The University of Texas-Pan American is offering classes to 20 faculty members in the Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas (UAT) system over a new interactive video link that includes a microwave signal across the Rio Grande from Hidalgo to the UAT campus in Reynosa, Mexico.
Under the auspices of UT Pan American's Center for International Studies, the Department of English, the Center for Distance Education and the Center for Continuing Education, UT Pan American is offering three courses as partial preparation for a master of arts in English as a Second Language degree program to the 20 faculty members.
"I think this is a significant program for UT Pan American because it is the first time we've done a distance education course with a foreign country," said Marilu Salazar, associate director of the Center for International Studies. "It could lead to future distance learning opportunities, perhaps with Canada and other countries. It is a groundbreaking experience."
The connection between UT Pan American and the UAT campus in Reynosa also connects The University of Texas System with the entire UAT university system. UT Pan American officials characterized the link as the first of its kind - the first permanent connection between university systems in the United States and Mexico for data transmission and distance learning.
"We are very proud of our relationship with your system, and we are very proud of our relationship with Mexico," Dr. William H. Cunningham, chancellor of the UT System, said to his counterpart in Mexico, Ing. Humberto Filizola Haces, rector of the UAT system, during an inaugural videoconference over the new link in early February.
The first course to be offered over the link, English 3330, is taught on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. by Dr. Pamela McCurdy, associate professor of English. The course goes to five UAT campuses - Ciudad Victoria, Mante, Tampico, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros. An additional 20 UT Pan American students are also taking the course in a classroom in Edinburg.
Two additional courses - English 4321 and English 6323, to be taught by Dr. Wei Zhu and Dr. Pamela Anderson-Mejias, both of the Department of English - are scheduled for this summer. Additional courses leading to the completion of the master of arts in ESL may be offered in future semesters via distance learning, contingent upon approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and future cooperative agreements between UAT and UT Pan American.
UT Pan American has a standing written Agreement of Cooperation with UAT, signed in 1989, that pledges a commitment from both universities to "promote institutional exchanges by inviting faculty and staff of the partner institution to participate in a variety of teaching and/or research activities and professional development."
In addition to international cooperative educational programs like the ESL class, the connection provides opportunities for faculty and staff development through interactive video and for research partnerships using the video and Internet capabilities.