Colombian Vocational and Technical Higher Education Institutions and U.S. Community Colleges Win 100,000 Strong in the Americas Funding for Study Abroad

For Immediate Release
Washington, DC
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC: December 15, 2015. The White House, U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced five new 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grants sponsored by SENA-CAF to support university partnerships and new study abroad programs at an event with Vice President Joe Biden.

“We have to invest in the greatest natural resource we all have – in our people…this investment in our young minds is critically important,” Vice President Biden stated at the event. “It rests on exposure… exposure to culture, language, and politics of other countries. That’s how we’re going to build the closest ties that will cement the economic growth and stability of this hemisphere.”

The goal of 100,000 Strong in the Americas, President Obama’s signature education initiative in the Western Hemisphere, is to increase the number of U.S. students studying in the Western Hemisphere to 100,000, and the number of Western Hemisphere students studying in the United States to 100,000 by the year 2020. The initiative is aimed at enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, increasing prosperity, and preparing a more globally competent workforce.

The objective of the current competition, SENA Tech Challenge 2015, generously supported by partners Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) and CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, is to promote study abroad or exchange in innovation, research, differentiation of educational approaches to meet varying student needs, and languages. The selected recipients will do this by implementing their proposed innovations, addressing on-campus barriers to mobility at institutions that have never participated in study abroad, and making a commitment to advance concrete changes to expand access to study abroad opportunities. The competition was open to higher education institutions in the United States and Colombia.

This is the first Innovation Fund competition that focuses on study abroad among community colleges partnered with institutions from a single country in Latin America.

“These awards will provide global workforce skills to economically deserving students at community colleges and ‘apprentices’ at Colombia’s excellent national system of training, SENA,” said Steve Vetter, President and CEO of Partners of the Americas. “Not only are such skills vital for prosperity in a post-conflict Colombia, but this represents a bold step by SENA with the CAF to increase study abroad to and from Colombia, which is now on a path to fast growth. It is a good time for U.S. students to study in Colombia and Colombians in the U.S.”

The Innovation Fund awards promote transnational institutional partnerships rather than direct scholarships. The announced awards are up to $40,000 each, and will leverage commitments from the selected colleges and centers to increase student mobility, address institutional barriers that prevent students from studying abroad, and promote specialized education in the Western Hemisphere. It is expected that approximately 61 students will study abroad during the yearlong implementation, with sustained exchange and growth in subsequent years, as a result of the five grants awarded.

The Innovation Fund grants were awarded to:

Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico, U.S.
SENA Centro de Servicios y Gestión Empresarial, Medellín, Colombia
Project Title: “CISCO Networking Academy Boot Camp”

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), in partnership with the SENA Centro de Servicios y Gestión Empresarial, created a reciprocal student exchange program that will prepare information technology students for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam, while also providing them with contextualized language instruction and cultural immersion in the business and social environments of the host country. In doing so, students are provided with self-paced individual lessons, receive support by in-person faculty, and will participate within their cohort through in-person and online coursework as well as job shadowing. This program also incorporates a proven entrepreneurial curriculum, not widely applied to a community college population, yet shown to have real benefits in terms of performance and increased soft skills. 

Flathead Valley Community College, Montana, U.S
SENA Centro de Automatización Industrial, Manizales, Colombia
Project Title: “Colombia and Montana: A Partnership Promoting Innovation and Biculturalism”

Flathead Valley Community College and the SENA Centro de Automatización Industrial will develop a curriculum that utilizes CNC technology in conjunction with photovoltaic (solar energy) technology to advance renewable energy solutions. Both institutions have strong machining and renewable energy programs with cutting-edge equipment and are eager to work together to blend these two disciplines into a project with meaningful outcomes for students. In addition to breaking new ground for Occupational Trades students, this represents the first student-exchange program that Flathead Valley has with a post-secondary institution in Latin America and the first student-exchange program that the Centro de Automatización Industrial has had with a U.S. post-secondary institution.

Fox Valley Technical College, Wisconsin, U.S.
SENA Centro Internacional Náutico Fluvial y Portuario, Cartagena, Colombia
Project Title: “Entrepreneurial Thinking for Employability (ENTENTE)”

Through a unique, practical curricular design offering entrepreneurial training to two-year technical college students, Project ENTENTE advances their workforce skills in the area of business innovation. Previously, short-term study abroad projects for entrepreneurism have not been offered to underrepresented two-year technical college students to develop their global competency. This new study abroad model can be replicated by other two-year colleges with the goal to enhance global competencies and entrepreneurial skills highly valued in a changing world economy. Students will also be a part of an online ENTENTE Entrepreneurs’ Network to continue sharing knowledge, business, employability tips, cultural competences, and more.

Miami Dade College, Florida, U.S.
SENA Centro de Comercio y Turismo, Armenia, Colombia
Project Title: “Culinary and Hospitality Trends: Innovation and Entrepreneurship”

Tourism has long been the principal industry in Miami, Florida, and is a growing sector in Armenia, Colombia. Building on this economic link and the strong Hispanic heritage of both cities, Miami Dade College and SENA Centro de Comercio y Turismo will engage in an educational exchange program focusing on innovations and trends in the culinary and hospitality fields. Both institutions will provide customized training in tourism entrepreneurship while giving students the opportunity to develop a business model for a potential joint U.S.-Colombian venture in the industry. More specifically, U.S. students will learn about environmentally responsible ecotourism and the use of local products in traditional and modern cuisine in Armenia, while Colombian students will study modern cooking techniques, brewing and distilling, and hospitality management in the U.S.

Snow College, Utah, U.S.
SENA Centro Tecnológico del Mobiliario, Medellín, Colombia
Project Title: “Global Inquiry and Language Learning”

Snow College, in partnership with the SENA Centro Tecnológico del Mobiliario, will increase students’ intercultural awareness and competence through global engagement opportunities. In doing so, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) students will use their theoretical knowledge to help create and teach lessons for SENA students in specific fields of study, while SENA students and faculty will share ideas about how to better apply skills in the fields of agribusiness and construction management. These are fields in which Snow College is working to improve. SENA students will also meet virtually with Snow College students who are enrolled in the TESL program, followed by a group of select students participating in the immersive travel experience. In return, SENA faculty will help U.S. TESL students develop content-specific lesson plans and curriculum to improve SENA students’ English language skills.


The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund is a public-private collaboration of the White House, U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced by Secretary of State John Kerry in January 2014.  Since then, 70 Innovation Fund grants have been awarded to teams of 153 higher education institutions from 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere.

The mission of Partners of the Americas is to connect people and organizations across borders to serve and to change lives through lasting partnerships. These partnerships create opportunity, foster understanding, and solve real-life problems. Inspired by President Kennedy and founded in 1964 under the Alliance for Progress, Partners is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization with international offices in Washington, DC. Learn more at or via Twitter @partnersamerica.

With nearly 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world's largest nonprofit professional association dedicated to international education. Learn more at and and on Twitter at @NAFSA and @ConnectOurWorld.

SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje), or the National Training Service, is a Colombian public institution that provides free vocational and technical training to around 9 million Colombians annually. It is the country’slargest public institution, with full national coverage through 117 industry-specific training centers and an extensive online platform. SENA aims to develop and expand a technically skilled workforce to respond to the needs of Colombian national development and an increasingly international economy. SENAs training centers, the heart of SENA instruction, act as a specialized technology hub to train students in particular industries relevant for their regions and the nation’s economic development. The centers provide hands-on professional experience and reflect the realities of the industry, from functioning hotels and call centers to working farms to active forensic analysis laboratories. SENA students, referred to as apprentices, graduate with practical, transferable knowledge and skills ready for application in the Colombian economy and – as SENA builds its international partnerships in industries – across the globe.

CAF Development Bank of Latin America is a multilateral institution created in 1970 currently comprising 19 countries – 17 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and Spain and Portugal – as well as 14 private banks in the region. It promotes sustainable development through its lending and support in the technical and financial structuring of projects in the public and private sectors of Latin America. It is also well known for its work in equity and social inclusion, environment, workforce development, and climate change, among other areas.

Follow the Innovation Fund and the overall initiative on Twitter with the hashtag #100KStrongAmericas.

Michelle Nicholson
(202) 637-6215

Rebecca Morgan
202) 495-2553