ASU Mexico campus pushing for 2017 start, officials say project on schedule

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 160 views 

Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson said Monday (April 11) that plans for the first phase of its campus in Mexico is moving ahead as planned, with the campus working to recruit students.

During a conference call with reporters, Hudson gave an update on the $75 million, privately financed campus in Queretero, Mexico. The area has about 1.8 million people and is two hours south of Mexico City.

Hudson said at least 350 construction workers are moving dirt and equipment around the clock to get the first phase completed. Last fall, university officials announced that the Arkansas State University Campus Queretero, a private business foundation in Mexico, had bought 2,125 acres for the campus and a nearby development.

At least 370 acres will be used for classes, while another 1,235 acres will be part of a retail and residential development. The first phase, which will be completed by the end of the year, will have a 28,000-square-foot physical plant, 284,167-square-foot student housing and 25,830-square-feet for housing for professors.

Also, the complex will have a 17-acre sports facility, 129,000-square-foot student union and nearly 65,000 square feet for academic space, expected to be finished by early summer 2017. Hudson said Spanish-based Ayesa is in charge of building the campus. The company is also working on a plan to expand the Panama Canal.

As for students, Hudson said the campus will begin with 900 to 1,000 freshmen in 2017, and students will be gradually added over the next several years, until the campus has a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior class. Over the next several years, the campus is expected to have between 4,000 and 5,000 students while the campus could accommodate nearly 18,000 students. Hudson said the 18,000 figure would be based on need, demand and success of the campus.

Hudson recently returned from a tour of the new campus, saying that construction has progressed. During the trip, Hudson said he visited with several Mexican officials including the governor of the state, Gov. Francisco Dominguez. Hudson said the officials told him there has been a real need for business, science, engineering and communications students in Mexico, with the people there valuing an American education. The Mexican state is also home to about 1,400 private businesses, ranging from General Electric to aviation companies Bombardier and Eurocopter. In 2014, Bombardier invested nearly $500 million to build Lear Jets at Queretaro. Hudson said officials spoke to several businesses in the area for at least a year, to discuss employer needs and goals.

“Everyone there wants engineers and better marketing folks, but they also want good citizens,” Hudson said.

University and Mexican officials are now working to develop curriculum as well as a plan for operating the campus. Hudson said the administration at the Mexico campus will be hired from local people in Mexico, while ASU will approve the faculty. The project leader, Edmundo Ortiz, was in Jonesboro last week to talk to several college deans and residential life about how the Jonesboro campus operates.

“We are on schedule for the project. It is like building a new community from scratch,” Hudson said.