In Spring 2010, URP conducted a semester-long international planning course titled “International Perspectives Xicotopec.” Students in this course were exposed to the challenges of urban development in Mexico. One distinguishing element of this course was a week-long visit to the city of Xicotopec in Mexico. During this visit, URP students collected information for preparing an economic development plan for this city by conducting over 70 interviews and a focus group meeting with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. This exercise was the focal point of the semester-long course and students spent countless hours discussing and debating the structure of the plan and data needs before leaving for Xicotopec and spent even more time analyzing their findings and synthesizing their recommendations upon their return. Their plan – A Vision for Economic Development in Xicotpec – is rooted in the principle of sustainability that any form of development must seek to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To achieve this, the plan recommends development based on sound economic, environmental and social equity practices. Specific recommendations include expedited permitting of business permits, improving infrastructure capacity, capitalization and development of an innovation fund, and development of cultural tourism. The complete plan is available here. A Spanish version will be given to all stakeholders in Fall 2010 and on future visits students will work with stakeholders to develop plan elements.
This innovative course provided an excellent service learning opportunity in an international setting for six URP students. The course was a segment of a broader course focused on Xicotopec offered by the University of Iowa in collaboration with Rotary International (Iowa City chapter #6000). Four other UI units – the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing, the Business College and the Center for Teaching also conducted Xicotopec specific courses as part of this broader program.