Velda Addison, Hart Energy

It was businessman Henry Ford who once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

This could describe the blossoming relationship between the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM).

The institutions recently announced they signed an academic and research agreement focusing on earth sciences and engineering. The agreement is one of three new agreements between the two institutions aimed at encouraging student exchanges and collaborative research.

“It highlights the importance of Mexico to the University of Texas at Austin and the mutual academic opportunities created by Mexico’s recent energy reform,” UT said in a news release announcing the latest agreement. “The UT-Austin UNAM relationship also aims to increase the number of students pursuing the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] to meet the critical need for engineers and geoscientists created by Mexico’s recently enacted energy reform.”

Mexican officials have admitted that its state-run oil company lacks the expertise needed to develop its deepwater and unconventional oil and gas assets. Growing talent in these areas and

others could go a long way in helping the country capitalize on its natural resources in the future for these and other areas needing to build a workforce skilled in STEM areas.

For now, the downturn caused by falling oil prices has slowed hiring by oil and gas companies, which have cut thousands of jobs recently. But this situation won’t last forever. Now is perhaps as good a time as any for universities to turn up their push to increase the number of engineers, geoscientists and others professionals in short supply that are needed in the energy sector.

“The UT-UNAM agreements offer a tremendous opportunity to develop science, technology and innovation together in strategic topics, so that the already strong partnership between Texas and Mexico can evolve to greater heights,” Sergio M. Alcocer, Mexican undersecretary for North America in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a prepared statement.

In addition to increasing the number of students pursuing degrees in STEM subjects, the partnership will “help facilitate conferences, symposia and joint academic programs and scientific research projects between the universities and the private sector in order to identify and meet shared sustainable energy challenges.” Another goal is to promote the mobility of postgraduate students, researchers and faculty between the two schools.

This collaboration certainly has the potential to lead to success on both sides of the border.

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at