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Put all your experience to continue doing the Ibeoamerican University “one of the most outstanding institutions of higher education in the country”, the most emblematic university of those entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Mexico, is the main challenge and commitment that Dr. Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, upon taking office as the new rector for the period 2022-2026, in a territorial mandate that includes the Santa Fe campus, the Ibero Tijuana Unit, the Ibero High School and the Valle de Chalco University Technological Institute.

After receiving from the hands of Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, provincial superior of the Mexican Jesuits, the venerable one who invests him as the highest university authority, Arriaga Valenzuela outlined his assignment at the head of the institution in five axes of action: comprehensive human excellence, education with social impact, internationalization and interculturality, strengthening of Ignatian identity and economic efficiency and sustainability.

Luis Arriaga admits that he reaches the Ibero as a result of a tragedy and at a time of social and health crisis. The sudden and premature death of his predecessor, Saúl Cuautle Quechol, less than a year after taking office, just in September 2020, forced him to leave his term as rector of the ITESO, the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, and assume the new assignment.

Replacement of Covid-19, the new rector confirms “the importance of closeness and physical contact; the dialogue and the collective search of the Ignatian Magis to seek a more just and humane world.”

“It is a time to renew commitments and hopes”, he says in front of the university community that listens to him in the central esplanade of the campus.

“Making life continue is not everything, we have to think for what and in what way,” he refers, quoting the poet and writer Alberto Ruy Sánchez, distinguished graduate of the Iberoamerican.

Prior to his inauguration, Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, lawyer and doctor in Education for Social Justice, spoke with El Economista.

“The Ibero is a challenge for which ITESO prepared me, and I believe that I arrived with an attitude of learning from the community, from its teaching staff, and from the great creativity that Ibero students have always had,” he declares.

—How do you currently perceive the Ibero?

—“I perceive a university with a great recognized trajectory, which has trained people who are very committed to the social environment and to the support provided by a global educational tradition of five centuries, and this tradition is what leads it to insert itself in these processes of the present. Hence the importance of being at the forefront, of innovating, consulting and proposing to find solutions. That is what I am going to focus on, and I want the university to be the best place to study, and to offer students an education that prepares them for a diverse and changing world. Where they feel challenged, where their creativity flourishes and where they can learn more about themselves and update their potential. I also intend to strengthen and expand the capabilities of that great faculty of professors, researchers, and investigators that the Iberoamericana has, to generate an exchange of knowledge with a global and intercultural perspective that allows us to respond to the great challenges of the Mexican reality and the world”.

Arriaga Valenzuela is a specialist in the field of education and human rights. He assumes the rectory after passing through the ownership of ITESO, the direction of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, a postdoctoral stay at the Stanford University Human Rights Center and his collaboration in the Presidency of the University of Santa Clara, in California.

From this expertise, he postulates that it is necessary to carry out increasingly interdisciplinary studies to influence the great problems that Mexico has and the great global issues. “We have the capacity to do it, I believe that pedagogical innovation hand in hand with new technologies will allow us to continue advancing to face the challenges of the present.

However, it clarifies that innovation should not be confused with technology, but that it “must encourage all human processes and not lose sight of inequalities and access to knowledge and opportunities.”

University with social relevance

For Luis Arriaga, rector of a Jesuit university historically recognized as an institution committed to social change, which made the daring decision to move to the garbage dumps of Santa Fe in the 1980s, the seed of the #YoSoy132 movement in 2012, “social impact It’s a mandate,” he says.

On January 15 in the newspaper La Jornada, the general director of Conacyt, María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, in an opinion article compared the decision of a Mexican to study a postgraduate degree at a private university with a child’s preference to eat fast food.

The director of Conacyt has repeatedly questioned the lack of research with a social impact from private universities, and even removed economic incentives from members of the National System of Researchers who belong to the private system and conditions the scholarships that Conacyt grants to programs of excellence that meet that profile.

Faced with this opinion, the rector Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, who has also been president since 2020 of the Association of Universities entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America (AUSJAL), which groups 30, sets his position: “The educational offer that the universities make private is of high quality, of course there are important differences. In the universities entrusted to the Society of Jesus we are open to discussing the issue, but it seems to me that the research that is being done in private universities, particularly in the Ibero, because it could lead to very unfortunate consequences, by removing subsidies to the research that is done from these universities”.

“Dr. Álvarez Buylla’s opinion is respectable, but I differ in the sense that private universities are not up to the level of postgraduate courses of high academic quality, since our accreditations and our graduates say otherwise.”

“Faced with these positions, my fear is that there is an attack on the scientific community, I also fear for the repercussions that these decisions may have for the future of Mexico, beyond whether resources are given or not, deep down what is At stake is the knowledge and development that must be promoted from all sectors, and it is a shared responsibility, and that is the challenge, because improving the lives of all Mexicans depends on it”, explains Arriaga.

For example, it mentions that “the pandemic made evident the need to rebuild the public health system, with a human rights perspective, and guarantee access to medicines and decent care for all people, especially the most disadvantaged.”

The Ibero will remain faithful to its mission

He defends that all researchers who have lost support in the Ibero, have always prioritized research with social relevance; however, he said that he will bet on dialogue with the authorities.

“The Ignatian imprint leads us to see the world as a meeting space in which we feel called to participate as people who take on the task of taking charge of reality,” he says.

“The Jesuit institutions prioritize those investigations that allow researchers to be linked to knowledge generation processes that promote equality, and a more just, democratic, more humane and peaceful Mexico.”

“But I believe that dialogue is essential to resolve these tensions that may exist with Conacyt or with government institutions, and we will always be open to dialogue, because the Ibero has always been a space for freedom of expression, we know that it is a principle that enriches our democracy, and therefore we remain open and free in this debate about the role that private universities play in promoting an education for social change,” he said.

However, Luis Arriaga believes that the debate should not focus on the false dichotomy about the social place where the research takes place. “It is not about creating confrontation schemes between the public university and the private university, but collaboration schemes to provide solutions to the social problems that concern us all, the environment, inequality, migration, justice, militarization of the country… Those are the issues that interest us too, and we are interested in continuing to build those bridges that we have always had with public universities for decades, and with private ones, of course.”

He assures that “The Ibero It will remain faithful to its mission of contributing to the achievement of a fairer, more humane, more supportive, more inclusive, more productive society, through all the transforming power that teaching and research have. We believe in justice in the face of so many forms of injustice and exclusion; we believe in honesty in the face of corruption schemes; we believe in solidarity that is opposed to individualism, and we also believe in the freedom that enables the expression of the human being and respect for diversity, those are the principles that guide our institutions”, he concludes.

Who is Luis Arriaga Valenzuela, SJ

He is a Jesuit priest born in Tijuana, BC, in 1970. He graduated with honors from the Bachelor of Laws (1989-1993) and the Bachelor of Religious Sciences (2002-2006), both from the Universidad Iberoamericana. He studied a master’s degree in Social Philosophy (1997-2001) at the Instituto Libre de Filosofía y Ciencias and at ITESO, in Guadalajara, as well as a master’s degree in Law, specializing in International Law and Justice (2012), at Fordham University. , In New York. She later received a doctorate in Education for Social Justice (2016) from Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, California. He has been trained in working with migrants and refugees in Chiapas; at the Labor Reflection and Action Center, in Guadalajara, and the Miguel Agustín Pro-Juárez Human Rights Center, in Mexico City.

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