Summer Language and Culture Immersion through Ecological Sustainability

CONWAY–The University of Central Arkansas has received one of the “100,00 Strong in the Americas” Innovation Fund grant by the MetLife Foundation.

With MetLife Foundation’s support, the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” Innovation Fund grant will facilitate a new higher education partnership between the UCA and Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente in Guadalajara, Mexico.

This grant will provide $25,000 to fund stipends for students studying in the program, which will take place on each campus from June 3-30, 2018.

The partnership with Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente’s will inaugurate a new partnership through the exchange of 10-15 undergraduate students from each institution to study at the respective partner’s campus during the summer term. UCA will target minority students studying in the STEM disciplines and from underrepresented populations, while ITESO will seek to identify participants from indigenous or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, providing the opportunity for English and Spanish language and cultural immersion.

UCA students will study the globally binding issues of ecological sustainability through service-learning projects that will engage them in the assessment of water quality of local streams and rivers in the host city of Guadalajara, Mexico. ITESO students will study in UCA’s Intensive English program in preparation for making cross-cultural presentations to local civic clubs and non-profit organizations in Conway.

Principal investigator Dr. Phillip Bailey, interim associate vice president for International Engagement and co-investigator Dr. Sally Entrekin, associate professor of biology collaborated with faculty in the Department of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures, and Cultures, and the Offices of International Engagement, Institutional Diversity, Outreach and Community Engagement and Sponsored Programs to develop the winning proposal.

UCA Board of Trustees Chair Elizabeth Farris also provided $5,000 in cash matching funds in support of the project from funds available to her as chair.

Bailey said, “This 100,000 Strong in the Americas MetLife Foundation grant will allow the university to provide substantial stipends to students in STEM disciplines on campus who are unfortunately participating in study abroad at UCA at lower rates than their statistical presence on campus would predict. After sending and receiving few students to and from Mexico in recent years, the Office of International Engagement is excited that this project will signal to faculty and students across campus that affordable programs in Mexico are now available.”

The “100,000 Strong in the Americas” Innovation Fund is the public-private sector collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, corporations, foundations, regional governments, and Embassies working together to inspire U.S. universities and colleges to team up with universities and technical education institutions in the Western Hemisphere to create new student exchange and training programs. Innovation Fund grants build institutional capacity, increase student mobility, stimulate regional education cooperation, and contribute to workforce development. Since January 2014, the Innovation Fund has awarded 134 grants to teams of 263 higher education institutions from 25 countries in the Western Hemisphere region. Innovation Fund grants facilitate partnerships between universities and community colleges in the United States and higher education institutions in the Western Hemisphere to increase student exchange and training opportunities and to strengthen connectivity and collaboration between higher education networks throughout the Americas. For more information visit or follow us via Twitter at #100KStrongAmericas. 

The mission of Partners of the Americas is to connect people and organizations across borders to serve and to change lives through lasting partnerships. These partnerships create opportunity, foster understanding, and solve real-life problems. Inspired by President Kennedy and founded in 1964, under the Alliance for Progress, Partners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with international offices in Washington, D.C. Learn more at or via Twitter @partnersamerica.

With 10,000 members worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest non-profit professional association dedicated to international education program and policy. Learn more: and or via Twitter @NAFSA and @ConnectOurWorld.

MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2016, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $744 million in grants and $70 million in program-related investments to organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities. In 2013, the Foundation committed $200 million to financial inclusion, and our work to date has reached more than 3.5 million low-income individuals in 39 countries. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit