April 7th, 2017

Bridges of Collaboration and Exchange

By Kim Kita and Aines Castro Prieto

Kita Castro

Bridges of Collaboration and Exchange

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges” ~ Isaac Newton

Imagine a world where people hold the highest standards for collaboration, understanding, and mutual respect. Imagine a world where people are engaged and hold a deep commitment to creating genuine, just, and mutually-empowering beneficial relationships. Imagine a world where people have the ability to connect across cultures, appreciate, and deeply listen to different perspectives, understand complex systems – and how we all fit into them – and together co-create solutions to the most daunting of global challenges. Imagine a community of people bringing forward energy and a sense of possibility, and stepping up to create the world we want to live in.

In the place and magical town of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur Mexico, and under the umbrella of the Colorado State University Todos Santos Center, there is an emerging community of people who not only yearn for meaningful learning, dialogue, and reflection but are also taking action to make that vision a reality.

The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center is answering the call of a 21st-century land-grant institution on a global scale by utilizing education to build bridges between the United States and Mexico, between students and faculty, and between research and action. The Center’s location in Baja California Sur combines education, outreach, research, and access for CSU students, students in the regional community, and area residents.

In an age of information overload, educational systems are challenged to adapt and to engage the entire human being in a holistic, connected, dynamic, and heartfelt way. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education transcends information or knowledge; education carries the power and potential to open mindful awareness, to shift perspectives, to cultivate empathy, and to ultimately elicit change.

Students who study in Todos Santos are guided to grow as responsible ambassadors of CSU and the United States, to learn through immersion in Mexican culture and ecosystems, and work alongside Mexican students, faculty, and citizens. Together, we explore the challenges and community priorities of Baja California Sur, and we collaborate and co-create through many different activities to address global challenges. We simultaneously support and further regional initiatives and priorities as identified through a community needs assessment process, and we engage individually and collectively in actions promoting desired changes.

This guided experiential learning opens doors to a new level of mindful awareness and understanding, resulting in an inner shift that empowers us to move from habitual reactions to intentional decisions. By taking into consideration the complexity of our world and its systems, we tap into the energy needed to co-create the world in which we want to live.

The very ground of the Colorado State University Todos Santos Center is in creating bridges through education to connect  those aspects within ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and our countries that have become fragmented, isolated, and hopeless. The Center is rooted in a need to cultivate global citizens who can think and work collaboratively across borders to address challenges in a rapidly changing world.

The Center acts as a catalyst to cultivate mindful awareness. We create structured experiences to accelerate the cultivation of awareness – this process is inexorably linked to connecting with the community by learning about local priorities and a different worldview, continuity of relationships, and experience through long-term presence. A different kind of learning that involves plugging into the community’s self-defined real-life issues – as well as internationalization and culturalisation processes – allows students to become more aware and awake global citizens.

The immersive and relational nature of experiential learning in Todos Santos allows connection to self, people, place, and culture.  Arguably, real change begins with oneself. By investing in educational and cultural exchange in support of regional initiatives and priorities, we create the conditions that make deep and lasting inner shifts possible. These inner shifts are the foundation for all future manifestations in the world and it is our dream to offer this opportunity to every person.

The tensions in the world can overwhelm and dishearten. The challenges of our times also keep us alert, motivate us to listen to our hearts, and continue to move us to actively create our worlds. Our collective future depends on our shared humanity and ability to bring together the beauty of our diversity, not to further separate ourselves via aggression, division, and polarization. We aspire to cultivate generations of global citizens and thriving communities through collaboration, experience, and exchange of knowledge.

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