A Feb. 5 groundbreaking is scheduled for Arkansas State University's new campus in Mexico, a $50 million undertaking that's being funded with private money.
The new campus will be built in Queretaro in north central Mexico. Officials there approached Arkansas State for help in creating an American-style university where students live on campus as an alternative to the traditional commuter school in Mexico, said Yvonne Unnold, project leader for ASU-Queretaro.
"We will do what we do best," Unnold said. "We will focus exclusively on facilitating excellence in education within an academic living-learning community."
The Queretaro campus is scheduled to open in fall 2015 with about 1,000 students, and enrollment is expected to grow to about 5,000 students in about five years. The school estimates that about 30 percent of the students will come from the state of Queretaro, while another 30 percent will come from other states in Mexico. The remainder of the population will come from Latin America and other countries worldwide, including current Arkansas State students in the United States.
Classes will be taught in English, and the school will initially offer 15 majors, including electrical engineering, chemistry, world languages, business administration and strategic communications.
"We are creating a living-learning community and we are teaching our ways, where it is not a lecture hall where we spoon-feed knowledge," Unnold said. "We need our students to acquire skills. We are preparing a new generation for employment opportunities and employment needs that have not yet been defined. We need our students to be able to problem-solve."
The Association for the Advancement of Mexican Education, which is a private business foundation, has acquired about 2,000 acres for a development that includes the Arkansas State campus in Queretaro. The $50 million campus will be paid for through private gifts, with the private foundation underwriting any operating deficits for up to three years after the campus opens.
"The campus will be transformative for Arkansas State and energize our mission of creating globally competitive opportunities for our faculty and students," Arkansas State Chancellor Tim Hudson said earlier this year. "The business and government partners share our interest in educating students who will contribute to a sustainable democracy and socioeconomic progress in Mexico."
Queretaro Gov. Jose Calzada Rovirosa traveled to Jonesboro earlier this month to address graduates at Arkansas State's fall commencement.
"The outstanding leadership of Chancellor Tim Hudson and the extraordinary support from the Board of Trustees are making this a reality," Calzada said during his commencement address. "It is an honor for my state to host Arkansas State University. We are the most progressive state in my country. We must tear down the walls that inhibit the quality formation of the future leaders of the world."