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Author: 
The Brownsville Herald

The University of Texas Americas Institute will work toward the goal of bridging the countries in the global south and tackle important issues in the region.

Led by former UT-Brownsville President Juliet V. Garcia, who serves as executive director, the Americas Institute is modeled on the Aspen Institute in Colorado.

“The way we conceived it was, it will be right where the geography points to, where we are at the nexus of the English speaking world and the Spanish-speaking world and that happens to be where we live,” Garcia said of the new institution.

The idea for the Americas Institute was conceived under the tenure of former UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

“If you have the chance to do really important work, imagine someone saying to you, ‘If you could design your job for the next 10 years, what would you like it to be?’” Garcia said. “All of us kind of dream that that might happen. That’s what happened with me.

“Its essence is this: We take the combined human talent of the UT system schools, so 20,000 faculty, seven noble laureates, 143 members of the academies of science, a lot of human capital, and we say, ‘What if we pooled that expertise towards thinking (about) a difficult issue?’” Garcia said.

Garcia said regardless of where a scholar is positioned in the UT System, they’re a member of the greater body of the UT System. The goal of the Americas Institute is to convene important people within the UT System and combine their strengths and expertise to tackle important issues in a non-partisan way.

“That is what’s so exciting about this idea, is that sometimes we’re afraid to take on a big issue because it’s too complicated, so we just kind of go off and we say, ‘We’ll let someone else handle it,’ and the problem is no one does,” Garcia explained. “So this gives us the opportunity to leverage the expertise in the UT system, focus it on thinking about an important and critical issue and then trying to help solve it in some tangible way to create better social impact to become better than some of our parts.”

Garcia said issues include but are not limited to health, migration, education, sustainable energy and the whole notion of water.

“You could imagine the complexity of all of those,” Garcia said.

Though a headquarters location is still to be determined, Garcia said it will definitely be located in the Rio Grande Valley.

“What we’re looking at is, is there a way to stay relevant to this region, with our issues and have impact in the global south,” Garcia said.

The global south refers to countries that are located below the equator.

Garcia said serving UTB for over 20 years was a tremendous experience. Time abroad broadened her “thinking horizons,” she said. Garcia sat on the board of the Ford Foundation for 12 years. It was there, and through her travels and studies in various countries worldwide, that her global interests grew, she said.

Fast forward five years and Garcia hopes to have many accolades earned by the institute. She envisions an enthusiastic advisory board in place and committed to the institution.

An important aspect Garcia hopes to bring forth is the leadership development within the institute.

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