University of California President Janet Napolitano today (May 21) began a round of meetings in Mexico City with high-ranking Mexican government officials and distinguished academics and researchers as part of a broad UC-Mexico initiative aimed at strengthening ties between the university and Mexico.

The two days of scheduled meetings with officials from Mexico’s departments of Education and Foreign Affairs — as well as Mexican university presidents and the heads of scientific research and cultural organizations — grew from Napolitano’s wish to unite and build upon existing collaborations between the University of California and institutions in Mexico. The goal of the UC-Mexico Initiative is to create a sustained, strategic and equal partnership with Mexico that addresses common issues and nurtures the next generation of leaders in both countries.

Napolitano’s first stop will be to represent the university at today’s official launch of the Bilateral Forum for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, known as FOBESII, in which visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will finalize the pact announced last year by President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“UC’s many and varied partnerships, exchanges and collaborations with Mexico are integral to bettering lives on both sides of our national border,” Napolitano said. “This trip is a testament to the strength of our relationship with Mexico. I’m here to ensure we grow that relationship by establishing our new project to enhance the mutual exchange of students, faculty and ideas across the border.”

One immediate outcome of Napolitano’s visit will be the signing of a memorandum of understanding today between UC and the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology, known as CONACYT, that extends their Agreement of Cooperation in Higher Education and Research.

The agreement notes the “long and successful history of collaboration, involving bi-national research and the training and exchange of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty,” and references the spirit of FOBESII. The pact, to be signed by Napolitano and CONACYT Director General Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, establishes a working group between CONACYT and UC MEXUS, based at UC Riverside, to explore new and enhanced collaborative goals. Both sides will also agree to develop a program for student, faculty and researcher exchanges between UC and Mexican universities and research centers.