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Southern Methodist University Launches Unique Research Program for Policy-Based Analysis of Texas-Mexico Relationship

DALLAS, TX – Southern Methodist University’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies is launching an ambitious new program to research and promote policy-based discussion on the economic, political and social ties between Mexico and Texas.

The program is made possible through a $1-million gift from GRUMA-Mission Foods, a Mexican corporation with global reach headquartered in Dallas. The program is designed to elevate the frequently fractured conversations about and between Texas and Mexico, creating a platform that examines shared issues through a policy lens. Plans include:

  • Texas-Mexico research, grants, reports and white papers
  • Bi-national and bilingual annual conferences
  • Academic seminars and public forums

“SMU and our home city of Dallas are uniquely situated for this kind of study,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We have the academic resources to bring clarity to issues that are frequently viewed as singular challenges rather than pieces of a puzzle connected by laws, economic factors and social patterns that may go back for generations. This is a tremendous opportunity for SMU and for Texas.”

Dallas is at the geographic crossroads of the increasingly integrated market amplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada. The city also is home to the greatest concentration of Fortune 100 companies in the United States outside of New York City. Texas exported to Mexico goods valued at more than $102 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and imported from Mexico goods valued at over $90 million for the same period.

“Economics, energy, migration, culture, human capital, internet technology and cyber security are obvious topics for study, but the door is open,” says Juan Antonio González Moreno, chairman and CEO of GRUMA. “We found in this program a tremendous opportunity to build a foundation for what should become the primary think tank on Texas-Mexico relations.” The list of potential topics is open to almost anything that impacts the relationship between Texas and Mexico.

Supporting the program is important to GRUMA-Mission Foods, González Moreno says, because, being a leading food company with over $2 billion in sales in the U.S., it wishes to contribute to a better understanding between the two countries. He perceives that people of Mexican descent are more integrated into society in Texas than in other border states, and believes that analyzing those success stories in Texas might help Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in other U.S. states to integrate more fully into the economy and society.

“This is, to one extent, an opportunity to show our appreciation to Texas,” González Moreno says. “We are proud to have our name associated with this prestigious university.”

The gift from GRUMA-Mission Foods to the Texas-Mexico Program counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign. To date the campaign has raised more than $987 million in gifts and pledges to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence, and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the university’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

“Obviously, there’s been a great deal of friction in Texas-Mexico relations over the last 10 to 15 years,” says Joshua Rovner, director of Studies at SMU’s Tower Center. “At the government level there’s been an effort to improve relations, but from an academic standpoint, we want to understand that relationship.”

Rovner said the greatest opportunity for the Tower Center’s Texas-Mexico Research Program may lie in cutting through the noise that surrounds issues influencing the Texas-Mexico conversation.

“There is this great cacophony all the time — not only the number of speakers, but the number of issues can make your head spin, “ Rovner says. “The Tower Center is a place where you can bring in the best people available and actually have civil conversations about these policy issues.  We invite all voices to the table.”

“We will be celebrating the 100th birthday of the opening of SMU on Sept. 25,” says Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “It is particularly gratifying to be able to announce a program with the potential to improve future relations between Texas and Mexico as we begin our next century.”

Southern Methodist University is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

In the spirit of John Tower‘s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, and the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center will pursue its mission in a nonpartisan manner.