Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL): Meet the Rector | Top Universities

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Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL): Meet the Rector

By Niamh O

Updated August 13, 2020 Updated August 13, 2020

Located in Guayaquil, Guayas Province in Ecuador, Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) is ranked in the QS Latin American University Rankings 2020.

To learn more about the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral and what it offers international students, we spoke to its rector, Cecilia Paredes Verduga. 

Can you tell us about your background and how you became rector?

I'm a mechanical engineer and got my bachelor’s degree from ESPOL. Following that I did my master’s and PhD in the US through a scholarship. I always wanted to work in the industry, but then some things happened in my personal life and I had to go back to Ecuador.

At that time, ESPOL gave me an opportunity to start working at the university and that was how I started in 2001. I loved the job so much and found it so interesting that I ended up staying.

I got tenure in 2003 and then started working on projects related to the industry, about how to connect the university with the industry and research. At that time, there weren’t many professors that had PhDs and had done research, so my interest was to show the industry the importance of R&D. That’s how I started working with the materials industry and helped to create the department for materials engineering and science.

After some time, I became Associate Dean and was asked to a part of the Ecuadorian Education Council, where I stayed for two years before returning to ESPOL full time as vice-rector in 2012. And finally, in 2017, I was elected to be the first woman president of the school.

What is the main mission and pillars of the university?

ESPOL was created 62 years ago when there wasn’t a technical university on Guayaquil’s coast, so our mission was to provide technical assistance and solutions for the city’s coast and the country.

We started mainly teaching professionals capable of problem solving and doing a lot of consulting.

About 30 years ago, ESPOL decided in order to move forward, we needed to become strong in research and development, so we began with the agriculture sector and got funding to do research on different species of shrimp, due to our proximity to the ocean.

We continue to teach professionals how to solve society’s problems and create value. We do research focused on the production sector’s needs and society in order to transfer what we do in academia to the rural areas that need help.

Around four years ago, while I was still vice-rector, we started promoting innovation, since we believe that through innovation, you can create more value and solve society’s problems by providing them with products or solutions.

Our values today are cooperation, innovation and empathy. We need to understand the problems of society to help them and solve them. We're doing this through teaching, research and extension.

How important is it to have international students?

We believe that internationalization should be a big part of university’s essence, not just with students but also with professors.

In Ecuador, public university education is free, and we divide our students into five quintiles. 40 percent of our students come from quintiles one and two, the ones with the lowest income. It’s very important for ESPOL to provide an opportunity for the students that can’t travel abroad to study.

Having international students and professors in our campuses as well as sending some of our students abroad that can’t pay is a big opportunity for us to do several things. Firstly, this is fundamental for them to understand that they're as capable as anybody else. Second, for them to understand that experiencing a different culture is an opportunity to expand their minds and be more creative.

By coming to ESPOL, international students can learn about our culture, our way of thinking, and our reality. It's a two-way street of learning and appreciation.

What is the university's strategy to attract more international students?

The first is to teach in English. The current global situation has also created an opportunity for our professors to experience online teaching and its methodologies. Some of our professors are already saying they might want to continue this way. Both online and English classes, will provide a great opportunity for students from abroad to learn together.

I believe the best way to engage students during this time is through projects. I think it’s a great opportunity if you can embed projects in a class which allows interaction with international students.

We are also taking advantage of some networks we are a part of and are offering online internationalization opportunities. It has been a challenge for professors and students to get used to something they didn't choose, but this is our new reality and will be for some time. We have to make sure we take the best experiences and practices.

Which channels are you using to promote ESPOL to an international audience?

We're planning to take advantage of the partners we have all over the world and connect with them to understand what the students’ needs and wants are, and hopefully through our experiences here at home with biodiversity – such as with shrimp – and some research programs in the Galapagos,  perhaps plan something interesting for them, even if it's through virtual platforms. We are currently defining our strategic plan based on our needs and our partners’ needs in terms of internationalization to design a plan to accommodate us all.

What do you think are the institution’s attractive points for international students?

One of the things that most interests people is that we offer technical courses and not just liberal arts courses. And of course, our proximity to the amazing biodiversity in the region, the ocean and mangroves as well. We are close to Guayaquil but only a few hours from the highlands and the Amazon, and only a short flight away from the Galapagos. We have extension and research programs in all these areas.

We want to connect with professors from partner universities. We've already had some very successful extension programs and I think this is something that we can explore a lot in terms of the idealism of young students who want to serve and learn at the same time.

What message do you have for students and academics during the uncertain times we are living in?

This is certainly a difficult time for students. Their expectations are going to change, their experience is going to change, but it doesn't mean it will be bad, it could just be different. It's up to them to see the opportunities in these global restrictions.

If you are interested in studying at ESPOL, I would like you to know that our mission is to serve society with highly accredited programs. So, we invite you to seek the opportunity to learn and to experience high quality education while serving a purpose to society. For more information about the application process you can visit our website.

This article was originally published in August 2020 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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