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SMU Launches Texas-Mexico Program on Last Day of Gov. Abbott’s Mexico Visit

Southern Methodist University (SMU) launched a Texas-Mexico program on Tuesday. The Texas-Mexico policy-based research program was announced on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s final day of his three-day visit to Mexico.

SMU announced the “bridge-maker” program at Mexico’s Foreign Ministry with university officials and Governor Abbott in attendance. Dallas-based GRUMA-Mission Foods, a Mexican corporation, gifted the $1 million program that seeks to transform “frequently fractured conversations” between Texas and Mexico into “shared issues” that promote policy-based discussions on economic, political and social ties, according to an SMU press release.

The Dallas Morning News reported the ceremony was closed off to the press, as has been much of the governor’s activities while in Mexico. The Dallas newspaper suggested that this may have been a sign of the “delicate balancing act Abbott has undertaken as he tries to find a softer tone with Mexico, while keeping his political base happy back in Texas.”

Breitbart Texas reported that Arizona and California also have been trying to strengthen their relations with Mexico following the rise in tensions between Mexico and Texas. Abbott went to Mexico and met with the nation’s embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto to discuss additional ways Texas and Mexico can work together to further strengthen their partnership.

“SMU and our home city of Dallas are uniquely situated for this kind of study,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We have the academic resources to bring clarity to issues that are frequently viewed as singular challenges rather than pieces of a puzzle connected by laws, economic factors and social patterns that may go back for generations. This is a tremendous opportunity for SMU and for Texas.”

The gift from GRUMA-Mission Foods to the Texas-Mexico program counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, an alumni fundraiser to elevate the private university’s standing among an “elite company of only 25 schools with both a top-60 U.S. News ranking and an undergraduate alumni giving rate higher than 25 percent.”

The campaign coincides with SMU’s 100th anniversary on September 25. To date, they raised more than $987 million in gifts and pledges to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence, and the campus experience, the press release noted.

“It is particularly gratifying to be able to announce a program with the potential to improve future relations between Texas and Mexico as we begin our next century,” said Brad Cheves, SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs.

Joshua Rovner, a director at SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Students acknowledged the “great deal of friction” between Texas and Mexico over the past decade. He said about the new program, “At the government level there’s been an effort to improve relations, but from an academic standpoint, we want to understand that relationship.”

Rovner said the greatest opportunity for the Tower Center’s Texas-Mexico research program may lie in cutting through the noise that surrounds issues influencing the Texas-Mexico conversation.

Supporting the program is important to GRUMA-Mission Foods. Juan Antonio González Moreno, Chairman and CEO of GRUMA said, because, being a leading food company with over $2 billion in sales in the United States, it wishes to contribute to a better understanding between the two countries. He perceives that people of Mexican descent are more integrated into society in Texas than in other border states, and believes that analyzing those success stories in Texas might help Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in other U.S. states to integrate more fully into the economy and society.

“Economics, energy, migration, culture, human capital, internet technology and cyber security are obvious topics for study, but the door is open,” added González Moreno about potential topics for the SMU program, which he called a “tremendous opportunity to build a foundation for what should become the primary think tank on Texas-Mexico relations.”

González Moreno considered GRUMA’s financial gift as a way “to show our appreciation to Texas,” emphasizing that the company “was proud to have our name associated with this prestigious university.”

The SMU press release highlighted that Dallas is at the geographic crossroads of the increasingly integrated market amplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The city also is home to the greatest concentration of Fortune 100 companies in the United States outside of New York City. Texas exported to Mexico goods valued at more than $102 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and imported from Mexico goods valued at over $90 million for the same period.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

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