The Big Picture: Dos Gregs

 

Our governor and university president are both finding new frontiers with our Southern neighbor.

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In September, I had the privilege of attending a reception for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, Life Member, at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Texas Exes were everywhere, and it took all of our self-control not to break out in “The Eyes of Texas” during the festivities (it was not officially a Texas Exes event). The governor, who made higher education one of his priority items in the legislative session, was there to advocate deeper economic ties between Texas and Mexico. “This is a new chapter in the relationship between Mexico and Texas and a new beginning of what has been a rich history,” Abbott said in a speech during his trip.

The Governor’s comments reminded me of those from another very important Greg. In July, one of Greg Fenves’ first acts as president of the University of Texas at Austin was to sign a new agreement with the government of Mexico to deepen scholarly and academic relations. The accord brings Mexican scholars of social science, the humanities, and law to the UT-Austin campus to conduct research at the Benson Latin American Collection and to teach at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. “Texas and Mexico share a border more than 1,200 miles long, and our pasts and our futures are tied together at the deepest level,” Fenves said. “As the state’s flagship university, we look forward to expanding our collaboration with Mexican institutions on a wide variety of educational and research initiatives.”

What both Gregs understand is that it is in Texas’ best interests economically and culturally to expand our relationship with Mexico. Texas and Mexico do $1 billion in trade a day. Right now, every dollar invested in UT-Austin returns $15 to the state’s economy. Just as the University of Texas is an economic engine for Texas, improved scholarly exchange, as well as trade, with Mexico could add extra muscle.

Tremendous changes are happening inside Mexico. Its business community is flourishing, and its energy sector is poised for rapid expansion. Texas, and the University of Texas, are wise to be part of shaping that new future of Mexico in a way that’s mutually beneficial.

Former state demographer Steve Murdoch has detailed the growth of Texas’ Hispanic population for decades. Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in Texas, but their high school and college completion rates still lag. The problem is especially acute on the border, even though that area is poised for potentially dynamic growth.Unless those outcomes can be improved, the future of the state’s economy and the vitality of its flagship university could be at risk.

Improved economic and academic ties between Texas and Mexico won’t solve all of our problems. But they are good, noble steps toward a brighter, more competitive, and more prosperous Texas. And for that we can thank dos Gregs.

Saludos, and hook ’em!

Antonio Garza
President, Texas Exes

Photo by Marsha Miller.

 

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