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CETYS Universidad: Meet the Rector

CETYS universidad by MtraLizAlvarez via Wikimedia Commons

Located in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, CETYS Universidad, Mexico is ranked in QS Latin American University Rankings 2020 and is one of the top 50 universities in Mexico.

To learn more about CETYS Universidad, Mexico and what it offers international students, we spoke to its rector, Dr. Fernando León García.

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

I think because of our location, I can label myself as a binational person, and from another perspective as a trilateral citizen. I was born in Mexico and I have Chinese and Mexican parents that were educated in the US.

At undergraduate I studied in Mexico and finished my graduate degrees in the US. I worked in two institutions in the US for 10 years that were very international and then I came back to CETYS, my alma mater, at the beginning of 2010 and became their first alumnus to be appointed as the rector.

What is the main mission and pillars of the university?

CETYS University is a private not-for-profit institution founded in 1961 by business and civic leaders from Baja California state, who wanted to provide a local option for the younger population.

The institution has grown from 52 students to 8200 spread across three campuses throughout the state. We have also evolved from an institution faithful to its local and regional roots to one that is increasingly global and international.

Our most recent, long-term plans were launched in 2010, when coincidentally we had an earthquake. As a result of that, as we're facing the COVID-19 pandemic, we're completing our 10-year plan with most of the goals met already. We intend to be a high-quality institution, focusing on teaching, but also trying to make sure that we were addressing local needs by having global reach.

We also established learning communities instead of working in silos and we tried to make sure that the institution was sustainably conscious. We have also increased the percentage of professors with doctoral degrees to 70 percent, which isn’t very common in Latin America unless you are part of elite public and private institutions.

We not only reaffirmed our accreditation in Mexico with top evaluations, but also achieved US accreditations, while also internationalizing the institution extensively – 62 percent of our most recent graduating class in June 2019 went abroad. Our goal over the next few years is to try to achieve 70 percent.

We’ve also achieved a high employability rate, in the upper 90 percent in the last 10 years, as a result of a very close relationship with the business industry. There are over 1,000 multinationals in the region so the collaboration between business industry and academia is very strong.

After the outbreak of COVID-19, how did the university respond to adapt to the situation?

We had the benefit of seeing what was happening in the US as a result of COVID-19 while the disease wasn’t manifesting itself in Mexico. The first thing we knew we had to do was take care of our students outside of the country, doing study abroad programs and short-term exchanges.

When we realized the disease wasn’t going to be isolated geographically, we went into emergency mode to deliver emergency remote education.

You need to be mindful and concerned about students, faculty, staff and the overall university community. After we made sure health matters were addressed, we made some adjustments to deliver remote based education. Fortunately, as a result of our long-term plans, we had already been promoting digital literacy, which meant we already had several courses completely online. So, it was a matter of seeing where the gaps were so that we could continue with our educational programs and allow students to progress.

We have been able to maintain a big part of our offerings, but we obviously had to prioritize. Since internationalization is intensely promoted at CETYS and involves not only the students, we also included faculty in the discussion to regroup and see how we should continue.

Are international students at CETYS mostly part of an exchange program or do you have students from other countries registering for an entire program?

We have a combination. We have a number of students from California at CETYS – they are foreign students, but are less than 15 miles away from home, so they commute. We have a growing number of students from the US with ethnic or family ties to Mexico that find it appealing to come here to study. We currently have around 350 to 400 American students and the numbers have risen since achieving US accreditation.

We also have a small number of students from Europe and a few from Latin America, and we have just started receiving students from China. But our focus right now is to make sure our students get an international experience.

We’ve noticed that our programs are becoming increasingly attractive, especially since we began offering programs entirely in English. More than half of the students on our International Business program aren’t from Mexico. Also, this is the second year we are offering the industrial engineering course entirely in English.

These two programs are characterized by being entirely in English, the mix of faculty is more international, students also have an internship component and a mobility component, so it's intensive in terms of the international flavour.

As a result of the long-term plans we set out for 2020, we have had an increasing number of visiting faculty from numerous countries. We hope over the next five years we can increase the number of students coming from abroad, not just short-term but for their full degree.

What is the university's strategy to promote its brand internationally?

CETYS is an institution that is going to remain committed to developing people. I think society requires not only highly qualified employable graduates, but people who are sensitive to and work towards the improvement of their respective communities.

The first key point is our commitment to developing the individual, and we are also focused on preparing highly qualified professionals, while developing the soft skills that business and industry require. We are also trying to create a more entrepreneurial spirit, which means not only creating new businesses, but also being more creative in the workplace, with the capacity to innovate.

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

Be patient, respectful and mindful of all health-related recommendations. We need to make sure that we're flexible and demonstrate empathy, and we need to be mindful of opportunities where we can do things better and serve others better. But most importantly we're in this together.

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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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