Here’s the latest on grant-winning university teams supported by Fundación Banorte, led by Banorte Chairman Carlos Hank González, Fundación Gruma and the U.S. Department of State as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.

The fund encourages higher education institutions to adopt new models of academic exchange and workforce development programs throughout the Americas. These cross-cultural research teams are seeking to broaden technical skills, solve real-world problems and stimulate economic prosperity.

Partners: Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff and Universidad de Sonora (UNISON) in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

Project: Helping students learn about sustainable agriculture and management tools in Mexico and the United States. Students take part in virtual instruction on research methods, environmental assessments and field visits.

What’s new: NAU students recently flew to Mexico for workshops about Sonora industries and local indigenous communities. Food was an important part of this phase as each meal was an introduction to aspects of the culture, as well as to the food systems and economies. The students also began developing projects to identify ideas to improve food security and financial access in the Sonora region. The groups will continue meeting virtuall as they refine their projects with potential solutions.

Their mission: Ensure that students have access to academic training programs that help them gain experience working in teams,

NAU and UNISON students visiting an artesan cooperative in Mexico.

solving real-w orld problems, doing research and gaining technical and linguistic skills imperative for today’s workforce.

Kristin Allen, a program manager in strategic global initiatives at the Center for International Education, said working with the two universities allows students to expand their educational presence and bring new ideas and perspectives to each campus while broadening internationalization efforts.


These grants are a way to facilitate diplomacy efforts between countries through higher education, Allen said.

“The benefits really are astronomical at every level,” Allen said. “The students will gain the ability to work in cross-cultural teams, learn how to communicate with one another in different languages and gain the know-how and expertise to confront the challenges faced by the global workforce.”

These students are from all backgrounds, from business to environmental sciences to social work and humanities.

“It brightens your day and makes you optimistic about the future when you see so many students excited to be part of solving today’s problems and making the world a better place,” said Curtis Smith, a program manager and director of boundaryless innovation and entrepreneurship center at NAU.

Food was made for students by indigenous students Comcaac and Mayo peoples at UNISON.

What’s next: The final phase of the program will take place in April when UNISON students visit NAU to further connect across institutions and cultures, finalizing their projects and presenting their findings.

For more: Since its inception in 2014 through the end of 2020, the Innovation Fund has awarded 243 grants ($25,000 to $35,000 each) to more than 490 universities and institutions, working in teams in 25 countries and in 49 U.S. states. See

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is the public-private sector collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassies, Partners of the Americas, corporations, and foundations working together to stimulate new higher education partnerships between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.