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Universidad Surcolombiana: Meet the Rector

universidad surcolombiana

To learn more about Universidad Surcolombiana and what it offers international students, we spoke to its rector, Dr. Edwin Alirio Trujillo Cerquera.

Could you please tell us about your background and how you became rector?

My working environment has always revolved around education. I am 39 years old; I have two Bachelor's Degrees, one in Linguistics and Literature and the other in Law where I specialized in Probative and Constitutional Law, and I have a master's degree in Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory.

I have been a university professor for over 10 years, focusing on managerial appointments and academic matters at the university, which has been my passion, with special focus in areas such as Legal Argumentation and Philosophical Theories of the Law.

What is the main mission and pillars of Universidad Surcolombiana?

Our university has a particular focus on the local context, according to our (PEU - Proyecto Educativo Universitario) University Educational Project. Firstly, we are a public university, with approximately 12,000 students in undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

We are one of the most prevalent universities in Southern Colombia, with undergraduate, specialized, master’s and doctoral programs.

Our University Educational Project promotes interculturality and healthy coexistence, with a great respect for Mother Earth and a special focus on territorial development with subjects such as Agribusiness.

Our Doctoral Program in Environmental Education and Public Health has high-tech Labs, as we live in a tropical climate, with many related diseases.

The university also has highly ranked research groups and professors who have obtained their Doctoral Degrees abroad, subsequently returning to apply their expertise in our territory.    

How much importance is given to internationalization, considering the university’s mission and pillars?

For some time now, the university has been looking to expand in order to develop interactions with other universities worldwide. We now have exchange students from different parts of the world who come to collaborate with us, to study for a semester; our students also travel to other universities through the semester abroad program, which has allowed us to forge strong partnerships with research groups around the world. We believe this is where we have a particular strength.

Regarding the areas of tropical diseases and traumatic brain injuries, due to certain phenomena in our region, such as moto-taxis, which increase the risk of trauma (this is why we have a hospital and specialized laboratories), this allowed us to achieve very interesting developments in these medical areas. In terms of Agribusiness, we have a vast trajectory in passionflower and specialty coffees, in which we offer a master's program.

Our Coffee Research Group advises the University of Los Andes in Colombia, as well as a university in the UK. These are subjects that are very autochthonous to our region, and this has allowed us to strengthen those relations and provide feedback for the generation of knowledge, where information is just a click away. A very important factor, especially in the current times we are living in.

How is the university promoting itself to international audiences?   

The Communications Office at our university dedicates special sections of our website to the diffusion – at local and global levels – of information about our activities and the particularities for which we are renowned.

We have someone in charge at of partnerships at The Office of National and International Affairs (ORNI) that allows us to strengthen our relations with other universities worldwide, through assertive communication strategies; as well as the Research Groups, through participation in international events, in which our professors present the developments and achievements of their research projects.

What changes does the university foresee for its internationalization project, and how will it adapt to the new normal in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic?

I would say that nobody was prepared for this situation and its dimensions. None of us were ready, and we thought this would all be over in 14 days, and we would be able to return to our daily lives.

We now know that is not the case, that it is going to transcend, and we will have to adapt accordingly. We must be resilient and learn to cope with the tragedy that has befallen us.

In this regard, we are working to adapt the university to this new reality. In terms of mobility, we are piloting a virtual academic and research exchange program, that will allow us to continue creating opportunities that foster fellowships among our researchers and students.

We are also keeping in touch with our professors who are currently pursuing their Doctoral degrees abroad, far away from their families and the university.

What message would you give to the students and the global academic community in these times of crisis?

My message is of solidarity. The only way forward for us to face this situation is to maintain solidarity, to become more human, more sensitive to our current reality, so that we may address the obstacles that come our way. We must stand united to get to the other side of this pandemic, while we continue to work from our homes via these virtual channels.

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Written by Niamh Ollerton
Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), 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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