Bicentennial Ambassadors program advances engagement with Mexico through hybrid STEM instruction

The Division of Global Engagement, in collaboration with the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED), hosted a group of 24 students from the state of Querétaro for a hybrid 4-week course that ran from October 23 through November 17, with the first two weeks of the program delivered virtually and the last two weeks delivered in person on campus.

The Bicentennial Ambassadors program, a collaboration between the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the state government of Querétaro, was created to celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States. The goal of the program is to advance engagement with Mexico, by providing a rich academic and cultural experience through student-to-student engagement and strengthening ties between UC Santa Cruz and Universities in Querétaro to build partnership opportunities.

The program consisted of classroom instruction each week focused on STEM, sustainability, and entrepreneurship with additional co-curricular activities outside of class to provide cultural enrichment and opportunities to engage with UCSC students. For example, one highly popular activity saw the students from Querétaro engage with UCSC students and help them practice the Spanish language.    

Mary Carmen Alvarafo Portillo, a student from Polytechnic University of Santa Rosa Jáuregui, found that the program added new dimensions to learning.

“The entrepreneurship and sustainability program has been a wonderful experience that has not only helped us expand our theoretical knowledge but also empirical knowledge, opening a new panorama for everyone. We learned more about the culture, new places, and new people who became new friends,” said Portillo. “For me, it means personal growth, new experiences to tell, and a new path to discover.”

Students worked on a business model in teams throughout the program, culminating in a team presentation of a pitch deck that had all the elements for Silicon Valley investment Edgar Javier Osorio Reyes, a student from Aeronautical University in Querétaro, saw personal enrichment and academic value in the program.

“The Bicentennial Ambassadors program stands as one of the most profound experiences I have encountered,” said Reyes. “From receiving lectures from prominent figures in the field of entrepreneurship to exploring remarkable locations in California, I am confident that upon my return to Mexico, my worldview will be significantly enriched.”

Nada Miljkovic, UCSC Lecturer and Project Manager for CIED saw students reveal a deep commitment to sustainable solutions and community impact, cultivating innovative business ideas from upcycling retired airplanes to addressing critical issues such as ocean microplastic pollution and empowering women’s safety with specialized bracelets.

“Over the course of a month, I had the pleasure and privilege of teaching a group of highly motivated students from Mexico, providing them with 80 hours of intensive instruction on Entrepreneurship and Sustainability,” said Miljkovic. “Collaborating closely with local entrepreneurship educators from the community, their ideas and project proposals included the launch of an ecotourism program in Veracruz, Mexico, and the establishment of a physical therapy clinic catering to low-income student-athletes.”

UC Santa Cruz was invited to submit a proposal and was one of only two U.S. universities selected to host this program, which was administered by the Mexico City Fulbright Office, known as the U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational Exchange (COMEXUS).


Enhancing student-to-student engagement and strengthening ties between institutions is key to our Strategic Plan for Internationalization.