Record Delegation Invigorates Ties with Mexico at FILUNI Conference
- Sep 21, 2023
- Global Engagement and Strategy
- Alex Briseño and Ellen Stader
Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of Texas Global’s series on The University of Texas at Austin’s leadership and activities at La Feria Internacional del Libro de las Universitarias y los Universitarios 2023, a multinational book festival and conference that took place Aug. 29-Sept. 3 in Mexico City.
The largest international delegation in the history of The University of Texas at Austin traveled to Mexico City to participate in La Feria Internacional del Libro de las Universitarias y los Universitarios 2023, known widely as FILUNI.
The international book festival and conference features university presses from the Americas and Europe, and is hosted annually on the campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). This year, UT Austin was invited as the first university from the United States to co-host FILUNI, which attracted 42,000 attendees.
“I think I can speak for everyone on the [UT Austin] team when I say, aligning ourselves with UNAM and being distinguished guests of FILUNI has helped us see the world outside of ourselves a little clearer,” University President Jay Hartzell said at the opening ceremony. “We are on a journey to move past our own opinions and learning, and seek a broader vision. Each of us wants to change the world, to make it a better place, and this conference is an excellent place to work toward that goal together.”
The welcome ceremony also featured remarks from UNAM president Enrique Graue Wiechers and other UNAM leaders, as well as Sonia Feigenbaum, UT Austin’s senior vice provost for global engagement and chief international officer. Feigenbaum led the University’s efforts for FILUNI.
The UT Austin delegation included more than 140 faculty members, graduate students, performers, campus leaders, staff members and alumni representing 23 colleges, schools and units. The University led and participated in 54 roundtable discussions, research symposia, live podcast recordings, musical performances, film screenings and exhibits.
“The myriad activities at FILUNI showcased the work of our faculty researchers, authors, and artists across Mexico and the United States,” Feigenbaum said. “As we continue to celebrate the bicentennial of Mexico-U.S. diplomatic relations this year, FILUNI represented a bolstering of historical ties and shared cultural influences between our countries. UT Austin’s engagement with UNAM and Mexico spans decades of collaborations, and we’re deeply honored to be the first U.S. institution to collaborate on this impactful project.”
UT Austin’s participation in FILUNI served as a dynamic platform to broaden the scope and strengthen the robust relationship between UT Austin and UNAM, as well as other institutions of higher education and university presses in the region. The University of Texas Press has participated in FILUNI since its inception in 2017, and as guest of honor this year, showcased 1,100 books for purchase.
“These selections were made by the UT Press team in conjunction with our colleagues here in Mexico and at Texas Global to represent the full scope of what we do,” said Robert Devens, director of UT Press. “There are many, many books on Mexico and Latin America. UT Press was founded in 1950, and if you go back to look at the pamphlets that served as our first catalogs in the 1950s, books on Mexico were right there from the start. It’s always been a strong part of our heritage.”
The impressive bookstand featured a customized design with global elements, a backlit replica of the UT Tower, and a lounge that served as an ideal gathering space for book signings, photo opportunities, and conversations between delegation members and colleagues.
The delegation opened FILUNI 2023 with a bustling Texas Exes event at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. In addition to opening remarks from Hartzell, Mexico Texas Exes were treated to a performance from the Miró Quartet, UT Austin’s string quartet in residence.
“With the UT Austin delegation here in force, I hope you get a sense of what you [our alumni] and Mexico mean to us,” Hartzell said at the Texas Exes event. “We’re looking forward to finding out how we can further engage with our alumni base.”
Executive Vice President and Provost Sharon L. Wood; Roger T. Bonnecaze, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering; Claudia F. Lucchinetti, dean of the Dell Medical School; Samuel Poloyac, dean of the College of Pharmacy; and David Vanden Bout, dean of the College of Natural Sciences shared updates on their respective colleges and schools.
Hartzell, Feigenbaum and Adriana Pacheco, former chair and current member of the UT Austin International Board of Advisors, contextualized the significance of the University’s collaborative role in FILUNI 2023.
“FILUNI is specifically for university presses,” Feigenbaum said at the Texas Exes event. “It is the largest university book fair in Mexico and one of the most prominent in Latin America, offering 20,000 book titles.”
“Mexico has a special place in my heart; I firmly believe in the mission of the University,” added Feigenbaum. “Hence, when looking at our faculty and leadership, and the collaborations between UT Austin and UNAM, I knew it was the perfect time and place to do this.”
Feigenbaum also shared that FILUNI programming was developed around the research pillars of UT’s 10-year strategic plan, Change Starts Here. Themes included society and technology; health and well-being; energy and the environment; and culture and the arts.
While in Mexico City, deans and other leaders met with colleagues from across the Americas to exchange perspectives and assess potential collaborations. Formal sessions and informal conversations among delegation participants promoted many of the strategic plan's objectives: advancing interdisciplinary study and creative innovation around society’s most pressing challenges; propelling faculty members on meaningful career journeys; preparing graduate and professional students for a diverse array of paths; enhancing career opportunities for staff members; and preparing future leaders to solve problems in a dynamic world.
“Now that we have returned to campus, we will be consulting with faculty and academic leaders to expand upon UT Austin’s institutional engagement in Mexico. The excitement is palpable, and we look forward to what lies ahead,” said Feigenbaum.