MASTERING EDUCATION

Colombia 2014 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Professor Javier Yáñez, Dean of Universidad de Los Andes School of Management, on offering some of the best programs in Colombia and teaming up with institutions abroad.

The School of Management was founded in 1972 and you are the first school in Colombia to have earned the Triple Crown. What is the significance of this?

From the start, Los Andes has defined itself as a School of Management, rather than a business school. We cover a wider range of issues, from public administration, environmental management, NGOs, and development practice to business. In 2011 we broadened our mission statement to include innovation and the sustainable development of organizations. We chose “organizations" because our students and alumni are prepared to work with any organization. Earning the Triple Crown—three different self-assessment processes—has been a vital force to guide our school on a path of continuous improvement, internalizing change, raising standards, and shaping global ties. Boasting the Triple Crown fosters relationships and uncovers opportunities with other top schools in Asia, Europe, and North America.

How does your alliance with Yale University work, and why has one of your Master's programs been recognized as Latin America's best?

Our Master's in Environmental Management is recognized in Eduniversal's university ranking as the best in Latin America. Our close ties with the Yale School of Forestry got started with a grant from the Moore Foundation. Five of our faculty members teach a course at Yale, and Yale School of Forestry students earn a double degree by enrolling in our MBA, a Master's in Environmental Management from Yale and an MBA from Los Andes. Scholarship support from the Moore Foundation also enabled our school to attract students from other Latin American countries. We are now in talks with ESAN Business School in Peru to develop an Environmental Management program in Lima.

“Our Master's in Environmental Management is recognized in Eduniversal's university ranking as the best in Latin America."

How do you foster a relationship between academia and the business world and forge the type of links and work experience that you offer to your students?

Let me start with the undergraduates; we take students on business visits so they can learn about different industries firsthand. Also, for both graduate and undergraduate students, we offer a learning experience called Consultandes, a consultancy through which business firms come to Los Andes, tell us about a particular problem, and we assign teams of students to act as consultants to those firms during a full semester, recommending a solution. Students gain practical experience, the school learns of current issues of concern to business, and the firms get valuable solutions and/or alternatives. Business and government are linked to the school in several ways. Once a month, a top manager or government official is invited as a guest speaker to a session for all Master's students. Every semester we hold a job fair and company representatives interview students entering the job market and alumni seeking a change. At the CEO level, our Presidentes de Empresa program brings together heads of firms and ranking public officials for a half-day session, once a month, to focus on a given issue of national interest, such as innovation and entrepreneurship. CEOs participating in the program have organized themselves into teams to contribute to the school by becoming mentors to students and being involved in activities that enhance the school's profile.

How do your dual programs work and which are the leading universities where your students can study?

For some years we have offered dual degrees with Tulane University as well as FIU in Florida and Toulouse in France. In addition to our academic ties with Yale, and our Master's in Development Practice, offered together with Columbia University's Earth Science Institute, we are now reviewing student exchange, executive education, and other partnering opportunities with a long list of schools, including Cornell and Stanford in the US and ESADE in Spain. Without a doubt the newly launched Pacific Alliance—Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia— will draw us toward Asia. We are signing an agreement with Keio University in Japan, and exploring opportunities with Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Many students who consider studying in Latin America opt for Mexico first, followed by Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. Why do you believe that foreign students should study in Bogotá, and what competitive advantages does Colombia have?

Many people still view Colombia as a dangerous country, but this has changed over the past decade. Bogotá is a good point of entry to better understand Latin America. Colombia is a country of regions, and Latin America is certainly a continent of regions. Each country is different, and business customs differ from one country to another. At our school, we already have faculty members from Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Venezuela. We also plan to hire faculty from Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. And we also have faculty from North America and Europe. A key strength of our school is being part of Universidad de Los Andes, a ranking Latin American university with a large campus housed in handsome colonial and modern buildings in downtown Bogotá, offering students the opportunity to interact with engineers, physicists, musicians, social scientists, physicians enrolled in the MBA, and a much wider range of students than is typical of business schools generally.

© The Business Year - July 2014