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Sunday, June 4, 2023

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Searching for Innovative Solutions in the Region We Share

SDSU’s annual binational RE:BORDER Conference promotes collaboration and open dialogue to address challenges in the California-Baja California transborder region.
By Ryan Schuler

Less than 22 miles from the San Diego State University campus is the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is the busiest land port of entry in the Western Hemisphere with about 70,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians crossing into the U.S. each day — including SDSU students.

Though the physical border represents the physical separation of two sovereign nations, the daily exchange of economic and cultural activity through thriving bilateral trade and cross-border travel signifies that the transborder region of California and Baja California remains closely connected. Both are connected by their economies, societies and culture. Still, evolving challenges related to education, politics, public health, migration and innovation face the transborder region.

Enter SDSU. The university’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border affords SDSU students, faculty and staff very unique opportunities to explore key regional challenges and innovative solutions in the transborder region, specifically through the university’s annual RE:BORDER binational conference. All are encouraged to register for the event, which is free and open to the public anywhere in the world. 

The virtual conference, taking place Nov. 12-13, will be held in collaboration with El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (El Colef), a prestigious Mexican institute of higher education specializing in teaching and research with a focus on border issues.

“By understanding the opportunities and challenges that most closely affect our transborder region, we can work together to develop sustainable, innovative solutions that will last for generations," said SDSU President Adela de la Torre.

This year, the conference focuses on challenges and solutions related to mobility and migration in the transborder region of California and Baja California in several fields, including business, education, public health and government policy. The conference will utilize new technology that allows for real-time translation of English and Spanish, making this a truly binational, bilingual virtual conference.

Academic experts, practitioners, students, public policy experts, and community stakeholders will come together to discuss how SDSU and its regional partners can contribute to key challenges facing the region — with equal input from both sides of the border. An emphasis of this year’s conference: dialogue leading to action steps.

"The Re:Border binational conference is the forum to analyze these challenges and continue to build a competitive region, and one that will mutually benefit schools, organizations, companies, and residents on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border,” de la Torre said. 

This year, the conference extends its reach. Due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on gatherings, the conference will take place virtually, allowing stakeholders throughout both countries to attend and participate in the dialogue.

“The fact that the conference will be virtual has made it more accessible to individuals around the nation, specifically other areas such as Texas and Arizona that are situated on the border as we are,” said SDSU Interim Associate Vice President for International Affairs Cristina Alfaro. “We are bringing together all of the border regions to have a dialogue about this very important topic.”

“The participation of the Government of Baja California in RE: BORDER 2020 follows the priority of our Governor of the State, Ing. Jaime Bonilla Valdez, to promote partnerships, educational internationalization and collaboration in activities that benefit educators and students on both sides of the border,” said Catalino Zavala Márquez, Secretary of Education in Baja California. “The academic staff who will represent our entity, will reflect on current issues and will share experiences from the academic sectors focused on areas of technology and productivity, which will undoubtedly strengthen knowledge in our region.”

The transborder region has been significantly impacted by the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions placed across U.S. borders — yet another reason why collaboration between California and Baja California can positively impact the region moving forward.

“This pandemic has clearly magnified the importance of strategic collaboration and working together due to our proximity to the border,” Alfaro said. “Whether it’s for the health, economy, business, politics, education — all of the areas we will be discussing at the conference are critical to this region.”

The conference aligns with SDSU’s new five-year strategic plan, “We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives,” which calls for SDSU, as a community-engaged, border-connected Hispanic-Serving Institution, to develop globally conscious citizens.

“Our relationship to the border and the transborder region is very natural and organic,” said Alfaro. “We, as a binational campus, recognize the importance and are making concerted efforts to have a critical dialogue about the challenges, assets, and solutions of the region. It is very fitting we (SDSU) lead these efforts given our geographical location, our existing partnerships, and our extensive research in the transborder region.”