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Students Study South of the Border

Scholars From Across Disciplines Present Projects Through the International Symposium on Applied Research in Ensenada, Mexico
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A group of 14 Cal State Fullerton students from across disciplines got a taste of international research — and Mexican salsa.

This fall, the students traveled across the border to Ensenada, Mexico, where they presented their research projects on topics in educational leadership, psychology, social service and engineering as part of CSUF’s International Symposium on Applied Research at Centro de Enseñanza Técnica Y Superior (CETYS) Universidad. They also attended lectures and experienced the culture, including how to make salsa.

“It was an amazing opportunity to present my work internationally, and to bring consciousness and to explain the struggles that men of color face in education,” said Montel Taylor, a business administration-accounting major. His research on the “Minority Male Initiative” focuses on men of color — African-Americans and Latinos — who attend community college.

“The research identifies barriers that students of color face in community college and creates best practices to support their academic growth,” he said. “Studying abroad was incredible because we had the opportunity to share our work with international students and professors, and learn from one another.”

It was the first study abroad program for Taylor, in which the experience gave him a boost of confidence in his presentation and writing skills: “It was a challenge, but it also was a moment to grow.”

The four-day program provides students with a short-term study abroad opportunity in an international context and fosters collaboration between CSUF and the Mexican students, said Binod Tiwari, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who directs the International Symposium on Applied Research.

“CSUF students learn what students in other parts of the world are working on, share each other’s culture and gain more insight into their own research through mutual discussions and feedback,” added Tiwari, a landslide and mudslide expert who gave a presentation on “Living With Natural Disasters.”

Dawn Person, professor of educational leadership and director of CSUFs Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (C-REAL), served as faculty co-leader of this year’s program. Person also gave a talk with Lullu Tshiwula, former deputy vice chancellor-student development and support at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, on “Building South African Women’s Leadership: A Cohort Model for the Ph.D. in Student Affairs.”

Computer engineering graduate student Hema Murthy, who presented her research on the brain-computer interface controlled robotic arm to improve the quality of life for those who have neurodegenerative disorders, agreed that the “experience was like no other.”

“The energy and encouragement at the research symposium was so inspiring. I not only learned about the research going on at the Mexican university, but that Mexico has an established tech industry like the U.S.,” said Murthy, an international student from India.

“I now have more confidence in myself to be part of the next generation of engineers and researchers.”