(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University and the Universidad de Guanajuato officially renewed a friendship that has been built over the past 50 years when the institutions’ leaders pledged Monday to broaden their collaboration over the next half-century.
“Today’s agreement is to reaffirm our commitment to the exchange of students and faculty,” SOU President Linda Schott said at the ceremonial re-signing of a memorandum of understanding between the schools. “Our goal for this 50th anniversary celebration is to build an even firmer relationship.”
Delegations from the city of Guanajuato and its namesake university are in Ashland this week for a series of events to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Ashland-Guanajuato sister city and sister university relationships. President Schott and other SOU leaders hosted their Universidad de Guanajuato counterparts for breakfast on Monday, then toured a “unity” themed exhibit at the SOU Art Building before reassembling for the signing ceremony.
UG Rector General Luis Felipe Guerrero Agripino – the equivalent of president at a U.S. university – said he hopes to honor the two universities’ history of cooperation by expanding upon it.
“Imagine, 50 years ago we didn’t have the technology and all the ways we have to communicate now,” he said. “So there is no excuse. The best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary is to commit even more to the relationship we have.”
More than 1,000 students, faculty members and others have participated in exchange programs between the two universities and the cities of Ashland and Guanajuato, and some families from the Mexican city have been involved for three generations.
Beatriz Navarro-Parada, the Mexican consulate general for Oregon and southwest Washington, attended Monday’s ceremony and pledged the support of her office in any future collaborations.
“Please count on the consulate to help with your relationship,” she said. “We will work together.”
The 50th anniversary celebration will continue with events including an invitation-only reception and concert for the Guanajuato delegation on Tuesday night at the SOU Music Recital Hall, and a free, public lecture series on Thursday morning in the SOU Art Building’s Meese Auditorium.
President Schott and a small delegation from SOU visited Guanajuato a year and a half ago, and a larger group from Ashland and the university will continue the 50th anniversary celebration in the central Mexican city from May 27 to 31.
Guerrero Agripino, the UG rector general, joked on Monday that the two universities’ relationship is so solid that they sometimes mirror each other.
“On the visit we had, when we hosted Dr. Schott (in Guanajuato), we had rain. This is to prove to you that we are very well aligned,” he said, motioning toward a window in the Hannon Library and a downpour outside. “We can create the same conditions.”