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Study Abroad Program receives grant to encourage research

Lamar University students will soon have the opportunity to study abroad and conduct obesity research while earning college credit thanks to a $25K grant received from 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.  Seven universities across the nation have been selected to participate in this initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State, Partners of the Americas and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

“High impact educational practices and opportunities are what we strive to offer our students at Lamar,” said Jeff Palis, director of the LU Study Abroad Program.  “These opportunities include research, study abroad and community-based learning.  The students who participate in this program will be exposed to all three of those components.”

The grant will facilitate a partnership between Lamar University and the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico.  The partnership will allow Lamar students to study and conduct research in Mexico for two weeks during the summer, and enable students from the University of Veracruz to visit the LU campus for reciprocal research.  Spanish speaking students are encouraged to apply, but being fluent in Spanish is not a requirement for the research opportunity.

“While in Mexico, our students will be conducting health research, performing community service, attending cultural events and receiving language study, all while living with local families in Xalapa,” Palis said. 

Students will conduct joint research in the U.S. and Mexico to identify health beliefs and practices that increase the risk for being overweight or obese at various ages, income levels and ethnic backgrounds. LU students will attend classes in Beaumont prior to traveling to Mexico during which they will work online with their counterparts in Xalapa to develop culturally attuned screening tools for the research project.  Ten students will be selected to participate in the study abroad program scheduled for late June and early July.  They will be accompanied by a Lamar University faculty member. 

“We want students to take advantage of all the educational opportunities available to them at Lamar University,” Palis said.  “The goals of 100,000 Strong in the Americas are to increase the number of students studying abroad in the Western Hemisphere and create opportunities for young researchers to work together to find solutions to issues that affect our various societies. This research on diet, nutrition, and exercise is very important because obesity has become an epidemic in our country and in Mexico.  It’s definitely a timely topic for this type of research.”

Students who are interested in applying for the study abroad opportunity in Mexico must contact Jeff Palis in the LU Study Abroad Program at 409.880.7516,, or the principal investigators for the grant, Rick Carter, professor of health and kinesiology at or Israel Msengi, assistant professor of health and kinesiology, at 409.880.8724.  Students are encouraged to apply by the first week of February.