Inside USD

TBI Grants Enhance U.S.-Mexico Border Research, Connections

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elaine Elliott loves to connect the University of San Diego to community service projects with long-lasting effects. One such project last fall, “Global Dialogue with Via Scholars,” had six USD students assist with an on-campus roundtable discussion in conjunction with USD’s Social Issues Conference. The students were guides for visiting international leaders and got to interview them. Later, the students joined roundtable sponsor Los Niños International and outreach workers in Baja California to learn more about international and trans-border community development and service-learning work.

The experience for students was memorable, but Elliott also gave credit to an intramural grant program developed by the Trans-Border Institute for making it all possible. The Trans-Border Insitute (TBI), part of USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, focuses on issues and programs pertaining to the U.S.-Mexico border region. The grant program, which has approximately $35,000 to annually fund faculty, staff and student projects on border matters, awarded Elliott $5,500 last year.

“It was critical to establishing the Via Scholars program,” said Elliott, director of the Center for Community Service-Learning. The $5,500 was the most she’s received among the three grants she’d been approved for since the 2003-04 school year.

“An earlier grant built the connection we have had in Tijuana for many years of service,” she said. “We did a project that laid the foundation for our ongoing connections to the Mixteco community, one of the many linguistic groups in Mexico that have immigrated to San Diego. Through the years the ability to have TBI grant funding has been critical to start projects we’ve been able to continue.”

TBI is accepting new grant application proposals through March 12. Awarded since 1998, grant amounts go as high as $12,500 for a faculty member’s scholarly research and as much as $7,000 for a border activity done by faculty, staff or current students. TBI has awarded 50 grants in 22 different USD departments. Mini-grants, up to $500 each, are also available throughout the year.

Grants have funded everything from a sustainability cross-border conference, a study of border human rights and border pedagogy to a study on the aluminum effects on the root tips of eelgrass. TBI is always seeking more and new ideas for grant proposals.

TBIGrant-Photo“It’s a resource that not a lot of staff, students and faculty are necessarily aware of, but it should be brought to their attention,” TBI Interim Director Charles Pope said. “It provides a valuable resource to further their research or other scholarly interests in the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Biochemistry major Ryan Brennan ’10 (pictured, second from left) received $7,000 in 2008 to fund his Casa San Eugenio Dental project. Brennan used the funds to assist the Colonia La Morita in Tijuana. He and other USD students interested in dentistry went with a San Diego dentist to Casa San Eugenio to provide dental care and oral healthcare education. A photo exhibit is displayed on a second-floor hallway wall in the IPJ building.

There’s also a series of grants that helped connect the USD Symphony, Mexico and the music dreams of a then 11-year-old boy.

Angela Yeung, an associate professor for USD’s music department, was contacted several years ago by a young pianist who sought an audition for the USD Symphony, which often did joint performances with Sinfónica Juvenil de Tijuana (Tijuana Youth Orchestra). “He was musically very talented. Since then, his two younger brothers auditioned and joined the orchestra,” said Yeung, who said they all now play percussion. The story, Yeung said, might continue this fall. Now a young man, Yeung said the pianist is applying to USD as a music major.

Yeung’s connection to Tijuana was harvested through TBI’s program. She received six grants, including $12,000 in 2006 so the symphony’s performances could be recorded for a CD that’s available online at the USD Bookstore. Yeung said the symphony’s long-term exposure to the border town has generated interest from other cities in Mexico.

“I have been invited to Guadalajara to conduct its youth orchestra. I hope to apply for another TBI grant and bring the USD Symphony to Guadalajara in the near future.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Go to the Trans-Border Institute grant program home page to learn about the application process, past recipients and more.

Read an April 2008 Inside USD story about Ryan Brennan’s grant project experience.

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