Innovation Fund Grant winners


VCU wins award to boost student exchange in the Americas

By: V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636

RICHMOND, Va. (November 15, 2018) — Virginia Commonwealth University and Universidad La Salle Oaxaca in Mexico are one of nine university teams announced as new grant recipients in the latest 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund Competition. The two universities will develop a joint, multidisciplinary program centered on the impacts of transnational migration on the home and host communities.

“Study abroad is a truly transformative experience, and this grant will help open this opportunity to students who might not otherwise participate,” said Jill Blondin, Ph.D., Global Education Office interim executive director. “The ‘100,000 Strong in the Americas’ initiative is the latest example of how VCU offers intentional, meaningful service experiences to our students in a global context.”

The program, designed to attract indigenous and economically-disadvantaged students from both institutions, pairs Mexican and U.S. students in a series of courses, language instruction and reciprocal community service that allows them to better understand and help serve the needs of indigenous communities in Oaxaca and of refugees and immigrants in Richmond.

“Understanding the impacts of migration is important now more than ever,” said R. McKenna Brown, Ph.D., special assistant to the dean for global initiatives in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. “Training future professionals to develop and implement strategies that address the needs of refugee and immigrant communities requires this type of comprehensive international approach."

The Innovation Fund is the public-private sector collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassies, Partners of the Americas, NAFSA, corporations, and foundations working together to stimulate new higher education partnerships between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

Since its inception in January 2014, the Innovation Fund has awarded 187 grants to 350 teams of universities and colleges in 25 countries and in 42 U.S. states. This includes VCU’s 2015 grant which developed a reciprocal student exchange program with Universidad de Guadalajara and Benemerita Autónoma Universidad de Puebla, both in Mexico. Currently, more than 1,800 higher education institutions have joined the Innovation Network— with 1,000 universities and colleges in the United States.  

The “100,000 Strong in the Americas” Innovation Grant is funded by MetLife Foundation. “MetLife Foundation recognizes the vital role study abroad programs play in helping students enhance technical skills while developing valuable cross-cultural skills and experience,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “We are pleased to support a second round of partnerships between higher education institutions across the Americas and extend the benefits of study abroad to more students.”  

The nine winning institutions involve university partnerships between the United States and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

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