Colombia Visit Renews Ties, Grows Partnerships Between Universities

Exploring 21st-century global partnership opportunities while renewing bonds that date to 1948, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC traveled to Colombia in May for a weeklong visit.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and the Pitt-UPMC delegation met with government, higher education and health care officials with the aim of increasing Pitt’s visibility in South America and furthering Pitt’s strategic goal of global engagement.

“Though some 2,500 miles divide Pittsburgh from Colombia, we share many of the same hopes,” said Gallagher. “The leaders who warmly welcomed me to Bogotá and Bucaramanga are committed to educating citizens, supporting sustainable economic development and advancing human health. At each stop, we recognized these similarities and discussed exciting new ways that our communities could work together for society’s collective gain.”

“This trip was successful in many ways,” said Ariel Armony, University Center for International Studies (UCIS) director and senior director of international programs, who planned the visit with UPMC. Among them was “the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Universidad de los Andes, a leading institution of higher education in Colombia and one of the best universities in Latin America,” Armony said.

A longtime institutional partnership was revisited with a meeting of Gallagher and Universidad de los Andes Rector Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaría. Since its founding in 1948, Uniandes, as it’s often called, has partnered with Pitt in numerous research collaborations, alumni engagement opportunities and study abroad programs. Many current faculty members at Uniandes hold Pitt doctoral degrees. Carlos Angulo Galvis, the rector who served the university from 1997 to 2011, is a Pitt engineering graduate.

At Uniandes, Gallagher and Navas hosted a discussion with invited guests on the role of the university as a regional change agent for sustainable development and economic growth. The pair also signed an agreement to formally renew the two universities’ partnership. Later in the evening, Pitt alumni in Colombia joined the international group for a networking reception.

The chancellor’s visit not only sought to deepen the existing Uniandes partnership, but also to advance other initiatives and future partnerships in Colombia.

Notably, Gallagher and Pitt leaders met with the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the man who last year won a Nobel Peace Prize for developing a peace accord aimed at bringing the country’s civil war to rest. Shortly before the Pitt delegation’s arrival, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s largest rebel group, completed the disarmament process to reintegrate into civilian life under a peace agreement that many hope will put an end to more than a half century of violence and unrest.

The delegation also met with other government ministers, including the ministers of health, commerce, finance and education. They connected with key agencies in science funding, medical advancement, tourism, exports and trading, splitting time between the capital, Bogotá, and Bucaramanga in the Santander region.

Near Bucaramanga, UPMC last year jointly opened an advanced cancer center located at the Hospital Internacional de Colombia with longtime partner the Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia (FCV).

Now with FCV, UPMC is exploring additional ventures to expand health care access, international education and hands-on training opportunities in Colombia through telemedicine and other new technologies and institutions.

Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) is now making plans to host a delegation from the Uniandes School of Government at Pitt in October. The hope is to plan the Colombian delegation’s trip concurrently with a visit from leaders of South Korea's Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, continuing to build on existing ties and establishing a trilateral partnership centered around public policy and global affairs.

“I thought it was great. It was very encouraging for us,” said GSPIA Dean John Keeler of the weeklong trip. Keeler traveled with the Pitt and UPMC group during its time in Bogotá.

“It was a great experience to have the opportunity to talk not only with President Santos, but a wide range of top government officials,” he said. “The rector and faculty at Uniandes welcomed the Pitt delegation in an extraordinarily hospitable manner and assured us that they hoped to enhance our collaboration in the future.”

The chancellor’s full delegation from Pitt included Keeler and Armony; Bopaya Bidanda, chair of industrial engineering and Ernest Roth Professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Maggie McDonald, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, health sciences; Juan Carlos Puyana, associate professor of surgery, School of Medicine, who is originally from Colombia; Scott Morgenstern, director, Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS); Marcela González Rivas, assistant professor, GSPIA; and Angelina Cotler, associate director, CLAS.

The UPMC group included Chuck Bogosta, president, UPMC International; Ricardo Muñoz, chief of the Cardiac Intensive Care Division and director of the Cardiac Recovery Program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; and Mariel García, senior director, International Business, Telemedicine and UPMC Global Care.