Purdue Engineering Visit Launches "New Chapter" of Colombia Collaboration

A four-city visit to Colombia by a top-level Purdue Engineering delegation strengthened the long-standing and growing strategic partnership between the Purdue College of Engineering and Colombia’s people and institutions.

From Oct. 20-23, Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, and Purdue colleagues hosted 12 events that enabled them to broaden and deepen relationships with hundreds of university, government, corporate and philanthropy leaders and students, alumni and friends. 

“Purdue Engineering’s rich history of collaboration with Colombia dates to the early 1960s. On this first visit to Colombia for me, it was heartwarming to meet and hear the stories of our friends there,” Chiang said. “Together we opened a new chapter in the Colombia-Purdue partnership, spanning the talent pipeline, research collaboration, and economic development.”  

Putting the Colombia partnership in a larger context, Chiang said, “Our strategy for global collaboration focuses on developing long; deep; and multi-dimensional, country-wide relationships with several partner countries.”

Arvind Raman (Purdue), Juan Diego Velasquez (Purdue), Luis Alejandro Camacho (UniAndes department head of civil and environmental engineering), Camilo Villa (UniAndes International Relations office), Silvia Caro (UniAndes vice dean of engineering), Juan Ernesto de Bedout (Purdue), Alyssa Wilcox (Purdue), Liliana Gomez (Purdue), Dean Mung Chiang (Purdue), Juan Carlos Briceo (UniAndes director of Graduate School of Engineering), Pilar Navas (UniAndes general secretary of engineering), George Chiu (Purdue), Andres Arrieta (Purdue), Juan Pablo Casas (UniAndes department head of mechanical engineering), and Luciano Castillo (Purdue).

Internship Program Expands

“We are proud to be expanding research and student exchanges because Colombia is a key destination for Purdue study-abroad opportunities, and more students come to Purdue from Colombia than any other Latin American country,” said George Chiu, assistant dean for Global Engineering Programs and Partnerships.

During the trip, Chiang and Colombian partners signed agreements that extended the number of Colombian universities participating in the six-month research and educational internship program from one to six. Those universities, where the Purdue team met with students, faculty and university leaders, are Universidad Nacional (UNAL) Bogotá, Universidad de los Andes (UniAndes) and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá; Universidad de Cartagena in Cartagena; Universidad EAFIT and Universidad Nacional (UNAL) Medellín in Medellín; and Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla.

Dean Mung Chiang signing agreement with Joachim Hahn of Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla.
Dean Mung Chiang signing agreement with Joachim Hahn of Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla.

Excellence and diversity are the touchstones of the internship program, which cultivates a pool of outstanding, prepared students for graduate school at their home institutions in Colombia and at Purdue. In the last five years, more than 240 Colombian students have held these internships, and 80 percent of them have continued postgraduate studies in their home institutions. Dozens of Colombian students are in PhD programs at Purdue today.

LASER PULSE Program To Advance Development

An important element of the Colombia-Purdue partnership promotes economic development. Observing a recent milestone, Purdue and Colombian partners discussed next steps for the USAID LASER PULSE Mission, following a workshop that brought together 112 participants in Bogotá on Oct. 1-2.

“This first country-focused LASER PULSE program will support broad-based local development initiatives to benefit Colombia and Purdue,” said Arvind Raman, senior associate dean of the faculty and director of the USAID LASER PULSE Consortium. “It will offer competitive funding for Colombian researchers working with NGOs and implementers to address three challenge areas for Colombia: integrated rural development, youth, and migration. Two of our Colombian academic partners are participating in LASER PULSE projects.”

Enhancing Alumni Connections

Nurturing ties with alumni was a significant accomplishment of the Colombia tour.

“Our Purdue delegation hosted a successful event in Bogotá for alumni, student interns, and friends and colleagues from various Colombian universities,” said Alyssa WiIcox, senior associate vice president for advancement. “We formed and renewed friendships, emphasizing the strategic nature of the Colombia-Purdue partnership; sharing information; and demonstrating Purdue Engineering’s commitment to Colombia’s people, higher education and economy.”

Members of the Purdue delegation in addition to Chiang, Chiu, Raman and Wilcox included:

  • Luciano Castillo, Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems in Mechanical Engineering, and Dean’s Fellow for Latino and Hispanic Engagement
  • Andres Arrieta, assistant professor of mechanical engineering (Bogotá only)
  • Juan Diego Velasquez, managing director of the Colombia-Purdue Partnership
  • Liliana Gomez, director, Colombian Partnerships and Engagement Office
  • Juan Ernesto de Bedout, BSIE ’67, MSIE ’68, HDR ’13, former group president of Latin American operations, Kimberly-Clark; Berta Molina de Bedout Fund for the Colombia-Purdue Strategic Initiative; member of Purdue’s Engineering Advisory Council; recipient of Purdue's Outstanding Industrial Engineer, Distinguished Engineering Alumnus and Engineering Alumni Association

For more information on Purdue’s partnership with Colombia and how to become involved, contact Juan Diego Velasquez at jvelasqu@purdue.edu