Northwestern restores Mexico public health study abroad program

Jee Young Lee, Reporter

Northwestern is reviving its Public Health in Mexico study abroad program this summer through an education initiative under the Obama administration, the University announced earlier this month.

The program, which is accepting applications until March 1, will allow NU students to study this summer at Universidad Panamericana, or UP, a private university in Mexico City.

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, which in December granted the University and six other institutions $25,000 each, aims to increase U.S. students studying in Latin America to 100,000 and vice versa by 2020.

The grant falls under the theme of health and nutrition studies in the Western Hemisphere, with a focus on finding solutions for preventing and reducing obesity. NU’s International Program Development submitted a proposal in October to compete in the fifth selection of schools for the grant.

“We’re very lucky that we got the grant,” said Janka Pieper, IPD manager of marketing and communications. “We want to increase the number of underrepresented students, such as first-generation students and students with various ethnic backgrounds who might not see study abroad as affordable or important for various reasons.”

NU put the Public Health in Mexico program on hold in 2009 due to an outbreak of the H1N1 virus of swine flu in Mexico, and delayed it further following travel warnings. After a six-year break, the University decided last summer to reinstate the program in Mexico.

In order to accomplish the 100,000 Strong goal, the U.S. Department of State partnered with Partners of the Americas and NAFSA: Association of International Educators to induce private and corporate giving so that universities can make study abroad programs available to more students.

The grant covers the airfare of NU students admitted to the program. It also covers airfare for six UP students who will come to the U.S. to participate in workshops hosted by NU in Evanston and Chicago, an addition to the old study abroad program.

Kim Rapp, the associate director of IPD, said the workshops will focus on comparing obesity issues of Mexican immigrant populations in Chicago and those of Mexico City’s population.

After the pre-departure workshops during the first week of May, the students from NU and UP will meet in Mexico to complete collaborative research over the summer, Rapp said.

“We thought the grant provided a great opportunity for us to bring students from Universidad Panamericana to Northwestern,” she said. “It’s an attempt to foster a community that has a little bit of more longevity.”

Rapp said IPD is planning programs for the workshop, including visits to Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity at Feinberg School of Medicine and sightseeing in Chicago.

“The program opened my eyes to pursuing clinical research,” said David Leander (Weinberg ’10), who participated in the program in 2008. “It also gave a context for the history and culture of Mexico.”

Leander said the program inspired him to complete his own research on the Spanish-speaking population of Pilsen and their attitudes toward prescription medicine.

“I think it’s going to be a great cultural exchange,” Rapp said.

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