Rachel Grace Newman

  • Fellowship year:2018-2019
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Latin America
  • Dissertation Title: Studying Abroad for the Good of the Nation: Mexican Student Migration and the Making of Transnational Mexico in the Twentieth Century
  • Exploring the connections between study abroad and nationalism, my dissertation examines the longstanding tendency for promising Mexican students to attend college and graduate school abroad, especially in the United States. This flow of migrants, numbering in the hundreds in the early twentieth century to reach several thousand by that century's end, brought mostly middle-class and elite Mexicans to study a range of disciplines in U.S. institutions. Based on archival research and oral history, my project analyzes Mexican policy, transnational public debates, public and private institutional practices, and the lived experiences of student migrants to explore how student migration managed to secure permanent support from the Mexican state. Using methods and questions from social, cultural, and political histories of education and migration, I show that student migrants gradually convinced leaders and the public that their education outside Mexico would allow them to bring home knowledge and skills to make their country more prosperous, equitable, and developed. Ultimately, leaving Mexico for education abroad became a key cornerstone of national higher education policy. Student migrants counted on support not only from Mexican state actors, but also from U.S. institutions that created additional scholarship opportunities and publicized the importance of study abroad. My dissertation shows how Mexico sought national development by promoting cross-border connections in higher education, shedding light on the transnational dimensions of Mexican nationalism. This is a story that resonates in many other nations in the Global South that sought modernity through education in the last century.