Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helps Ecuador Create Its Own Silicon Valley

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helps Ecuador Create Its Own Silicon Valley

Article excerpt

On Super Bowl Sunday, Dr. Cornell Menking and his wife, Mona, sat in their living room in Las Cruces, N.M., waiting for a special advertisement to appear. They knew that Ecuador would be the first country ever to advertise in the Super Bowl, and were eager to see history in the making.

While the Menkings never saw the advertisement (they live in too small a market for it to be aired), they have long been strong supporters of Ecuador's push to advance its country. Through their work in academia, they have helped Ecuador in its vision to become a strong player in the global arena.

"Ecuador has made a massive investment in higher education and international education like never before, so much so that other countries in the region have begun to copy them," said Cornell Menking, associate provost for International and Border Programs at New Mexico State University (NMSU). "The country is also engaged in a project to increase Ecuador's capacity to contribute to the knowledge of the world."

From April to December of last year, NMSU hosted 14 high school graduates from Ecuador as part of a pilot project to teach students English and the hospitality industry so that Ecuador could grow its vision of creating a Silicon Valley in its country. Also, during the past couple of years, NMSU has hosted four cohorts of students to learn English in their Go Teacher program, which was initially started by Mona Menking at Kansas State University and the University of Mississippi in 2012.

The couple first became involved in Ecuador's vision when Mona Menking received an email from a friend in Ecuador's Ministry of Education, asking her if she was interested in partaking in initiatives that were part of President Rafael Correa's national commitment to improve English language education in his country's public school system. Menking, a native to Ecuador who had lived and worked with her husband in her country for seven years, responded with a clear "yes."

As a result, she piloted the Go Teacher program in the summer of 2012 at the University of Mississippi. This was so successful (the first cohort had 112 Ecuadorian students learning English) that a second program was established at Kansas State University, where she became associate director for international outreach, followed by other programs such as the one at NMSU. Mew Mexico's first group of students came in January, 2013.

Funded by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation (SNESCYT), the intention of Go Teacher has been to help improve English language proficiency of Ecuadorian participants so they can obtain certification to teach English as a second language. Many of the country's English teachers, prior to this program, had few skills in truly speaking and teaching English well. University programs like that of NMSU were established to help increase their English language fluency and expand their knowledge of current English language teaching methodology.

"This program has been a cornerstone of our internationalization efforts since I've been here in the past two and a half years. It's been the reason we've been able to approach other internationalization tasks," said Cornell Menking. "It's allowed me to grow our Center for English Language Programs. I took this over and completely restructured it. Now this provides a pipeline for more international students to come here and to provide a source of revenue to support internationalization programs outside of this."

As NMSU has grown its international program in multiple directions, the Ecuadorian government has also created another very important and groundbreaking initiative with them. Recently, the country embarked on an ambitious project, The Yachay program, to create four university campuses-places that would help Ecuador contribute to the knowledge of the world-including one of technology, natural sciences, teacher training, and the arts. NMSU has helped educate those that will become a part of the technological campus that is expected to combine government, academia, and private industry to create a Silicon Valley of Ecuador. …

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