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Vol 56 No. 9 | August 2004
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Grant Supports "History of the U.S.-Mexico Border" Course

History assistant professor Omar Valerio-Jiménez received an Enhancing Educational Effectiveness Award for his proposal, "Creating a Cooperative Learning Environment with Mexican Universities," to design a new course titled "History of the U.S.-Mexico Border."

Valerio-Jiménez said his goal would be to introduce students in the U.S. to their Mexican counterparts both electronically and face-to-face.

"Together, we will explore issues both nations share in common," said Valerio-Jiménez, an expert on borderlands, immigration and Chicana/o history. "We will look at such topics as trade, immigration, smuggling and the environment."

Students will communicate through video conferences and electronic discussion boards. "Both sets of students will read certain articles in common and discuss them," he explained. "Students will prepare presentations on such topics as environmental waste along the U.S.-Mexican border and water use in twin cities like El Paso-Ciudad Juarez. My goal is to have the students interact not only online but also face to face."

Valerio-Jiménez believes one of the best ways to get students to learn is to put them together with students of different backgrounds. "I want them to avoid the trap of thinking about issues only from a U.S. perspective," he said. "Talking to students in Mexico will give them that broader view."

He earned two bachelor degrees from MIT and his masters and Ph.D. from UCLA. Before accepting his position at CSULB, he served as a post-doctoral fellow at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. His publications include articles in Estudios Mexicanos/Mexican Studies, Latinas in the United States: An Historical Encyclopedia, and Atlas of the U.S. and Canadian Environmental History. He is completing revisions to his first book, River of Hope: Identity and Nation along the Rio Grande, 1749-1892, to be published by Duke University Press.

"I know CSULB is interested in promoting study abroad," he said. "But there are lots of students who don't have the opportunity to do that. I know some students travel to Mexico but how much do they interact? Talking to a bartender is not the same as an intellectual discussion with another college student."

There are many issues the two nations have in common and Valerio-Jiménez hopes the new class gives students a chance to explore them.

"Immigration to the U.S. is an explosive issue for people in both countries," he said. "Some Mexican nationals believe immigrants are traitors because they wish to leave Mexico. Others believe they are heroes because they send back remittances. A program like this allows students from both countries to discuss these issues. The ultimate goal of this class is for CSULB students to learn about Mexico from the perspective of residents of both nations."

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