The topic has dominated national headlines over the last few years, but Arzubiaga said little has been done to look at what happens to young people after their initial arrival. The ASU researcher, whose work has examined how a range of institutions impact immigrant lives, said coordinating with her Sonoran counterparts gives the project more depth.

“The collaboration allows us to question what we take for granted,” she said. “It not only provides different perspectives on the work itself, but affords participating students with opportunities that are globally relevant.”

Thinking about the big picture is also how Enrique Vivoni, a concurrent professor in The College’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, approached his grant project in 2016.

Back then, Vivoni partnered with Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora academic Agustín Robles-Morua and El Colegio de Sonora’s Rolando Enrique Díaz Caravantes for a comparative study of urban sustainability in Phoenix and Hermosillo.

Each sitting several hours from the international line and each other, neither of the Sonoran Desert cities seems particularly tied to border studies at first glance. But the sprawling capitals actually share a lot. Both rely on seasonal monsoons that are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change, while the desert’s arid landscape means resource management and allocation systems are crucial to their survival.

As the study progressed, Vivoni said the project built upon itself by exploring new facets.

“Both are cities trying to grow in very harsh climatic conditions, that’s how our work started,” Vivoni said. “As we went on, we started looking at more local aspects like water conservation, storm water control and the use of green spaces to reduce urban heat.”

Three years later, the project has tangible results.

“We created a visualization tool for Hermosillo that informs residents about heat waves and details areas in the city that are more susceptible to higher temperatures,” said Vivoni, who also serves as associate dean of ASU’s Graduate College. “That came directly from our collaboration in PTC.”

Scholarship for a revamped region

Vivoni said studies done through the program should be a springboard for new generations of scholars to drive cross-border research forward and, when possible, spur change and offer solutions.

That sentiment was echoed by the director of the Sonora government’s international cooperation office, Yamilett Martínez, who asked scholars at the colloquium to consider how their work could have impacts outside the classroom.

“The Arizona-Sonora commission needs the knowledge you are generating to have public policy outcomes go hand in hand,” she said. “We ask that you, the academics, demand our attention to continue to make progress in the executive offices in both states.”

Wielding academic innovation as a means of social change has been one of the PTC’s major goals since its inception. April’s colloquium drove that idea forward with a roundtable event gathering university leaders to discuss how collaboration has helped shape policy thus far, and what more can be done.

“Our states together represent 180,000 square miles of territory with unbelievable natural assets, unbelievable natural beauty and unbelievable potential,” Crow said. “There is no future economy for which education is not important, no success for which universities are not important; let’s set aside the politics and rhetoric going on (on the national level) and figure out how we can be a more successful region.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences