Northern Arizona University took a big step last week toward strengthening its neighborly relations by making official a partnership with the Universidad Tecnológico de Hermosillo in the capital city of the Mexican state of Sonora.

The agreement, which Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich signed at the Arizona-Mexico Commission meeting in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, is part of NAU’s strategic plan to expand partnerships into Mexico and throughout Latin America, said Daniel Palm, associate vice president for global initiatives. He and President Rita Cheng were in Mexico for the commission meeting where Cheng presented and participated in a panel during the education section.

“Higher education serves a crucial role in helping to answer complex global issues, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and preparing the future generations for the needs of the society and the global community,” Cheng said. “It is vital that we work together to improve educational quality and access for our students and our societies.”

NAU already has partnerships and study-abroad programs with universities throughout Mexico, particularly in Sonora, which borders Arizona. This partnership will include exchange programs and opportunities for faculty trainings and development. Eventually there will be research collaborations as well, Palm said, but that has yet to be defined.

The first group of NAU students will head to the Universidad Tecnológico de Hermosillo this summer. Students interested in studying abroad, either in Mexico or through NAU’s other programs, can visit the Center for International Education.