December 8, 2023

By Michelle Casares Vasquez, BA ’03, MAA '20

group in MexicoWhen I first learned that I was nominated to participate in the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership and Sustainability’s UIW Centro Fox Leadership and Mission Program, I was overwhelmed with excitement to travel to San Cristóbal, Guanajuato, Mexico, to attend the program. This was my first international trip from the U.S. to Mexico to study abroad as a PhD student and two-time alumna of the University of the Incarnate Word. Michelle with former presidentThe Centro Fox Program is a nonprofit organization founded by Former President Vicente Fox that offers leadership training to develop compassionate global community leaders in collaboration with the Vamos México Foundation, established by First Lady Marta Sahagún Fox, which supports local and national causes by helping people living in vulnerable situations through social action. A group of 15 undergraduate and graduate students with diverse backgrounds were nominated to participate in the leadership program. As a doctoral student in the Dreeben School of Education, I was excited to explore what I previously learned in my studies focusing on my concentration in adult education, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

Throughout the week, I traveled to various communities to visit museums, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations located in San Cristóbal, León, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato to learn about Mexico’s rich history, culture, people, economy, government and community relations. One place in particular stood out to me called the Center for Integrated Rehabilitation of San Miguel de Allende (CRISMA) with Vamos México. The center offers professional care for children with disabilities to help them improve their quality of life. Free services are provided to patients who typically would not have access to therapy services due to their socioeconomic conditions. As I walked into one room filled with colorful mats and therapy equipment, a mother watched as a therapist played with her child on the floor with small toys. The child was smiling as he looked at the toys and began to slowly roll a car along the mat with his hand. The parent appeared to be filled with joy as she saw her child performing each task during the session. As a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, I was thankful to see how children receive therapy services for critical healthcare needs through an international lens. My current research focuses on parents of children with autism using action research to access services and support to healthcare in the US. Being able to immerse myself in this unique environment allowed me the opportunity to broaden my perspective and was truly transformational.

Living the UIW Mission and core values, students are encouraged to become enlightened citizens in the global community in search of truth, innovation, service and social justice. This trip allowed me to think about the mission of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word carried out by students traveling internationally. Learning from each other by sharing life experiences and joining in community service projects. I was impacted by the friendliness of the people, beautiful places I visited, and global leadership skills I acquired through the Centro Fox Program. My fellow students made me feel welcome and supported me through the process as we walked the path together, taking in the sites and learning about the culture. This leadership program has certainly shaped me into a better person, understanding what true leadership is within a global community.

For more information on this trip, read the full news story.