[Source: Kelly Lewis, UA Wildcat Online] — President Robert Shelton will visit Nogales, Ariz., today to continue discussions concerning the development of a new university in the border area. If given the green light, the new university could be an extension of the UA, similar to UA South, although discussions are still in the initial phases, Shelton said in an e-mail. “It’s important to realize that we get many students at UA main campus from Nogales, and we serve many Santa Cruz-based students through UA South,” Shelton said. “The meetings will be to help understand the needs in Santa Cruz County in general and Nogales in particular for bachelor’s and higher degrees.”
Santa Cruz County, which includes Nogales and Patagonia, is limited to two community colleges, a satellite program and a distance-learning program with Northern Arizona University, said Alfredo Velasquez, Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools. “As far as having an intense university program down here that offers business courses or educational courses, it is very limited,” Velasquez said. “A lot of kids don’t have opportunity to leave our community, and if they have something down here it provides an opportunity for them to pursue education and get jobs in our community.”
Although Santa Cruz County has been in discussion with each public Arizona university, the UA seems best suited to fit the needs of the community, Velasquez said. “This is something that has been going on for a while,” he added. “The U of A has something in Sierra Vista, and I think a lot of people here feel very comfortable with what the university represents.”
Manuel Ruiz, chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Santa Cruz County, said the county is building upon its community colleges and would now like to see an extension of the UA in the area. “The next likely progression is to have something similar to U of A South, where students, because of economic hardships or other reasons, would be able to take advantage of college and degrees,” Ruiz said.
Although it is too early to speculate on what types of degrees could be offered if the university is implemented, Ruiz said there is a large need for math and science teachers in the area, as well as for nurses and law-enforcement personnel. “There are a lot of opportunities, and we feel that if we can have those kind of degrees, there would be people taking advantage of it locally,” Ruiz said. “Especially when you have a population across the border, some of them are willing to do dual classes.”
Nogales Mayor Ignacio J. Barraza said he is in the process of appealing to the Arizona state Legislature to secure funding, and he hopes the university will one day become an international institution. “Placing the campus of the U of A in Santa Cruz County has the potential for converting itself into an international campus that could focus on the issue of international studies or border-issue studies,” Barraza said.
The proximity to the U.S. border with Mexico is also a factor in the negotiations, and Santa Cruz County elected officials said they are looking into the possibility of a partnership with the University of Nogales in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. “It’s a whole different environment down here than what you hear about on the news, and there is a lot of coordination between two cities that isn’t really brought to light,” said Gary Gay, mayor of Patagonia. “The institution would be on the American side, but there is an opportunity for student exchanges, working with two universities that compliment each other.”
In the meeting today, Shelton will travel across the border to view both the University of Nogales and the Technological University of Nogales in Sonora, Barraza said. From here, he added, discussions will begin as to the best way to secure state and local funding. “To me, the U of A is being a tremendous friend to this community,” Barraza said. “Just the mere fact that Dr. Shelton has graciously accepted our invitation to visit Santa Cruz County demonstrates that there is a commitment to dialogue.”