Blossoming Hemispheric Unity

UM President Julio Frenk and Pablo Navas, president of the Universidad de los Andes (UniAndes) in Bogotá, Colombia, sign a memorandum of understanding.
By Annette Herrera

UM President Julio Frenk and Pablo Navas, president of the Universidad de los Andes (UniAndes) in Bogotá, Colombia, sign a memorandum of understanding.

Blossoming Hemispheric Unity

By Annette Herrera
The University of Miami takes concrete steps to become the hemispheric university as it builds a relationship with a Colombian university.

BOGOTA, Colombia – In a stately salon with centuries old paintings and tapestries lining the walls, University of Miami President Julio Frenk and Pablo Navas, president of the Universidad de los Andes (UniAndes) in Bogotá, Colombia, signed a memorandum of understanding that will help to build collaborative bridges between the two institutions.

 Together with members of UniAndes’ administration and deans from its twelve academic units, UM representatives on March 13 engaged in a broad conversation to identify next steps in pursuing joint educational, training, clinical and research initiatives.

Key among these efforts will be the exchange of students between both universities, and several UniAndes students in attendance expressed keen interest in joining their UM counterparts in studying interdisciplinary approaches to solving issues of common concern.  

A visit with leadership at the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogota, the medical education, research, and practice arm of UniAndes, led to the exploration of complementarities and synergies in shared values and competencies that can lead to innovative professional training and research collaborations. 

The UM delegation included representatives from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Miller School of Medicine, Miami Business School, College of Engineering, School of Nursing and Health Studies, University Development and Alumni Relations, and the Office of Hemispheric and Global affairs, who took part in meetings with multiple academic and other key institutions in Bogotá and Cali, Colombia.

President Frenk shared at the MOU signing that in developing the University’s strategic plan for its centennial in 2025, he quickly realized that while many universities pride themselves on having a global profile, only the University of Miami has a “geographic advantage” at the crossroads of the Americas. 

“Our aspiration to become the Hemispheric University is part of our DNA. From the beginning, our founders conceived of the University of Miami as a model of Pan Americanism to promote greater understanding and interactions between Latin America and the Caribbean with the U.S.,” Frenk said.

This original vision has helped shape the University’s efforts to promote research and educational programs over the years in the region. But while there has always been an interest and intention to create closer ties with our hemispheric neighbors, there has not been a deliberate hemispheric strategy.

A key component of advancing this effort is the launch of the new Office of Hemispheric and Global Affairs, headed by Lourdes Dieck-Assad, UM’s inaugural vice president for Hemispheric and Global Affairs. Working with university-wide partners, including the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, her office will provide an integrated approach to support activities like the exchange of students, visiting faculty and collaborative research.

“We already do so much in the region, and it is our intent that initiatives, like the Hemispheric University Consortium and the Hemispheric Innovation Hub, will help establish connections that transcend geographic borders by fostering long lasting relationships, building our capacity to respond to emerging opportunities and facilitating the flow of talent throughout the hemisphere and beyond,” said Dieck-Assad. 

UM alumni are also an important partner in building a stronger and more relevant presence in the hemisphere. Josh Friedman, senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, whose team has organized the successful We Are One U outreach events in multiple cities, believes that the University’s hemispheric strategy is an ideal platform on which to build stronger relationships with alumni across the region.

“We know that our alumni who return to their home countries after graduation are today’s leaders in their communities,” Friedman said. “They are a vital network that can help connect us to the region and attract new students who want to learn in a truly global environment.”

Approximately 100 alumni, incoming students, parents, and friends attended the We Are One U reception at the JW Marriott in Bogotá, where President Frenk shared highlights and encouraged them to become involved with their alma mater. Susana Barroso-Fernandez, assistant professor of clinical and director of the Simulation Hospital at the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies, presented a ’Cane Talk on the newly opened facility that is revolutionizing how students learn by merging knowledge with practical experience. Barroso-Fernandez stressed that the Simulation Hospital will help train global communities on how to prepare for and deal with catastrophes like natural disasters and pandemics.

In a demonstration of UM’s hemispheric strategy in action, President Frenk also made a presentation and participated in a distinguished panel on the future of health systems in Latin America at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Hundreds of students and faculty filled the auditorium and three overflow rooms, while more than 2,000 watched on Facebook Live. 

Frenk is greatly encouraged by the warm and enthusiastic welcome the U has received in Colombia and believes it bodes well for future collaborations with other countries in the region.

“The University of Miami has always been inherently hemispheric,” he said. “We must now take it a step further and be intentionally hemispheric. We not only want to study the hemisphere—we want to be a vital part of it.”