Interest High in UTEP Education Conference

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

Organizers of this summer’s Conference for International Research on Cross-Cultural Learning in Education (CIRCLE) at The University of Texas at El Paso have tried to tie in and capitalize on the interest in politics around the world,  from the upcoming presidential elections in the United States and Mexico to the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring.

As a result, the two-day conference with its theme of “Democracy, Education and Diversity: Learning Across Borders” has generated more interest than usual based on pre-registered participants and those who want to make presentations. It begins Friday, June 22, in Union Building East.Participants from the U.S., Mexico and Central American countries participate in a discussion during a past CIRCLE conference at UTEP.Participants from the U.S., Mexico and Central American countries participate in a discussion during a past CIRCLE conference at UTEP.

Andres Oroz, a coordinator in the College of Education and a CIRCLE organizer, said he expected a large contingent from Mexico, Canada, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, which is unique. He added that the college received 75 presentation proposals this year compared to the usual 25.

With presenters from a host of different countries in the Western Hemisphere, one goal for the 6th CIRCLE conference is to foster the idea of democracy via education, he said.

“The theme was a perfect fit for what’s going on in the nation and the world,” he said, adding that the theme would be presented through the speakers’ topics, which include the relationship between Mexico and United States, and violence in schools. “Each speaker will push democracy in their own way.”

Oroz said the theme and additional marketing efforts probably are behind the additional interest and spike in attendance. More than 350 people had signed up for the conference a few weeks prior to the event, compared to 300 who attended last year’s conference.

The conference theme is timely, relevant and has caught the attention of more binational educational   researchers than ever before, said Josefina V. “Josie” Tinajero, Ed.D., dean of the College of Education and CIRCLE host. The list of invited speakers shows a balance between the border and other parts of the country and the world.

“The international context of the conference allows for the exchange of ideas with scholars from other nations,” she said. “We welcome them all.”

Claudia Solomon, a graduate student in education and event coordinator, suggested that the conference had begun to reap the benefits of its past successes.

“I think a lot of universities are interested now in participating because this is a prestigious education conference with implications beyond the border,” said Solomon, who also is a part-time coordinator for UTEP’s Project SABEMOS II, a program that focuses on improving education at all levels in Juárez, Mexico. “I also think that they want to be involved because democracy and education are important topics. This isn’t just about Hispanics on the border. It’s a bigger perspective of education.”