What is the U.S.-Mexico Network?

The U.S.-Mexico Network is a set of virtual and real-world interactions among Mexicans and Americans funded by grants from the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, and the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute.

The Network is motivated by the glaring need for improved interaction between two societies that matter profoundly to one another yet understand each another weakly, collaborate inconsistently, and communicate intermittently and often ineffectively.  Despite the large and growing role played by each country in the other’s ability to meet domestic policy goals, the capacity for bi-national consultation among key actor in both our societies remains deficient.

The Network is designed to help fill this void by enhancing the cross-border exchange of ideas through the virtual contacts produced by this website combined with face-to-face meetings, and by focusing its efforts on the next generation of leaders and other influential members of our two societies.

The website has the capacity to overcome the limitations of real-world meetings by providing an effective way for geographically disparate individuals and institutions with common educational objectives to work together for extended periods of time at a low cost.  In the process, it provides a foundation for the iterated contacts essential for effective collaboration across a wide range of issues and undertakings, for developing an expanded array of binational mentoring relationships, and for creating the familiarity and cross-cultural understanding that makes good partners and good neighbors.

The website hosts a series of curated conversations and virtual seminars that are completely bi-lingual (each participant is encouraged to write in his or her preferred language) among a vetted group of participants from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.  It publishes works on topics concerned, in some fashion, with the bilateral relationship, each work is in both English and Spanish, and most authors are young thinkers who have participated in other Network activities.

But its heart and soul of the Network is a series of education-related activities – binational conversations and projects that take place in the context of university courses on similar topics being taught coterminously at institutions on opposite sides of the border.

Indeed, the aim of the Network through its various activities is to minimize the relevance of the border that divides our societies – to put people before borders.

The Elements of the Network

La Plática is a space for conversations about issues of current interest in Mexico, the United States, or the bilateral relationship.  Each conversation will begin as a forum in which a moderator discusses a pertinent issues and poses a question for discussion.  Although the precise nature of each conversation can vary, answers are apt to be one-to-two paragraph replies, a sort of on-line, Davos-style session, mostly authored by students and young scholars.  Some conversations will also include back-and-forth discussion of some of the replies and potentially a secondary prompt from the moderator or one of the discussants, generating a much more free-wheeling discussion style.  Whatever their ultimate format, these “chats” should kindle a productive exchange of ideas and opinions that inspire new thinking and improve cross-border understanding.

El Rincón de la Investigación is a venue for virtual seminars whose format is similar to La Platica’s conversations but the subject for discussion is a specific piece of research or analysis.  This might include exchanges on interesting articles, research reports, or new books, or on discussion papers or other kinds of work-in-progress.  These seminars are designed to generate binational conversations about 1) assigned readings for similar courses being offered on both sides of the border (or any other text of mutual interest), or 2) works-in-progress authored by Network participants designed to improve the quality of the work in advance of its publication on the Network or elsewhere.  In either case, these virtual seminars can be held publicly or privately, with the topic of the conversation is always announced publicly on the website to inform Network participants of the on-going conversation and to encourage participation.  In the case of private seminars on preliminary research or sensitive topics, the organizer/author has the final say on who is admitted.

La Biblioteca is a space for electronic publishing of works by Network participants.  This might include single authored books, monographs, essays, or edited volumes on issues related to the United States, Mexico, and the broad spectrum of issues that are bilateral in nature.  Ideally these will include some works informed or even motivated by Network conversations or seminars.

El Aula is a venue for creating virtual bi-national classrooms.   The Network brings together professors teaching similar courses at universities on both sides of the border.  Working off line, the professors identify a discussion question related to their course materials, or design a shared group project, that will be integrated into their course syllabi.  The Network then serves as the venue for binational conversations and the host for binational projects, handling all the logistics associated with the virtual cross-border collaboration.  While the initial projects have been on US-Mexico relations and initial conversations on international relations more broadly, the objective of the Network is to create bi-national classrooms in the widest possible variety of subjects, from politics to medicine and public health, from engineering to the arts, from urban planning to the humanities, and beyond.  There is no limit to the range of subjects around which virtual bi-national classrooms can be created.

Contributing to the Network

Individuals interested in contributing to on-going Network conversations or seminars are free to post comments at any time.  However, anonymous or rude comments will not be permitted, and while we strongly encourage the widest possible diversity of opinion, we also insist that all comments be civil in tone and constructive in content.  All comments will be moderated to ensure that these standards are met.

Professors interested in integrating a bi-national classroom conversation or project into their courses and individuals interested in hosting a virtual seminar or publishing on the Network should contact the Network.