MISTI-Mexico gave me the chance to share cutting edge knowledge in urban design and public art directly with Mexico’s public, private and civic sectors in a structured and efficient way. I never thought I could make such a big impact in so little time.

Helping to get a new project off the ground

Ron Martin arrived to the Universidad Panamericana (UP) eager to help the Department of Engineering conceptualize a new active and sustainable mobility project for the Mixcoac neighborhood of Mexico City. He was nervous at the beginning because it was also going to be his first guest professorship at a higher education institute. In this case, it was the alma mater of the current President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. Nevertheless, it soon became clear to Ron that these factors were going to generate greater opportunities to make a positive impact in Mexico City. He says, “all the doors were open so that I could work with academia, NGOs like the World Resources Institute, and government officials on a level playing field.”

 

Empowering guidance

Ron also discovered that not everything in Mexican universities was like the US. In a private research university like the UP, professors share the big responsibility of administering every aspect of the institute’s operations. Not only do the faculty teach and conduct research, they also take part in efforts such as student enrollment, development, and departmental management. In other words, Ron noticed that the faculty and the administration of the UP were one and the same. Ron comments, “I felt this level of horizontal management was empowering. I really liked the idea that the faculty played such a big role in guiding the direction of the school. When I started my position, I was happy that my colleagues respected my education and trusted my capacity to lend a hand to the entire organization and not just my project on mobility.”

 

MISTI Mexico connecting with a positive difference

For Ron, the best part about his stay at the UP was working with an interdisciplinary team of student interns from the fields of systems engineering, education, and industrial design. These young students allowed Ron to develop a comprehensive study of transit behavior in the Mixcoac district as well as in the overall Mexico City urban footprint. His team delivered computational analysis and modelling, informative and accessible publications, and even cutting edge prototypes of socially persuasive systems to build healthy behaviors. This kind of multifaceted project design sparked the interest of the Mexican media and other educational institutions such as the UNAM’s Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad and the Clubes de Ciencia Mexico-Chihuahua initiative. “Never did I think that I would be giving lectures at such prominent institutions and coming out in the newspaper during a summer internship,” Ron explains. "That is the magic of the MISTI program. They connect MIT students to places in the world where they are really needed and where they can make a real positive difference.”

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