LTTE: CSU responds to Todos Santos article

Guest Author

Editors note: This letter is in response to a previous Collegian article on Todos Santos.

Dear Editor,

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The Collegian article dated Oct. 26 represented the concerns of a group of passionate and dedicated citizens whose primary complaint is not with CSU, but with the development occurring in their community. CSU understands these challenges and perspectives, and we’ve met with representatives of this group on several occasions to work through their concerns. However, the article fell far short of portraying an accurate picture of CSU’s presence and participation in Todos Santos. The article failed to bring forth all of the perspectives and voices at play.

As a University, we knew that opening an international center would be challenging. The world is increasingly complex, the challenges immediate. This is true in Colorado, in the United States, in Mexico, and in almost every community around the world. The impacts of climate change, water scarcity, population growth, income disparities are among the issues that increasingly shape each of our daily lives. We asked the question: What does it mean not only to educate students, but also to cultivate global citizens? This question guides our approach.

CSU joined the Baja California Sur community several years ago. Our approach has been to learn from regional traditional knowledge, wisdom, and academic expertise, to listen to diverse perspectives, to prototype courses and workshops, and to offer the research and knowledge that are the cornerstones of a major international research university. More than 1,140 Baja California Sur residents and students have been directly involved in educational and research opportunities through the CSU center in Todos Santos. Just last week, 60 residents of all ages and backgrounds joined CSU for a composting workshop.

In addition, led by the CSU Todos Santos Center Director McKenzie Campbell, CSU conducted a community needs assessment in Todos Santos, which included engaging 150 people in a variety of stakeholder groups: youth, women’s groups, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, ejidatarios, school directors, teachers, elected officials, tourism service providers, individuals interested in environmental topics, and expatriates. Results of this community-based participatory research are available on the Center website, http://todossantos.colostate.edu. Complex issues call for ongoing engagement and dialogue. CSU is building a learning community that will establish the foundation for enduring collaborations. This is the very purpose of the CSU Center, to act as a hub for dialogue, learning, and engagement around real-world challenges and issues.

CSU has formed agreements with several local groups and has a formalized Memorandum of Understanding with the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) to collaborate on educational exchange and research. There is a Todos Santos-based community group advocating to bring an extension of UABCS to Todos Santos, to increase access to college education for local students. One of our CSU team members, Dr. Danielle Straatmann, stood side-by-side with these Todos Santos community leaders in a meeting with members of the Baja California Sur state senate and the Secretary of Public Education. CSU is proud to offer what we can to further regional priorities and support local advocates for education, and will continue to look for opportunities into the future.

More than 200 CSU students and faculty members have learned and worked in Todos Santos, and curricula has included nine outreach programs with local schools, nonprofits and community groups. Already, a dozen CSU veterinary medicine students have participated in field experiences in Todos Santos, which include spay and neuter with local partner organizations, community outreach and youth education, and educational exchange with the veterinary medicine school at UABCS. For the second year, theater arts faculty and students, together with students from UABCS, created a 6-day summer theatre camp for nearly 50 local children and visiting children from Colorado to experience working together, celebrating creativity and embracing language and culture. In the spring, Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology students will return for another winter break program, as well as a full semester 16-credit course of study. These programs and outreach activities indicate the level of commitment that our students have to learning, to cultural and educational exchange, and to working side by side with our neighbors in Mexico.

In a letter to CSU Chancellor and President Dr. Tony Frank dated Oct. 24, 2014, an official from the Mexican government, Consul General Carlos Bello, wrote (translated to English): “The benefits of this experience to the citizens of Todos Santos is invaluable, as well as the cultural and educational exchange that will occur between students, CSU faculty and the citizens of the region. Having the great opportunity of learning from one another, the establishment of this center helps make this mutually beneficial exchange possible.”

The gift of land and facilities from MIRA gives CSU the freedom to create truly unique educational and research opportunities for our faculty, staff and students while making an impact by working alongside community members in support of regional needs and priorities. CSU upholds research and academic freedom across all of our work and campuses, including the CSU Todos Santos Center.

We are aware that there are many challenges in delivering water to citizens in Todos Santos. CSU is sensitive to this information. Tres Santos purchased additional municipal water rights, and we understand that the Center’s water is not supplied through previously available municipal water and does not add burden to the current system. With a similar awareness of local water challenges, Tres Santos is considering all options to minimize and potentially eliminate demand on municipal water. More information can be found on their website www.tressantosbaja.com. CSU continues to engage in the conversation around water, and water use at the center will be monitored and limited as part of the center’s educational programming about water conservation.

A student newspaper – any newspaper – has a high level of responsibility to investigate topics thoroughly and to bring forth a complete picture. The recent article did not achieve this.

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Many of CSU’s students, faculty, and staff are dedicated and committed to creating dynamic and relevant educational programs at the Todos Santos Center.

Dr. Andrea Purdy, Special Assistant Professor of Spanish at CSU, has been dedicating her time to language and culture training for CSU students, faculty, and staff, as well as integrating the CSU Center at Todos Santos into the local culture since the project’s onset. She perhaps said it best: “Change is an inevitable part of life. We must all find ways to adapt and try to make our circumstances work for the greater good. We (CSU) were provided with an opportunity to work with people and organizations from another country with which we share a border. Our lives are intertwined. The reason I am a believer in CSU being in Todos Santos is that – as a person who was born and raised in Mexico – language and culture play an important role in our sense of identity.”

These challenges keep us alert and motivate us toward the most responsible next steps. We encourage and invite faculty, students, and Baja California Sur community members to take an active role in co-creating the Center and its programs. The future of our world depends on our shared humanity and our ability to bring together the beauty of our diversity, not to further separate ourselves via aggression, division, and polarization. We aspire to cultivate generations of global citizens and thriving communities through collaboration, experience, and exchange of knowledge.

Kim Kita
Colorado State University
Director of Special Projects and Partnerships