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Provost cancels Mexico J-Term trip

November 18, 2010

The UW-River Falls J-Term Mexico trip has been canceled due to the potential threat to student and faculty safety, said Provost Fernando Delgado.

Modern Language 376 has a long standing history of success. UWRF has sent students and faculty on a trip traveling across Mexico for the last 20 years,  said the professor leading the trip, Terrence Mannetter.

Director of International Education Programs Brent Greene said that in the 10 years that he has worked for UWRF, a study abroad course has never been canceled administratively.

Finalized by the provost, the decision took serious assessment, Greene said.

A contributing factor to this decision was based on Mexico’s current status on the United States Government current travel warnings list, said Study Abroad Advisor Linda Alvarez.

Other countries currently on the list are Iraq, Haiti and Colombia.

A strong issue of concern was the expanding drug cartels in northern Mexico. Dangerous incidents have also increased, Green said.

The pattern to which the problems have arose has been random and unpredictable. A lot could change between now and January, Delgado said.

Delgado sought opinions and feedback from Greene, Mannetter and the other schools in the UW-System.

“It had been a long running dialog,” Greene said. “We had solicited feedback across System.”

“The majority of the advisors spoken to cautioned against it,” he said.

Four schools in the UW-System also canceled their Mexico trips, said Delgado.

“It really does pain me to make this decision,” Delgado said.

He added that he wouldn’t feel comfortable taking his family at this time, and he couldn’t do the same to other families.

“It was really a bummer to hear that the trip was canceled this year, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” said former Modern Language student Rachel Rezac.

Roberto Bonilla, an exchange student from Mexico City, said that every country has its problems. He doesn’t think that there should be any safety concerns with the course’s destination.

The final contributing factor unique to this course is the mode of transportation, said Greene.

Students and faculty travel on a bus throughout Central Mexico for 21 days, said Mannetter.

Stationary programs can become isolated, which can offer more protection. This class moves around a lot, which makes them more exposed, Greene said.

Modern Language 37, travels to six Mexican cities: Mexico City, Taxco, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta where the trip ends, Rezac said.

“I don’t think I could restructure the course to the point where there is less mobility,” said Mannetter. “The bus is important because the class is about cultural immersion.”

In Mexico, student participants tour museums, pyramids, markets, elementary schools and a college lab farm, said Rezac.

The 2010-11 Mexico trip was to be of particular importance to Mannetter and the rest of UWRF.

Mannetter said he and Linda Larson from UW-Superior had been awarded a $14,026 grant from UW-System.

The grant was based on two intercultural courses: one to be taught online, and the other to be taught in Mexico. These two case studies would be used to measure student reception through alternative experiences, according to the UWRF website.

“The class was the subject of the grant,” Mannetter said. “It had great opportunities for the University.”

Global perspectives is one of the credits fulfilled by Modern Language 376, said Global Connections Peer Advisor Chad Forde.

This trip was also a Spanish immersion credit which is needed for some students to graduate, such as those studying Spanish education, said Mannetter.

“If students are still interested in fulfilling their hopes to study abroad with a language component, we recommend them to come into Global Connections immediately,” Alveraz said.

Costa Rica is the other Spanish speaking trip offered during J-Term; however, it is no longer open for application, said Global Connections Office Manager, Carol Rogers.

There are other Spanish speaking programs available outside UWRF that are offered by another UW-school or by a third-party provider, Alveraz said.

As for students seeking to accommodate a global perspectives requirement, other J-Term courses remain open, Forde said.

“There are many options still available if a certain course doesn’t seem to meet a student’s needs,” said Forde. “They can work with their advisor.”