From developing business plans for merchants to improving agricultural management tools, university students in the United States and Mexico are nearing completion of a bilateral partnership supported by Fundación Banorte.

The grant-winning universities were part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, which encourages higher education institutions to adopt new models of academic exchange and workforce development programs throughout the Americas.

The eight cross-cultural research teams sought to broaden technical skills, solve real-world problems and stimulate economic prosperity across borders. The students also fostered cultural awareness that will help them in their studies for years to come.

“The first step in creating a better future comes down to education,” Banorte Chairman Carlos Hank González said. “Banorte is proud to play an essential role in helping these students develop their knowledge of when it comes to environmental practices, economics and culture.”

The participants’ collaborative projects, marked by economic advancement, entrepreneurism, technology, workforce development and other areas of study, were:

During the exchange program between California State University and Universidad Panamericana, for example, students focused on agriculture, analyzing and comparing the complete dairy production chain in both countries. That included milk quality, food safety, processing and technology, food chemistry, sensory analysis and marketing.

Once students had a thorough understanding of the process, participants from both universities developed a new dairy product to advance agricultural sustainability and rural economic development.

On another project, students from Fox Valley Technical College and Universidad Politécnica de Guanajuato worked to expand access to study abroad programs.

“The students bring diverse perspectives to our community and help leaders gain insights of what the future could be when we all work collaboratively to enhance our cultural competencies,” said Rayon Brown, chief diversity officer at Fox Valley.

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas focused on governmental finance programs. While on their trips in each country, students engaged in meetings and interviews with local officials, participated in workshops and visited various establishments.

“Each day, I learned about Mexico City’s intricate and vibrant culture and was able to see in real time how that vibrant culture played a major role in the city’s bureaucracy and local government,” said Sabrine Oujout, a student in UTD’s master’s public affairs program.

Mexico continues to be the leading country in this regional education initiative to form partnerships with U.S. universities and colleges to create and implement new academic exchange and training programs.

This Innovation Fund competition was sponsored by Fundación Banorte and Fundación Gruma, along with the Department of State, providing grants of $25,000 each in the most recent program.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas (100K) Innovation Fund is the public-private sector collaboration among the U.S. Department of State, U.S. embassies, Partners of the Americas, companies, foundations and regional government partners working with academic networks to support and increase higher education institutional partnerships between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.