100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund Announces Winning Institutions

ExxonMobil Funds New Higher Education Partnerships in Engineering, Physics, Geology, and Geophysics

The U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced the latest 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant winners sponsored by ExxonMobil Corporation.  The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, the leading education initiative in the Western Hemisphere, is to increase the annual number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000, and bring 100,000 students to the United States by 2020.

Innovation Fund grants fuel strategic new partnerships among higher education institutions in the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere to create innovative and sustainable student exchange and training programs. Since its inception in January 2014, the Innovation Fund grants have been building institutional capacity, increasing student mobility within the Americas, and enhancing regional education cooperation and competiveness.

This is the third in four of Innovation Fund grant competitions supported by ExxonMobil.  With a commitment in 2014 of $1,000,000, ExxonMobil has facilitated 24 new higher education partnerships to date.  These new partnerships between 24 U.S. universities and community colleges in 16 U.S. states and 28 higher education institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, and Mexico are providing more dynamic exchange and training opportunities for students in engineering, physics, geology, and geophysics.

The 100,000 Strong initiative strengthens academic disciplines that will help drive the energy industry into the 21st century,” said Ben Soraci, ExxonMobil general manager of public and government affairs. “We hope 100,000 Strong will increase the number of qualified students who pursue a career in the energy industry.

The seven Innovation Fund grants announced today for higher education institutions in the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico will continue groundbreaking exchange programs that allow students to work in teams, gain technical skills, and become more competent for the global 21st century workforce.  Innovation Fund grants are $25,000 each, and grant-winning university teams contribute additional resources to leverage and implement unique short-term study abroad programs in the Western Hemisphere.  With these new partnership awards, approximately 150 more students will be able to participate in study abroad programs in the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.


Metropolitan State University of Denver: Colorado, United States

Partner Institution:  Universidad del Valle de Atemajac, Jalisco, Mexico

Project Title: Promoting Bi-institutional Hemispheric Collaboration through Study Abroad in Humanitarian Engineering

Metropolitan State University will offer innovative study abroad opportunities in Humanitarian Engineering, an area merging engineering technical skills with other areas to derive solutions that are sustainable, participatory, and aimed at improving resilience and capacity of vulnerable communities. Students from the U.S. and Mexico will work collaboratively on applied research projects, service-learning, and cross-cultural activities that focus on research, design, and application of new technology under the context of sustainable design to promote social justice.  By involving students in projects in this area, they will gain greater awareness of their ability to positively impact their communities.


Northampton Community College, Pennsylvania, United States

Partner Institution: SENA Centro Textil y de Gestion Industrial​, Medellín, Colombia

Project Title: SENA Partnership for Study Abroad Capacity Building

Northampton Community College, in partnership with SENA Centro Textil y de Gestion Industrial​, will implement a new study abroad program focused on environmental sustainability studies and designed to give technical engineering students the skills and perspectives to engage in longer-term study abroad.  Northampton technical engineering faculty will provide SENA colleagues with technical assistance that builds their study abroad capacity to internationalize SENA curriculum and create an academic experience to be tailored to SENA programs, while also increasing Northampton’s student mobility in the Americas.


Northern Arizona University, Arizona, United States

Partner Institution: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

Project Title: International Field Experiences in Geophysics: A Collaboration between Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

Through an international field geophysics course, students from Northern Arizona University and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México will study the Serdán-Oriental volcanic field in east-central México. The course will ensure that students gain technical and cultural skills by providing them the opportunity to participate in a bi-national project developing the fundamentals of geophysical analysis. Students will focus on utilizing seismic refraction, electromagnetics, and magnetic surveys to better understand the subsurface structure of the volcanic fields of east-central Mexico.


Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Partner Institution:  Rice University, Texas, United States

Project Title: Student Exchange between Rice University and Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul Focused on Engineering Design Processes

Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul will enhance collaboration between Rice University by instituting faculty exchanges and a new study abroad program to focus on applications of the engineering design process in mechanical engineering and bioengineering fields.  The new program will allow students from both institutions to collaborate on real-world engineering design challenges proposed by industry and community partners, and to learn to work in an international engineering environment.


Universidade Estadual Paulista, Câmpus de Guaratinguetá, São Paulo, Brazil

Partner Institution:  University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Wisconsin, United States

Project Title: UWPLATT-UNESP Guaratinguetá International Exchange Student Initiative

The University of Wisconsin-Plateville and Universidade Estadual Paulista, Guaratinguetá will provide engineering students with high-impact learning opportunities in the context of innovative research projects related to renewable energy and bioenergy within an international, bi-lateral research program. The exchange in both directions will include courses and research activities, as well as field trips to companies, renewable energy facilities, and projects throughout Wisconsin and Brazil. The project aims to develop students’ research skills and knowledge in these areas by allowing each participant to work alongside a research team member from the partnering institution and produce a scientific publication.


University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island, United States

Partner Institution: SENA Centro Nacional Colombo Alemán, Barranquilla, Colombia

Project Title: Sustainable Prostheses – An All Inclusive Approach to Designing in the Americas

The University of Rhode Island and SENA Centro Nacional Colombo Alemán in Colombia will build a new program model to engage their engineering faculty and students to collaborate in the creation of sustainable prostheses.  Through this program, groups from both institutions will create affordable prototypes to address the enormous need for low-cost, lightweight prostheses in Colombia and the United States. Students will work in teams and develop prototypes using expertise from each institution. Students will present their design ideas to a jury of faculty from both institutions and company representatives.


University of Wyoming, Wyoming, United States

Partner Institution: Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Mexico

Project Title: Enhancing International Exchanges between engineering students at the University of Wyoming and the Autonomous University of Yucatán (UADY) in Mérida, Mexico

The demand for engineering projects to become more global and the need for engineering graduates to have international exchange experience has motivated University of Wyoming and Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán to build on their existing connection to establish a new exchange program in civil engineering.  Mexican students will travel to Wyoming to gain perspectives on civil and structural engineering practices and participate in hands-on learning experiences in beam and wall designs based on U.S. masonry codes.  Wyoming students will travel to Mexico to study engineering aspects of Mayan ruins and learn about alternative construction methods and cultural preservation practices of Spanish colonial period architecture.



The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is the dynamic public-private sector collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, corporations, foundations, U.S. Embassies, and universities.

Since its inception in January 2014, a total of 93 Innovation Fund grants have been awarded to teams of 205 higher education institutions from 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere region.  Innovation Fund partnerships between universities in the United States and higher education institutions in the Western Hemisphere are increasing more student exchange opportunities and strengthening regional education cooperation throughout the Americas.

Follow the Innovation Fund on Twitter and Facebook via #100KStrongAmericas.

The mission of Partners of the Americas is to connect people and organizations across borders to serve and to change lives through lasting partnerships. These partnerships create opportunity, foster understanding, and solve real-life problems. Inspired by President Kennedy and founded in 1964, under the Alliance for Progress, Partners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with international offices in Washington, DC.  Learn more at www.partners.net or via Twitter @partnersamerica.

With 10,000 members worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest non-profit professional association dedicated to international education program and policy. Learn more at www.nafsa.org and www.connectingourworld.org or via Twitter @NAFSA and @ConnectOurWorld.

ExxonMobil Corporation, the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. ExxonMobil engages in a range of philanthropic activities that advance education, with a focus on math and science in the United States, promote women as catalysts for economic development, and combat malaria. In 2015, together with its employees and retirees, ExxonMobil, its divisions and affiliates, and the ExxonMobil Foundation provided $268 million in contributions worldwide. Additional information on ExxonMobil’s community partnerships and contribution programs is available at www.exxonmobil.com/community.