The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted a delegation from Universidad San Francisco de Quito Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, 2017. The delegation was led by USFQ Chancellor Santiago Gangotena and included Marithza Vélez, dean of the School of Business, and fifteen faculty and staff members.
Chancellor Gangotena was prompted to visit Chapel Hill to attend the Noteworthy Firsts Scholarship Reception held in Kenan Stadium on Sept. 28. The reception recognized 21 individuals, including Gangotena, who represent important “firsts” in the University’s history and for whom the University honored in 2016 through the naming of undergraduate grants and fellowships. During the reception, the honorees were able to meet some of the first student recipients of the need-based scholarships.
Gangotena, who received his doctorate in physics from UNC in 1977 and was recognized with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009, founded USFQ, the first private, liberal arts university in Ecuador. He was celebrated for his achievements by UNC faculty, students and staff, as well as colleagues from USFQ.
The USFQ faculty members who joined Gangotena represent diverse areas such as anthropology, applied mathematics, biology, chemistry and environmental sciences and engineering. During their visit, they met with UNC faculty collaborators to discuss ongoing and potential collaborations.
The UNC-USFQ partnership began in 2006 with collaboration between Stephen Walsh, Lyle V. Jones Distinguished Professor of Geography at UNC, and Carlos Mena, professor of geography at USFQ and a Carolina alumnus. The universities dedicated the joint Galápagos Science Center in 2011, which offers a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for students and faculty to study the intersection of social, terrestrial and marine sub-systems with particular focus on human populations, social and ecological health and the environment.
The range of UNC faculty engaged in study in the Galápagos and with USFQ reflects the diverse research undertaken and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. Disciplines represented include anthropology, biology, computer science, dentistry, economics, education, environmental sciences and engineering, geography, geological sciences, journalism, marine sciences, nutrition, political science and sociology. Students from both universities attend study abroad programs at the center that encourage movement between the classroom, field and laboratory. The center also provides education and outreach to the community.
UNC-Chapel Hill and USFQ also now collaborate outside of the Galápagos in a number of areas, and faculty are often adjunct professors at the partner institution and serve on graduate committees. In addition, there is a growing undergraduate student exchange between the home campuses.