Engineer Pursues Cultural, Academic Exchanges With Colombian University
Germán Gavilán, who joined UC Merced as an Academic Coordinator in March 2004 and last January became the assistant dean in the School of Engineering, is working with two major goals in mind: Pioneering a new university while also seeking a way to give back to his own alma mater. Fortunately, his two objectives happen to coincide.
Gavilán is passionately working to coordinate a collaborative exchange effort between UC Merced and the Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS) in Bucaramanga, Colombia, where he received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and taught for 20 years.
The program would provide a reciprocal opportunity for students and faculty to study, research, and teach abroad UC Merced students could spend time in Colombia and vice versa, for example. He feels confident the program would be beneficial to both universities, leading to a rich cultural exchange.
"Many brilliant students at UIS can not afford to get their master's or doctorate degrees," Gavilan says. He hopes to offer opportunities to overcome that obstacle. He envisions students from both UIS and UC Merced following in his footsteps he found funding through a Fulbright Fellowship for his master's and doctoral studies at Purdue University.
Gavilán believes that the exchange program could begin in fall 2006, if not sooner. His wife, Yolanda Pineda, also attended and taught at the Universidad Industrial and is eager to help get the collaborative effort between the two universities off the ground.
One of Merced's biggest appeals for Gavilan and Pineda and their three daughters, Laura, Daniela and Carol, was the allure of a small, relaxed community. They had been residing in Bucaramanga, a beautiful but densely populated area in the Andes Mountains.
The couple is committed to sharing their Colombian culture with the Merced community and recently organized an event at their youngest daughter's school. Parents and students were invited to bring clothing, videos, photos, and crafts to share their respective cultures with other students and their families.
"I want to create a community where cultural traditions and heritage are passed along to the next generation," said Gavilán.