AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Colombia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY Talks to Iván Enrique Ramos Calderón, Rector of Universidad del Valle, on pushing into new areas of research, development collaborations with the automotive sector, and creating a learinging environment for students.

Iván Enrique Ramos Calderón
BIOGRAPHY
Iván Enrique Ramos Calderón is an electrical Engineer form the Universidad del Valle, and holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Programming from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. He also hold’s a Master’s Degree in University Management from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. He was previously the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering between 1996-2002, and subsequently academic Vice-Rector from 2002-2003, and Rector of the Universidad del Valle during 2003-2007 and 2007-2011).

What factors have led to the University's accreditation as a high-quality educational institution for 10 consecutive years?

Our university supports and promotes scientific research, artistic creativity, humanistic education, and research in social and administrative studies. We foster research study in all disciplines, and our university is the national leader in research across all academic spheres. In 2006 the Superior Council established a research policy and, subsequently, the resources for it. At the moment we are allocating approximately $3.29 million a year in the promotion of research at the university. We, therefore, not only demonstrate a superior academic and intellectual pedigree, but also present excellent opportunities for students to participate in scientific, artistic, or humanitarian development. In scientific development, we currently hold 15 patents. We are the second institution nationally after Ecopetrol with internationally registered patents. Ecopetrol, on the other hand, is the largest company in Colombia. This provides the best practical means of demonstrating the quality of our ongoing research. Another important factor is that we are present not only in Cali, but also at branches in eight municipalities of the Valle del Cauca: in Cartago, Caicedonia, Zarzal, Buga, Palmira, Yumbo, Buenaventura, and at one in the north of the region. This allows us to maintain the decentralization and democratization of the university.

How is the Universidad del Valle helping regional development?

We have a university network geared at regional regeneration, wherein each university showcases its potential, not in order to compete on projects, but also to complement one another. This network includes not only universities, but also entrepreneurs and government bodies, and functions like a virtual space for the knowledge exchange and collaboration of various universities, businesses and state bodies. From this collaboration came the project 'El Centro de Desarrollo Automotriz' that works with different manufacturers of auto parts, and it collaborates with universities in order to establish in the region a center for automotive development and production. Meanwhile, we support an initiative for public healthcare, working with the municipal healthcare department, and on specific regional projects as part of an ongoing relationship. We also maintain close collaboration with different enterprises–this is in fact how our students receive practical work experience.

In what areas is the Universidad del Valle focusing its investments?

We spend approximately $172.7 million annually. We invest first of all in covering the needs of students, which is why we are the university with the highest levels of student life satisfaction in the country. The university has good restaurants, sports facilities, and venues for students to socialize. We serve between 4,000 to 4,500 dinners per day, 1,000 of which are free. We have professional sports sections and recreational sports for both students and employees. We have a swimming pool with full facilities, a theatre, a gym, dance groups, and bands, among others. We therefore provide our students with a wide range of opportunities to develop themselves both professionally and culturally. Most of Cali's cultural life is concentrated in its universities, ours included. Meanwhile, we have invested about $20 million into equipment for our labs and IT facilities. We also provide students with computers for personal use, such as for writing their theses. We also organize a series of exhibitions, and have our own pinacoteca (art gallery), which is quite extraordinary by Colombian standards. We also boast the best public library in the country.