The core funding support for Establishing the Institute of Ecotourism Studies: Collaborative Workforce Development and Cultural Exchange Strategies in Baja California Sur is through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, in partnership with the MetLife Foundation, as part of a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

This effort is a binational collaboration between the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) and the Colorado State University System (including coordination among Colorado State University-Pueblo, CSU Todos Santos Center, and CSU Fort Collins), with corporate support from Todos Santos Eco Adventures.

The Institute of Ecotourism Studies focuses on undergraduate education and highlights the significance of ecotourism in the Baja California Sur region and in Colorado by providing education around the role and impacts of tourism on local cultures and communities.

The Institute is being established through three intentional CSU-UABCS student exchange experiences in March, May, and October of 2018.

In March 2018, CSU-Pueblo students studied ecotourism topics such as the regional characteristics of Mexico and Baja California Sur, social and cultural aspects of ecotourism, and trends and issues in ecotourism. Their experiences included cultural exchange and dialogues with UABCS students in La Paz, BCS.

“[We spent time with] fellow college students at the Universidad de Baja California Sur in La Paz … one-on-one interaction with their students, profoundly shaped how I saw the country … Despite our differences in degrees, ages and cultural backgrounds, our similarities as students, individuals, and world visionaries were remarkably analogous. This was totally unexpected to me because of the assumptions we as humans naturally make about others. They live lives just like young adults in the U.S. I spoke with students who were roller derby-ers, garage-band drummers, a dancer who is in a troop with Korean students, community activists, and advocates for positive change. It was so soothing seeing that the same passion so many University students have in the U.S. translates itself over borders. It restores my hope moving forward, with regards to my optimism for progress in the future.”

—Nick Johnston, CSU-Pueblo student

Led by CSU-Pueblo faculty member Dr. Daniel Bowan, eight CSU Fort Collins students and 12 UABCS students spent three days in May 2018 participating in various educational and cultural exchange activities, including team-building activities on the Sea of Cortez and Espiritu Santo Island, hiking from Punta Lobos to Playa las Palmas with a Todos Santos Eco Adventures naturalist, and planning and hosting the inaugural Ecotourism Symposium at the CSU Todos Santos Center.

“This coexistence was a great opportunity to meet, live and exchange cultures, [and] learn from each other.  I am a student of the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur. It was a pleasure to meet the CSU students, I have all of you in my heart, and I really hope someday to be able to live with them again, thanks UABCS and thanks CSU for this great experience of convivenvencia. Thanks to you for allowing us to teach you a little of what it is to be Mexican, our language and our humor, thanks for everything …  come back soon.”

—UABCS student

The inaugural Ecotourism Symposium was held on May 25, 2018.

“Todos Santos Eco Adventures is extremely proud to be the corporate partner for the 100,000 Strong in the Americas grant won by UABCS and the Institute of Ecotourism Studies at CSU’s Pueblo campus. The Ecotourism Symposium held here in Todos Santos was an extraordinary success in so many ways: presentations were made by leading local wildlife and nature conservation groups who demonstrated the financial power of responsible tourism for both conservation and job growth; local ecotourism entrepreneurs from ranchers to surfers shared their remarkable achievements and lessons learned; passionate academics compared ecotourism trends on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border; and experts shared insights on how to ‘green’ a local business. The presenters were exceptional, but perhaps the most exciting aspect of the symposium was the audience it brought together. UABCS and CSU students spent the better part of the week preceding the symposium working together, exploring some of Baja’s wild areas, sharing ideas, and forming friendships. In October, the UABCS students will return the visit in Colorado. Local high school students interested in ecotourism attended the symposium as well. This grant in general and the ecotourism symposium in particular are tremendous tools for helping to develop a dynamic and well-trained ecotourism workforce in BCS, and we look forward to more significant opportunities like this for our local high school and university students.”

—Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, owners of Todos Santos Eco Adventures

Plans are underway for a faculty member and students from UABCS to travel to the United States at the end of October to learn about ecotourism in Colorado. The weeklong experience will focus on “Colorado Tourism” and will visit notable tourist destinations such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Elitch Gardens, Garden of the Gods Park, Pueblo Riverwalk, and Rocky Mountain National Park. The UABCS group will stay in Denver, Pueblo, and Fort Collins and engage with both the CSU-Pueblo and CSU Fort Collins communities. Upcoming on-campus activities to facilitate cultural exchange include: classroom visits, a ballet folklórico event with the Latino student club, a special evening program titled “Being Young in the Americas,” community meals, a guest lecture on Environmental and Economic Development Research in Baja California Sur from a UABCS professor, and an experience with CSU’s Global Leadership Exchange students in Fort Collins.