Students at CSU Center interact with community in Todos Santos, Mexico

Ellie Mulder

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Photos by Skyler Leonard.

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Colorado State University’s satellite campus in Todos Santos, Mexico, sits at the foot of a hill, adjacent to the small town’s colorful graveyard and the site of the planned Tres Santos housing development. A series of buildings on the manicured property include beds for 46 students and apartments for five faculty members.

From October 2015, when the CSU Center first opened to students, through the end of the year, “more than 100 students, faculty, and staff … participated in 24 development research trips and six outreach programs to Todos Santos,” according to a University release.

The 2015 trips were all short-term, but the first semester-long group is now in Todos Santos. From Jan. 3 – March 5, 15 fish, wildlife and conservation biology students will be taking 16 credits at the CSU Center.

Other groups that have visited the CSU Center include students majoring in soil and crop sciences, anthropology and veterinary medicine.

Natasha Bolourirad, a student in her last year of the DVM program, stayed at the CSU Center for two weeks in November 2015. During that time, she helped run several spay/ neuter days for animals in the area as well as a workshop at the CSU Center for local goat ranchers.

As the first veterinary group to stay at the CSU Center, one of their priorities was collaborating with the community and helping without taking business away from local veterinarians, Bolourirad said. She also spent one day working at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, which, at about an hour away, is the closest university to Todos Santos.

“I don’t know that the trip could have been put on any better,” Bolourirad said. “We got a really, really good, unique cultural experience.”

Although Bolourirad was aware of some of the controversy that surrounded the CSU Center, she said she went in with an open mind and left with a positive impression of the University’s presence in Mexico. 

“Talking to the people down there, I left feeling not at all like there was any controversy,” Bolourirad said.

Elizabeth Ibarra Vivanco, a Baja California Sur native, has consulted on farming at the CSU Center and said she supports the way the University has interacted with the community. She has a farming business in Pescadero, the town next to Todos Santos.

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Vivanco said she first met those involved with the CSU Center when she and some other farmers were approached for information about how they farm.

“I consulted many things with CSU for no charge, any peso, zero. Why? Because I love them,” Vivanco said. “This town needs to be activated with responsible, new citizens and (we need to) make this town a better place to live. The way Tres Santos and CSU are handling the situation, I think, is amazing.”

Kim Kita, the director of special projects and partnerships at CSU, said one of the most important things the donation of the CSU Center has allowed is an international experience that “holds a network of relationships that really endure over time.”

And when students are brought down to Todos Santos, McKenzie Campbell, director of the CSU Center, said most of them are already conscious of minimizing their impact environmentally and are eager to learn about the Mexican culture.

“(These students) are really thinking about how to be citizens of the world,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to do as much as we can, like taking cold showers, gathering the water, shampooing, turning off the water and turning it back on, not having lawns, not having pools, going to the ocean if you need to cool off.”

Collegian News Editor Ellie Mulder can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @LEmarie.