigration, water, trade, and technology.

In 2017, Arizona State University joined forces with the Universidad de Sonora (UNISION), the Centro de Investigacion en Alimentacion y Desarrollo, and the El Colegio de Sonora. Recently, the group added the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University to help in advancing research of the Arizona-Sonora transborder region. The main goal, besides creating dialogues, has been to increase exposure to gain seed funding on projects that can positively impact both sides of the border and the surrounding communities.

“The smaller steps are making the human connection. These types of activities are promoting interaction across Sonora and Arizona faculty and experts in the fields to come together on issues that affect both of our states,” Kristin Lynn Allen, NAU, program manager for Latin American Initiatives said.

Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona were added to the group of universities involved following the third-annual Arizona-Sonora Colloquium. Held the first week of April, the event featured roundtable discussions with presidents from the universities involved in the group, speaking about the relationships the universities have with each other and how the partnerships could expand over time.

Currently, there are a number of research programs being conducted through the alliance, each aiming to solve major cross-border and super-region problems that affect people on both sides of the border. For example, researchers from the University of Arizona and the University of Sonora are working on a study that looks at the cardiovascular and psychological health of those living along the border. Heart health and depression plague the communities in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. According to data out of Chihuahua, the state has the highest and fastest-growing suicide rate in Mexico, shooting up from 7 out of every 100,000 people in 2010 to 12.3 in 2015.

Another study being conducted through the alliance looks at urban poverty. In “Study of Urban Poverty and Spatial Inequality in the Cross-border Context: Small-scale Estimates,” researchers from the School of Sonora, ASU, and U of A, are looking to understand poverty better through a geographical lens. Focusing in on the economies of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, the researchers are trying to understand poverty through spatial inequality and poverty traps.

“Short-term, the goal is to make initial connections to foster those human relationships. When it comes to long-term goals, through these relationships and smaller projects, we want to establish long commitments to work on these issues on a greater scale. Hopefully these seed funds will motivate researchers and faculty to work,” Allen said.

Together, Arizona and Sonora make up 180,000 square miles of territory with an abundance of natural assets between the two. By using academic innovation and bringing together influential educational minds from both sides of the border, the alliance has hopes to ignite social change, according to Allen, and shape policy through education and less politics.

Nick Esquer

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