February 1, 2016  

Purdue receives 'Nexo Global' students, Ph.D. scholarship program

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —  A pilot program and new scholarships will bring top students from Colombia to Purdue University, establishing a pipeline of elite graduates in the sciences, technology, engineering and agriculture.

Twenty students from Universidad Nacional de Colombia will study at Purdue this semester as part of a pilot program called Nexo Global funded by Colciencias, the Colombian government's department of science, technology and innovation.

Purdue and Cornell University are piloting the program, with about the same number of students attending both universities. Under the new program, high-achieving Colombian undergraduate students will have the opportunity to study in laboratories at top research institutions.

Colciencias also is funding the new scholarship program for Colombian students pursuing doctoral degrees at Purdue.

"Through Nexo Global and the new Ph.D. scholarship program, Purdue will establish connections with Colombia's best and brightest in a program funded by Colciencias," said Jeffrey Stuart, director of the Colombia Purdue Institute and a professor of entomology.

The pilot program for Nexo Global will initially enroll about 40 students at Purdue and Cornell, with the ultimate goal of sending 6,000 Colombian students to universities around the world.

"We are in a unique position because we have been able to help Colombia mold the project," said Tamara Benjamin, sustainable agriculture and natural resources scientist in Purdue's Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. 

Colombian students have been coming to Purdue since 2014 through the Undergraduate Research Experience at Purdue-Colombia (UREP-C) program, administered by the Colombia Purdue Institute. In addition to the Nexo Global students, a group of about 20 Colombian students from Universidad Nacional also will attend Purdue next summer under that UREP-C program.

The Colombian students are among the top 10 percent academically and are screened to help ensure their suitability for the programs.

"We make sure they are doing research, that they have an idea of what they want to pursue while attending Purdue and that their English language skills are at the necessary level for them to communicate effectively with faculty and students here," said Juan Velasquez, managing director of strategic initiatives.

About 30 students are currently participating in the doctoral scholarship program.

"Purdue is one of the top destinations for Colciencias-supported students," he said.

Some former UREP-C students are among those now funded through the new scholarship program, representing a Purdue pipeline of academically elite students from Colombia.

Many of the students come from limited-income families and would not otherwise be able to pursue advanced degrees at American universities.

"These are very driven, high-performing students," Stuart said. "The graduate experience opens their eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. They know that it will require a lot of work, they will have to continue working on their English and focusing on their education, but it allows them to have opportunities that otherwise would not be available to them."

The partnership between Purdue and Colombia started in 2010 with creation of the CPI, designed to enhance the scientific and entrepreneurial workforce in Colombia. Purdue has more students from Colombia than any other country in Latin America, resulting in a strong alumni base. Colombia also is the only non-Asian country among the 10 nations with the most students enrolled at Purdue, a figure that adds up to more than 7,000 students. Purdue President Mitch Daniels and the rector of Universidad Nacional de Colombia signed an agreement in 2014 to establish the UREP-C program. 

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu 

Sources: Tamara Benjamin, 765-496-1930, tamara17@purdue.edu

Jeffrey Stuart, 765-494-4561, stuartjj@purdue.edu

Juan Velasquez, 765-494-5340, jvelasqu@purdue.edu 

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