(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University hosted two professors and nine business students last week from Universidad de Guanajuato, as the two longtime sister campuses continued their Global Innovation Scholars program – a collaboration on multicultural business development that was initiated through the U.S. Department of State.
The nine Guanajuato students, along with 10 SOU students who visited Guanajuato in April, worked last week on development plans for three Rogue Valley businesses or organizations – Ride My Road, Mt. Ashland and the Ashland Climate Collaborative. The 19 combined students in this year’s exchange program spent the week in Ashland researching and analyzing the businesses, then offered their suggested development plans to the business owners.
SOU President Rick Bailey hosted a welcome reception for the Guanajuato delegation, and the Ashland Amigo Club – which supports the Ashland-Guanajuato Sister City program – hosted a farewell gathering at the Grizzly Peak Winery.
The SOU and UG students did similar work in Guanajuato last month, when they researched and offered development suggestions to three Mexican businesses. The SOU delegation that visited Guanajuato was led by Dee Fretwell, a Business Department instructor and director of the Global Innovation Scholars program at SOU; Jeremy Carlton, a Business Department instructor and chair of the department; and Vincent Smith, a professor and director of the Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.
Fretwell introduced the Global Innovation Scholars program last year, in partnership with UG business professor and SOU alumnus Martin Pantoja – who also led last week’s Guanajuato delegation to Ashland, along with UG professor Lari Arthur Viianto.
“This program is truly unique, in that it brings together students from two communities and cultures to learn from each other while providing valuable insights to business owners,” Fretwell said.
The Global Innovation Scholars program includes international, online coursework for participating students during each year’s winter and spring terms, in addition to the opportunity for immersive social and cultural experiences. Global Innovation Scholars was developed last year by the two universities’ business schools as part of the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” program, sponsored by the State Department, the U.S. Embassies and the nonprofit organization Partners for the Americas.
The SOU-UG partnership received a $25,000 grant last year from the 100,000 Strong program, which serves more than 500 higher education institutions in 25 Western Hemisphere countries and 49 U.S. states. This year’s program was funded by the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability – established last fall through a generous gift from Lithia Motors and GreenCars – and through the support of Barbara Tyler and Tom Curran.
SOU and UG have initiated a variety of exchange and cooperative projects since they became sister universities in 1969. The link between the two schools has led more than 1,000 students, faculty members and others to participate in exchanges – and has resulted in more than 80 marriages that have tied people from Ashland and Guanajuato over three generations.
The current Global Innovation Scholars project grew out of a previous partnership between the two schools – the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program – which brought together classes of upper-division business students to work on the development of international business relationships.