Mexico Travel Study ’13-14
Learning Orientation
This travel study program is intended to provide participants with unique, experiential insights into Mexican cultures and social service systems. Given the increasing integration of cultures and societies through globalization and, given the fact that our local and regional communities are becoming increasingly diverse--with sizable concentrations of Mexican origin individuals in some areas--this program can help broaden participants' intellectual, personal, and cultural horizons and help make the participants better members of their local, regional and global communities.  
Toward that end, all participants strive to achieve a common set of learning goals and objectives.  In addition, each participant tailors her learning experiences to meet specific personal and professional interests.  Learning occurs through (1) pre-departure reading, research, and discussion; (2) immersion in experiential learning, daily small and large group processing, and personal journaling while in México; and (3) post-return group processing and preparation of a learning portfolio that addresses group and individual learning goals/objectives.
EXAMPLE:  Oportunidades
“Oportunidades” is a government anti-poverty program that has been active in Mexico for about 10 years.  In short, economically-disadvantaged families receive modest cash incentives for keeping their children in school, participating in public health education programs, and contributing to community improvement projects.  Oportunidades has received accolades from the World bank and has been replicated in more than 20 Latin American and African countries.  However, it was largely unknown in the US until recently.
México Travel Study participants read about the Oportunidades program, visit and stay with families who participate in the program, and converse with a thoughtful matriarch who has spent several years as a local administrator of the program.  From these experiences we learn not only about the mechanics and immediate impacts of this program; we also learn about the cultural contexts in which it developed and  has been implemented.  We also process these experiences amongst ourselves and consider various issues such as the role of government in family life, the connections between this approach to poverty reduction and the overall paucity of government resources in México, and the possibilities of applying of this program to US poverty and other social issues.
     US attention to Oportunidades recently peaked when NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited one of the communities we also visit in México to study the program in anticipation of the launch of Opportunities NYC, a program just started and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation that, if successful, will be taken over by the NY government in a few years.  Previous México Travel Study participants were way ahead of the curve on this issue and are well-prepared to be active participants with unique insights in dialogues concerning this important and innovative policy issue.  (Click here for a recent American Public Mediaworks feature on Oportunidades/Opportunities NYC.)