18 May 2017

The Strauss Center's Mexico Security Initiative (MSI) launched in 2016 to address the gap in policy-relevant scholarship on Mexican security challenges and to enhance the role of The University of Texas at Austin in doing so. MSI aspires to create educational opportunities, research activity, and community engagement that will spur sophisticated inquiry into the causes, dimensions, and consequences of violence in Mexico, as well as the adequacy of past, present, and potential policy responses at both the national and international levels.

Find out more about our Mexico Security Initiative program below!


At the Strauss Center we aim to innovate both with education and with research, and whenever possible we aspire to blend those goals in a single activity. There is no better example than the “Policy Research Project” model of coursework, in which graduate students spend an entire academic year diving deep into pressing policy challenges and developing for publication their own research and recommendations for policy improvements. MSI sponsors such a course each year, as described below. Be sure to go to the program homepage to see some of the fruits of their research!


  • (2016-17) Mexican Cartel Violence: Assessing the Mexican Government's Response
    The Strauss Center's year-long Policy Research Project course led sixteen MA students to analyze and assess the Mexican federal government’s responses, over time, to the pervasive security challenges associated with organized criminal groups. The students had the opportunity to interview top security experts, including Alejandro Hope, Ana Maria Salazar, Amb. Antonio Garza, David Shirk, and Carlos González Gutiérrez (Mexico’s Consul General in Austin). At the end of the spring semester—and based on their independent research, field trips, and interviews—the class generated a final report to evaluate past policy responses and make recommendations for a policy path forward.
  • (2017-2018) Beyond the Border: Policy Responses for Central American Migration
    In 2017-2018, the Strauss Center will sponsor a Policy Research Project course that analyzes Central American migration from a Mexican policy perspective, an issue that is often viewed primarily as a U.S. challenge. The course will grapple with the complicated questions that Mexico faces as a migration country of origin, transit corridor, and destination for international migrants. Students will work closely with the Mexican NGO Sin Fronteras, as well as with a security agency in the Mexican federal government, to create useful policy recommendations for the new Mexican administration. By having these two different partners we consciously seek to expose the students to the varied perspectives surrounding migration.

    Find out more about this new course here.


Over Spring Break, the Robert Strauss Center’s Mexico Security Initiative Policy Research Project took 13 graduate students on an exciting field trip visit to Mexico City. The objective of this visit was to have students speak directly with professionals who focus on Mexico’s security issues, and who are the architects or analysts of the Mexican government’s policies—as well as for the group to tour the facilities where these practitioners work. We strongly encourage you to click here to see the details from their extraordinary itinerary on this trip!


As part of this project, the Strauss Center also supported student trips to visit an immigration detention center in Dilley, Texas, and to participate in a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.


Another key feature of MSI is our effort to bring the world to Austin, in the form of experts from policymaking and academic circles. Our spring 2017 MSI event calendar included:

  • JANUARY 30, 2017: The Role of Intelligence in Mexico's Security Struggle
    The Strauss Center was thrilled to welcome Guillermo Valdes Castellanos, former Director of Mexico's National Intelligence Agency (CISEN), and David Shedd, former Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), for a conversation on "Evolving Threats and Capabilities: The Future of Mexican Intelligence Agencies." The conversation provided the speakers’ unique perspectives and broader historical context on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship; the evolution of Mexico’s intelligence and security apparatus; and Mexico’s most pressing security challenges today. Video of this event can be accessed here.
  • FEBRUARY 8, 2017: The Security Legacy of the Peña Nieto Administration
    Dr. Viridiana Rios, Visiting Assistant Professor at Purdue University, joined the Strauss Center for a conversation with Mexico Security Fellow Stephanie Leutert. The talk addressed Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s security policy over the past four years and evaluated what his administration had accomplished. With a Mexican presidential election coming up in 2018, the talk also covered possible recommendations for an incoming Mexican president and his or her team. Video of this event is available here.
  • MARCH 20, 2017: U.S.-Mexico Relations in the Trump Administration
    The Strauss Center and the LBJ School of Public Affairs were excited to host Dr. Rafael Fernandez de Castro, Chair of ITAM's Department of International Studies, for a discussion titled "U.S.-Mexico Relations Under Trump's Fire: How is Mexico Responding?". He addressed questions like: Is President Trump going to be able to implement his threats to Mexico–build the wall, derail NAFTA and deport millions of Mexicans? What effect will the Trump administration have in the U.S.-Mexican relations? Dr. Fernandez de Castro also met with Mexico Security Studies students and shared anecdotes from his experience as Foreign Policy Advisor to former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.