Indigenous Planning Student Exchange (IPEX) Program Begins Final Year

August 26, 2011

For four years the University of New Mexico has been among several universities in Canada, Mexico, and the US that have participated in the tri-nationally funded Indigenous Planning Student Exchange (IPEX) program. In addition to UNM, the following universities have supported the IPEX program: the University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, and Arizona State University. Together, these universities have developed a student exchange program that has helped prepare students to critically consider and practice indigenous planning in the Americas. 2011-2012 marks the final year of the four-year funding which the IPEX program received from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).

As the program brochure states, "Indigenous planning is formulated on collective practices associated with land tenure. It is characterized by long and sustained patterns of settlement whose communities embody a shared understanding about the places they have inherited. Indigenous planning is an emerging profession that brings a value-based approach to comprehensive planning and community development." The IPEX program invites students to engage with indigenous planning by participating in international exchange, allowing them to become personally familiar with the historical and contemporary issues relevant to Canada's aboriginal population, indigenous territories in Chiapas and Puebla in Mexico, and the tribal nations of the American SW.

It would not be farfetched to claim that the UNM students who have participated in the IPEX program have returned from their travels with a stronger appreciation for the historical and contemporary issues faced by indigenous communities throughout the Americas. This was demonstrated when several students developed a video to document their reactions to the Maya ruins of Palenque, Mexico, which they visited while attending the workshop and symposium "Models of Indigenous Development" in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico during the Spring 2011 semester.

A joint partnership between the Community and Regional Planning (CRP) program in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) and the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) has been the driving force behind UNM's participation in the IPEX program.

CRP support of the program has been led by Ted Jojola, Distinguished Professor in CRP and lead partner for the US side of the exchange. Jojola is a member of the Pueblo of Isleta and was cofounder of the Indigenous Planning Division of the American Planning Association. His scholarship in Indigenous Planning provided much of the understanding behind this approach. As a result of the work that all the partners have done, the practice of Indigenous Planning has begun to garner international attention as well as interest among practitioners. In November of 2011, for example, at a conference held at the Maori-controlled university, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, a resolution was passed to create a Maori Indigenous Planning Institute. The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is similarly beginning work on a graduate degree in Indigenous Planning. At the UNM SA+P, work is now progressing to create an Indigenous Design and Planning Institute.

Meanwhile, Robyn Côté, LAII program manager, has led the LAII's involvement. Sharing her thoughts on the program, Côté said: "We were fortunate to invite most of the UNM IPEX semester exchange students to the workshop and symposium in Chiapas, and they learned much about Indigenous planning not only through their experiences while on exchange, taking classes with indigenous students and working in local communities, but they also learned so much from the Canadian and American and Mexican students who were attending the workshop and symposium. Indigenous planning problems, concepts, and practices in other countries are so varied and different from what we experience here in the Southwest. It was an invaluable academic and professional experience for the students, and the staff. The students are planning to put together a Facebook page related to their findings, and to create a Student Organization or Alumni Culture related to Indigenous Planning. After they returned from Chiapas several of the students presented at a Latino/a Graduate Student Brown Bag in April, 2011, to share their personal experiences and research related to the program."

Notably, opportunities still abound for student involvement in the IPEX program. "Indigenismo and Cultural Diversity," a symposium resulting from the four years of the IPEX program, will be held September 27-30, 2011, in Puebla, Mexico. Four UNM students will receive $1200 scholarship to attend the symposium. Three more UNM students will have the opportunity to receive $3000 scholarships and the possibility of $1000 language stipends to attend one of the IPEX partner universities as semester exchange students during the Spring 2012 semester. Applications will be accepted until October 1, 2011. Those interested in learning more about the IPEX program are encouraged to contact LAII Program Manager Robyn Côté via email at