UW-River Falls launches exchange program with Mexican university

June 27, 2016 – The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has finalized details establishing an Experience Puebla exchange program at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), a private university that offers 42 undergraduate programs in Puebla, Mexico.

The Experience Puebla program will allow formal academic experiences to be combined with local community life and travel experiences, providing a rich, holistic learning experience. UWRF students will have ample chance to improve their knowledge of Spanish language and culture by pursuing interests outside the classroom, such as attending social and cultural events or sporting activities. Participants will be able to engage in service learning and internship opportunities, and take part in host family programs and guided field trips, and they can choose to either live on campus or with carefully vetted Mexican families.

UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, along with Assistant Vice Chancellor/Executive Director for International Education Katrina Larsen led a UWRF delegation to Mexico to finalize collaboration details of the program last week. Experience Puebla is designed to be similar to UWRF's successful 30-year Experience Scotland program, held at Dalkeith Palace in Scotland, and the Experience China program, hosted by Zhejiang International Studies University in Hangzhou, China.

The goal of UWRF's "Experience" programs is to foster a total learning environment, focused on blending the student's curriculum, co-curricular programs, activities and community engagement to develop a global perspective.  

UWRF will have offices and a classroom in the international building on the UPAEP campus where classes and programming for students will be offered from visiting UWRF faculty as well as from UPAEP faculty. Interaction with local students will be emphasized so UPAEP students will also be able to enroll in the UWRF classes offered there.

"UW-River Falls is committed to providing our students with opportunities to increase their global engagement and awareness," said Chancellor Van Galen. "Programs like this help our students increase their ability to navigate cultural differences and to welcome different points of view. UW-River Falls is proud to partner with UPAEP, an institution as committed as UWRF is to helping foster informed global citizens."

This new program, developed within the framework of UWRF's strategic plan goal to promote global education and engagement, was launched in time to coincide with the culmination of the UWRF Year of Mexico program, and will help UWRF fulfill its strategic plan objective of increasing the proportion of students who engage in long-term education abroad. As determined by the National Survey of Student Engagement, UWRF seniors indicate that they currently participate in study abroad programs at a rate that is 13% higher than those of peer institutions in the Great Lakes Region. In 2015, 28% of UWRF seniors reported having participated in study abroad.

UWRF and UPAEP first signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Student Exchange Agreement in February 2015, and last April, Chancellor Van Galen and Vice President for International Education at UPAEP Pablo Nuño de la Parra met in River Falls to establish the Experience Puebla program details.

Experience Puebla is set to begin with its first cohort of students in spring 2017, with UWRF students being able to apply to the program this fall. Some UWRF students have already had the opportunity to be involved with UPAEP through the semester-long exchange program and a short-term UWRF faculty led Spring Break service learning program.

Puebla, Mexico's fourth largest city, is located in the heart of Mexico and is the capital of the state of Puebla. UPAEP is located a few blocks from the historic downtown, a charismatic colonial city center that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its history, industrial development, convenient public transportation, and peaceful environment, Puebla is considered "the city of the student" making it an ideal choice for UWRF students to immerse themselves in Mexican traditions and culture.

For more information about the Experience Puebla program, email

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