DSU hires new chief officer of Latin America relations

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Dixie State University has incorporated a Latin America initiative geared toward providing students with experiences, such as studying abroad, learning from international professors and research opportunities.

DSU hired Dr. Roberto Rodriguez as the chief officer of Latin America relations. He will lead DSU’s charge toward partnering with Latin American countries for higher education. This role includes teaching classes, consulting on international-related issues, and developing relationships and partnerships in Latin America with governments, universities and research facilities.

Luis Arevalo, director of global education and assistant professor of Spanish, said this initiative is geared to internationalize DSU’s campus, curriculum and makeup of the student body. 

He said he thinks the initiative will set DSU apart from similar schools by giving students the opportunity to study abroad and learn from international professors. Arevalo said this program is something not many schools similar to DSU have.

“The U.S. is lagging behind because we still think that everybody should speak English, and we have a huge market [in Latin America],” Arevalo said. “A large part of the U.S. and [the Utah] population speaks Spanish, so there are good reasons we have an affinity for the [Latin America] area.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations in the Latin America Studies Program, Latin America is the largest foreign supplier of oil and the fastest growing trading partner to the U.S. Because of its relationships with the U.S., Latin America is a great market to send students to develop relationships in, Arevalo said.

“The initial plan is to try and build partnerships with three universities in three countries,” said Michael Lacourse, vice president of academic affairs. “Right now Rodriguez will be here for a year for sure, and then we will evaluate where we are and go from there.”

DSU is currently partnered with several universities and governments in Costa Rica and Peru, and it will partner wither a third country soon. Arevalo said he hopes these partnerships with countries overseas will help DSU students compete with other graduates in the workforce. 

“The Latin America initiative includes both our local and university Latin American population,” Associate Provost Nancy Hauck said. “We will do different projects [in Latin America] including opportunities for undergraduate research through the Costa Rica-United States Foundation for Cooperation.” 

Hauck said the vice president of Costa Rica will be visiting campus along with the minister of science and technology. She said they are interested in women in STEM, so DSU will showcase their projects in that area.

“This is just the beginning for us,” Lacourse said. “Once we build more institutional resources internationally then we can begin to look at other parts of the world.”