The Business Year

José Alejandro Cheyne

COLOMBIA - Health & Education

USD200 million investment by 2025

Rector, Universidad del Rosario

Bio

José Alejandro Cheyne is the rector of the Universidad del Rosario. He was dean of the School of Administration of the same institution and World Chair of the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), being the first Latin American and Colombian to obtain this position in said association. His desire is to share his experiences of theoretical and practical learning from a young age, have earned him several awards such as Rosario’s Number Schoolboy, the Outstanding Young People of the Colombia International Junior Chamber and outstanding professor in postgraduate programs, among others. He is an Economist from the Universidad del Rosario, with a Specialization in University Teaching, Specialization in Business Administration, Master in Pedagogy, Doctorate in Pedagogy from the UPAEP University in Mexico and International Senior Management studies. He was rector of the Business University Foundation of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá (Uniempresarial), vice-dean of the Sergio Arboleda University School of Economics, construction manager and director of the Rosario Business Advisory Unit and specialization coordinator at the University of the Savannah. He has been recognized as the FFMM Distinguished Services Military Medal and Executive of the Year of the Junior Chamber, among others.

“Not all young people have the skills to enter a high-quality university because they come from different regions, schools, and settings.“

What has been the secret of the university maintaining high-quality standards for over three centuries despite the dynamic changes in its existence?

Universidad del Rosario is celebrating 365 years in two dimensions. One is training young people in the fields of law, economics, administration, and so on. We form lives but with a condition: they live to serve the country. The second is that we have served as protagonists in the construction of the national agenda for 365 years. That is the most important. We have been developing this country for 365 years, but this is not enough. With our motto Nova et vetera, we have to look at respecting tradition and, simultaneously, projecting ourselves into the future. With Route 2025, we defined what the university will be like in 2025 by interviewing 9,200 students, professors, graduates, and allies and outlines the university’s greatest challenges. The first is innovation, for which new spaces must be created. By 2025, we will have invested USD200 million. It is the most ambitious infrastructure plan of the university. We recently acquired the El Tiempo newspaper building, where we will create laboratories for innovation, creativity, and so on. We will also create new innovative experiences and focus on pedagogical innovation. Students do not want to receive classes as people received them a years ago; they want new methodologies. Another challenge is regionalization. For 365 years, society has sent its leaders to train here, and these leaders then return to their cities and impact their regions. Some 30% of our students come from Colombia’s regions, and we have a presence in Bogotá and in 10 cities with postgraduate programs. We train women and young people in entrepreneurship in 13 cities. Our vocation is not only Bogotá, but the country. Therefore, we are increasingly in our presence in more regions of Colombia. We have a project called Ruta Paí­s, in which we go to each region of Colombia to learn from it and meet with the mayor, governor, ecclesiastical authorities, military authorities, social leaders, and business leaders. Together we build an agenda that we develop. We even go to cities where we do not have students. The third challenge is internationalization and creating students who are “glocal,” namely able to solve a city’s specific problem but with an international vision. The next variable is reputation. Every day, each of our 60,000 graduates is building the reputation of the university. If there is a problem, a single graduate can end that reputation. The last is academic excellence. My commitment as a rector is that each of our students can be sure that their academic program is world-class.

Private universities currently receive fewer students, largely because centennials no longer consider university necessary. What are your thoughts as an expert in education, and what does the university do to attract new students?

There is something known as the paradox of universities. There are more young people who want to enter university, though, at the same time, due to their economic limitations or other issues, they cannot enter. At the same time, universities have empty seats. There are two reasons for this paradox. The first are restrictions, one of which is economic. Not everyone has money to enter. As a university, we support government programs and have financing mechanisms for young people. Our scholarship program has a budget of COP30 billion (USD8.56 million). We help eliminate economic restraint but that is not the most important. The main restriction is pedagogical. Not all young people have the skills to enter a high-quality university because they come from different regions, schools, and settings. The challenge of the university is to help them close the skills gap, for example, in mathematics, the ability to analyze, and a second language. The university works on helping with both economic and pedagogical restrictions. The second strategy is pedagogical innovation. Young people do not want to receive traditional classes; they want educational experiences. The challenge of universities in Colombia is pedagogical innovation. For example, a few years ago we had a challenge-based learning model whereby we took students from the school of administration, examined the challenges of the country or a community, and generated the skills needed to solve the challenge. The student’s training is done based on the challenges of their environment.

How can the private sector, government, and education sector work to seek progress?

Before, it was believed that individual effort generated good results. Fortunately, what we have understood is that if all actors work together, the impact is even greater. In the university, we work with all the actors. A single institution, whether public or private, can never generate an important impact in the country. To build a country, everyone has to be involved.

What is the main challenge of the university, and what are its short-term goals?

For the following years, the challenge is pedagogical innovation, which covers all dimensions. Colombia needs pedagogy. We firmly believe in personalized education because it means to understand the other as a person.

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