On May 27, 2014 in San Diego at the first 100,000 Strong in the Americas capacity building workshop, the Department of State, Partners of the Americas and NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced nine new winners of 100,000 Strong in the Americas innovation grant. Winners included partner universities Universidad de La Salle in Bogotá Colombia, partnered with New Mexico State University. This is a very prestigious and high-profile competition and a key victory for the Office of International and Border Programs. It is part of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative.
The grant that Universidad de La Salle (ULS) and NMSU presented is entitled “Leaders Innovating for the Reinvention of an Agricultural Sustainable Region in Peace”. Mick O’Neil will lead the technical team from NMSU, aided by Daniel Smeal and Blair Stringam. Kristian Chervenock from the Office of Education Abroad will help with student mobility. The modest grant funds student and faculty reciprocal exchanges to help address irrigation challenges at a ULS project called “Proyecto Utopia” – a very special project that is designed to help give youth displaced by the drug war a career as agricultural engineers. This month the project graduates its first class. The project is the brainchild of the President of ULS, Dr. Carlos Gabriel Gómez Restrepo – better known as “Brother Carlos”.
As a result of this grant, NMSU will host a visit by Bro. Carlos himself. Dr. Menking, Associate Provost for International and Border Programs, says, “Bro. Carlos is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. I have worked with his university for close to five years, and have watched his leadership transform their university. But he and his project are not only interesting to me. The Utopia Project is gaining notice in the region and in the country of Colombia. They have won major national and regional peace and development awards and the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, called a full a cabinet meeting on the rural Utopia Project campus and announced that he wanted to fund a replication of the project tenfold. But for Bro. Carlos, it’s a personal passion to serve the people of his country. It is part of his mission as a member of the La Sallian order, a group of Catholic brothers devoted to making education accessible.”
Bro. Carlos will be at NMSU on Sunday, June 22nd and will spend time with fifty ULS intensive English students studying at NMSU (unrelated to the grant). He will meet President Carruthers and Provost Howard on Monday the 23rd from 4-5 pm, and will also be available the full day of the 24th. A full agenda will be available soon.
While here, Bro. Carlos, who holds a Ph.D. from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, will be giving a public presentation on the Utopia Project. It is a project that moves the audience to tears – both of tragedy and joy. The public presentation will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, June 23, in Corbett Center West Ballroom.
Bro. Carlos is current President of the worldwide International Association of La Salle Universities – a global network of 60 universities.