El Sol de México
The newspaper “El Sol de Mexico” published an article about Yachay Tech
Here is an official translation, by Yachay Tech.
Carlos Castillo-Chávez, a Mexican academic who has been living in the United States for 42 years where he has taught at different Universities like Cornell, home to 40 Nobel Laureates, and Arizona State University, where he created the Simon A. Levin Center of Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences, is now the Rector of Yachay Tech University, in Ecuador.
Originally born in Mexico City and filled with that humbleness that only comes from knowledge, this is what he said during our interview:
It was an international competition. There were 38 candidates from around the world. Then there were 10 and then the final three. The Board of Trustees picked me out of those three and then the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, ratified my appointment as member of the Board so that I could serve as Rector.”
He stated that the Ecuadorian university focuses on research and experimental technology and that its name “Yachay” means “knowledge”; deep knowledge as a way of life and learning.
He mentioned that the Board of Trustees is in charge of building the City of Knowledge that will accommodate national laboratories, and a world-class scientific community, like a Silicon Valley.
It will be located in Imbabura, near Urcuquí. It will have dormitories, and a library that will open 24/7; a concept completely different than what we know in Latin America.
According to Castillo-Chávez, “I’ve been going to Colombia for 20 years now. I decided I was going to build a consortium with Latin American universities. We started this about three years ago. It’s not just about getting together; the idea is to create a group of scientists that know each other well enough and that are interested in solving regional problems. We have mathematicians, biologists, immunologists, from all areas.” We are trying to solve sustainability problems, and diseases like Zyka, dengue fever, and others that are important in the region.” I started going to Ecuador after this, as I am collaborating with the National Institute of Public Health Research.
Regarding his academic training, he says, “I am a mathematician, but spent three years doing a postdoc in Evolutionary Biology in Cornell.”
As of how he got to be the Rector of the Ecuadorian University, Castillo-Chávez explains that when he was getting to know the people that participated in the consortium, they asked him if he was interested in being nominated for Rector at Yachay Tech.
“By then I had already arranged with Arizona State University that I would spend 6 months there, since I have the Simon A. Levin Center of Mathematical Sciences, and 6 months in Latin America doing what I like.”
What is the challenge you are facing with the Ecuadorian University?
– Universities like this, like what Yachay Tech has planned, don’t just naturally appear out of nowhere right now. There are some examples, like Kaust University in Saudi Arabia, but money is not an issue for them. They have 10 trillion for research.”
The idea of building an international university in Latin America where competition between professors and researchers will be worldwide is very common. Ecuador’s idea is to build a university that 20 years from now will be known for its excellence and to recruit extraordinary people to accelerate the change and innovation process and give more opportunities to more Ecuadorian young people.
This university will also welcome students from around the world, as it will have the highest standards. Deans must have more than 100 publications, and 25% of those must have been in the best journals of the world.
In order to be hired as faculty member, you have to have more than 50 publications. Standards are extremely high, and salaries are very high and competitive too.
He stressed the fact that most of these individuals could have higher salaries someplace else, but the program in Ecuador is their opportunity to do something important in their lives.
TALENT IS WHAT LATIN AMERICA HAS THE MOST
The famous researcher mentions that,
“I was a professor at Cornell, which is like Harvard, and they treated me wonderfully. I still have my appointment there and a grant for my research. I left Cornell 14 years ago and I still have funds.”
Then he says, “When I transferred to Arizona State University I also went from a good institution to an extraordinary one. In 10 years a professor from Columbia transformed the University and rebuilt the City of Tempe, in the metropolitan area of Tucson. This gave the university a much broader Latin population.”
Its total transformation took 12 years. In the last two years it was ranked the most innovative university in the United States, followed by Stanford and MIT.
“This is the kind of universities where I feel the most useful. I’ve had many students from Latin America, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, and many who are children of Mexicans. We have produced a great number of PhDs. We have had great success with the PhD in Applied Mathematics, Social Sciences and Biology.”
“We created the Simon A. Levin Center of Mathematical Computational and Modeling Sciences at Arizona State University. We are the university that produces the most number of students that will work in mathematics.”
He also states that, “this Yachay Tech platform gives us the opportunity to have great impact in Ecuador.”
He mentions that Latin American countries have a lot of resources to take advantage of. “There is talent in Mexico, in Colombia, in Ecuador. Talent is what they have the most. The tough part comes from other directions.”
– It is more of a factor for people from provinces than from cities. The other factor is that many Latin Americans don’t truly believe “they can”.
This is something that is very common in the United States. If you have a student that took one year of Spanish in high school or college and you ask them if they speak Spanish they will say yes. “Of course! I took one year of Spanish!” and they will be confident when they say it!
If you ask a Chinese student who took Math for 5 years, they will say “I know some Calculus.”
That’s the difference with an American. They say we’re going to the moon and we’re going to do it.
That pattern that we have of saying “who knows, maybe” is everywhere and it is so irritating. It is so hard to accomplish something extraordinary if you’re only thinking that you can only get so far.
One of the things that I want to hear when I ask a Latin American Physics student why he is studying physics is “because I’m going to be the next Nobel Prize in Physics.” That’s what I want to hear.
“That’s my role in Ecuador: to show them over and over again that they CAN do it”, said the Mexican researcher that now leads this innovative university in Ecuador.
If you want to read he original article in spanish, click here: