New Global Gateway director melds Indiana roots with passion for education in Mexico

Indiana University alumna and accomplished educator and social entrepreneur Molly Fisher is now at the helm of the IU Mexico Gateway.

Molly FisherView print quality image
Molly Fisher. Photo by Cadence Baugh Chang, Indiana University

Fisher, who holds a bachelor's degree in biology and a graduate certificate in secondary science education from IU, came from the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego, where she collaborated with other universities, government and corporations to develop and implement a suite of workforce-development programs focused on STEM and language acquisition.

As an area specialist in Mexico, Fisher has founded, directed or redirected eight successful nonprofits and social enterprises across the country and serves on the board of Human Connections in Nayarit, Mexico. She brings extensive experience working with students, parents, teachers, universities, and both the public and private sectors into her role with IU.

Inside IU caught up with Fisher during her recent trip to the Bloomington campus, where she made connections and built relationships with a variety of faculty and other administrators who will be working closely alongside her in the coming months and years.

Question: How did you get interested in international education?

Answer: When I was studying biology at IU as an undergraduate, I always had the Peace Corps in the back of my mind. I took a trip with IU to Costa Rica, and that was my first entry into international education. That trip sparked a fire in me that is still present today.

After I received my graduate certificate to teach secondary science, I did so in Colorado for a few years and realized I did not have the Spanish skills I needed to communicate with many of my students. Roughly 50 percent of my students were first-generation Mexican, and while I loved teaching to a diverse student population, I simply did not have cultural understanding to be the best teacher I could be.

So we joked that I went on my own "Molly Corps," and I moved to Mexico to learn Spanish and the culture. I opened an internet cafe and bookstore with a friend on a small island and soon after founded a nonprofit to help animals. After three years, I went on to teach science at the American school in Puerto Vallarta. I was there for three years, and then I founded and ran several nonprofits over the next 13 years.

When this opportunity with the IU Global Gateway Network came up, I knew it would be the perfect way to connect the two halves of my life: my Indiana roots with my degrees from IU and my love and passion for education in Mexico.

Q: What makes Mexico an area of the world where IU should be engaged?

A: For starters, because the United States and Mexico are physical neighbors. Other than Canada, there is no easier place for students and faculty to do academic exchange.

The history of the two countries proves that we'll always be intertwined, so we need to continue to strengthen bonds and build more bridges. I am thrilled that IU is continuing to play a role in this, especially at this moment in history. The news can provide a different lens for how people see the relationship between the two countries, but in reality, when you're on the ground, you see so much amazing collaboration happening. It's exciting that IU is an important part of many of these collaborations and encourages more.

Q: What are some opportunities you see for IU in the region?

A: The fact that the IU Mexico Gateway is housed within the National Autonomous University of Mexico is a huge opportunity for IU faculty and students. IU has an incredibly strong relationship with UNAM that precedes the opening of the gateway office, and that relationship has benefited us not just in Mexico City, but throughout Mexico and Latin America.

While our office is located in Mexico City, we are not limited to work here. The staff at the IU Mexico Gateway is here to continue to build bridges and make connections with universities, nonprofits, and the public and private sectors throughout the country and Latin America. The number of students and faculty in Mexico who are eager to work with IU is immense. We are excited to help maintain and strengthen our current work and facilitate the development of future work and collaborations.

Q: What are your top priorities as director?

A: A strong foundation has already been laid due to the hard work and effort on behalf of my predecessor and team, so I am in a great position to strengthen relationships that already exist and drum up more business. I have been in Mexico for a long time -- almost 21 years -- and have many relationships that will be beneficial to my role and this objective.

One thing I would like to focus on is student mobility between the two countries by continuing to support international exchange. In this ever-increasing global economy, we owe it to these students to prepare them to be global citizens. Not only will it place them at the top of the pool of candidates as they enter the workforce, it will also instill a personal level of learning respect -- and empathy -- that they may not otherwise have.

I also want to focus on alumni in the region. We have a super-engaged alumni association chapter, and being an alum myself, I'm eager to support the great work that's been done to keep it active.

And, of course, I'm focused on continuing to support collaboration and research for graduate students and faculty. When you put these great minds -- who often have different lenses and ways to see the world -- together, great things can happen, and we owe it to them and to the research community to support that.

Q: How do you hope faculty will use you as a resource?

A: I hope that faculty truly understand that we are just an email or call away and that we would like nothing more than to work with them on developing a faculty-led student trip or international research collaboration. We want them to reach out to us with their craziest idea.

We are really good at making things happen and want them to know that they have a home base in Mexico. As we say here, mi casa es tu casa.