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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Representatives from Mexican universities joined the conference to share their experiences and expertise that will aim to help Tijuana and Mexicali communities. (SDSU) Representatives from Mexican universities joined the conference to share their experiences and expertise that will aim to help Tijuana and Mexicali communities. (SDSU)

SDSU and SDSU Imperial Valley Collaborate in Binational Environmental Workshop

The conference hosted more than 30 experts to address environmental issues that affect the San Diego/Tijuana and Imperial Valley/Mexicali regions.
By Melinda Sevilla and Daniella Rodiles

San Diego State University and SDSU Imperial Valley faculty members are teaming up by utilizing their surrounding universities in the U.S. and Mexico to solve pressing water problems.


The Water Across Borders Binational Initiative began in April in a workshop with more than 30 faculty members from SDSU, SDSU Imperial Valley and seven Baja California institutions who are all experts in their fields. 


“The goals of the Water Across Borders Binational Workshop were to expand and strengthen binational collaborations to solve environmental issues pertaining to water resources,” said Natalie Mladenov, who represented SDSU Engineering by leading the event and was accompanied by fellow engineering faculty Hassan DavaniMarta Miletic and Matthew Verbyla


SDSU co-leads Natalie Mladenov (professor of civil engineering) and Trent Biggs (professor of geography) was also supported by Kristofer Patron (Sage Project). The event drew solutions and future collaborations to solve problems impacting the entirety of the region.


Also participating are faculty from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) campuses in Ensenada, Mexicali, and Tijuana, as well as Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Baja California (CICESE), El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS) Universidad, and Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana.


“When we gather as community and academic experts, we begin conversations about action-based solutions that will help improve the health of our communities and the wellbeing of our environment,” said Linda Lara Jacobo, associate professor of environmental health at SDSU Imperial Valley. “It was encouraging and exciting to collaborate with our partners from UABC to address the needs of Mexican and Mexican American families and individuals.”


Four working groups were formed to discuss water and climate, water quality, sanitation and health; water in agriculture and water governance. The participants developed specific proposals for binational projects to be pursued this summer, funded in part by the Big Ideas Initiative through SDSU’s Division of Research and Innovation. 


“The workshop participants expressed interest in continuing the collaboration with additional meetings or a workshop in the fall,” said Mladenov.


SDSU Imperial Valley is expected to launch its new Bachelor of Science in public health in fall 2024 to bolster the number of local public health professionals within the region and address unmet environmental health needs. Through this program, students will have internship opportunities with regional organizations to obtain jobs in hospitals, government agencies, international programs, private/volunteer agencies and clinics.


SDSU Imperial Valley currently serves more than 1,000 students, many of whom are binational students who reside or grew up in the Imperial Valley-Mexicali region. The university will open a new STEM facility at its Brawley site in fall 2025 to expand STEM-related degrees, career pathways and research initiatives.