University News

International TIES: Western and Mexico Rural Prosperity Project to Meet Nov. 3-4

October 31, 2008

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MACOMB, IL -- Prosperity problems facing rural areas are not relegated to the agriculture industry in the United States. As in the U.S., small-scale farmers in other regions of the world are confronted with fluctuating economic factors as well as limited access to technological advances and the resources to utilize them. They also face a similar lack of opportunity in regard to consistently possessing the means to acquire information pertaining to international trade, business strategies, marketing and supply-chain management.

The U.S.-Mexico Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships (TIES) Partnership Initiative, "Capacity Building in Southern Mexico," an international, three-year project started in October 2006 and administered by Western Illinois University, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ) and Universidad Technológica de la Selva (UTS), was developed to utilize the cooperative expertise at WIU and UAQ.

"The project's objective is to build the capacity of UTS, based in Chiapas, and thus help UTS address the rural prosperity problem by facilitating the strengthening of rural, small-scale producers in southern Mexico," explained Winthrop Phippen, associate professor in WIU's agriculture department and project director.

Phippen and his WIU colleagues will host a meeting in Macomb, Monday, Nov. 3 and Tuesday, Nov. 4 to discuss the final year of the WIU-UAQ-UTS project.

"Each year, the partnership directors meet face to face to evaluate programming from the previous year and establish programming for the upcoming year," Phippen said. "Roberto Vazquez Solis, the rector, or president, from UTS will be here, along with five faculty and staff members from UAQ."

The meeting will also include Carol Fimmen, director of Western's Office of Global Education in WIU's College of Business and Technology; Chris Merret, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), which is housed at WIU; and UTS and UAQ graduate students. The program incorporates a master's degree program and educational opportunities "to help ensure the infusion of academically trained professionals into the region," he noted.

"At Western, this project was assembled by a strong collaboration among Western's agriculture department, the IIRA and the Office of Global Education. By supplying additional funds, student assistantships and countless hours of time and effort, the IIRA and the Office of Global Education have been critical to the success of the project," Phippen added.

Utilizing the model system established by the IIRA for rural communities in the U.S., the program has helped deliver short-term training programs useful for small-scale producers in southern Mexico.

"One of the primary outcomes for this project is to establish a Center for Rural Development, and one of the missions for the center is to coordinate outreach programs for small-scale producers in the Ocosingo region of Chiapas. The center is also responsible for conducting workshops and seminars for the producers -- from how to improve production methods to developing new marketing plans for products. By the second year of this project, we have been able to create this center, and we have already delivered many workshops and seminars not only to producers, but also to the UTS faculty, so they can better serve their communities," Phippen said.

For more information about the TIES project, contact Phippen at (309) 298-1251 or, or visit Learn more about the IIRA at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing