(Ashland, Ore.) — A total of 19 students from Southern Oregon University and the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico have been selected to participate in the 2024 edition of the institutions’ Global Innovation Scholars Program – a multicultural business development partnership that was initiated two years ago through the U.S. Department of State.
The participating students – 10 from SOU and nine from UG – are upper division scholars with interest in international commerce. They will do preliminary work on their own campuses beginning winter term before the SOU students visit Guanajuato in March and the UG students visit Ashland in April.
The 19 students will work together in each community, researching and analyzing selected local businesses during the weeklong exchange programs. The highlight in each location will be the presentation of recommended development plans to the business owners.
“The Global Innovation Scholars Program remains steadfast in its dedication to nurturing cross-cultural connections, driving innovation and empowering the next generation of global leaders,” said Dee Fretwell, chair of the SOU Business Department and director of Global Innovation Scholars at the Ashland university.
Fretwell described the program as an “exciting journey of discovery, collaboration and transformative learning,” and emphasized that its success is due in large part to the generosity of dedicated alumni donors.
The Global Innovation Scholars project grew out of a previous partnership that began in 2019 between the two schools. The Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program brought together classes of business students to work on the development of international business relationships.
Fretwell and UG business professor and SOU alumnus Martin Pantoja led the transition of that program to Global Innovation Scholars in 2022, when the two universities’ business schools were awarded a $25,000 grant from the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” program – sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassies and the nonprofit organization Partners for the Americas.
“This recognition (from 100,000 Strong in the Americas) bolstered our commitment to fostering collaborative learning experiences that transcend borders and unite students from diverse backgrounds,” Fretwell said.
Last year’s program was funded by the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability – established in 2022 through a generous gift from Lithia Motors and GreenCars – and through the support of Barbara Tyler and Tom Curran.
The Global Innovation Scholars program supported seven of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2023, positively affected six businesses in the U.S. and Mexico with development plans and supported 19 students who dedicated more than 4,000 hours of their time.
SOU and UG have initiated a variety of exchange and cooperative projects since they became sister universities in 1969.