While Mexico City generally grabs the world’s attention as a major regional center of business and culture, other cities around the country also merit a second look. While many may be unfamiliar with Monterrey in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon, this dark horse of a metropolis is one of the country’s wealthiest cities and is a consolidated seat of culture and education.
Many Mexican and foreign multinationals call Monterrey, the third largest metropolitan area in Mexico, home, including FEMSA, CEMEX, British American Tobacco, Siemens, and LG Electronics. Moreover, many foreign companies use Monterrey, in lieu of Mexico City, as their home base for Mexico.
The city’s booming business culture has lent it not only wealth but also a high standard of living. In 2010, Mercer Consulting placed Monterrey 98th in the world and first in Mexico in its Quality of Living ranking.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Monterrey also boasts one of the country’s top universities: Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon
). Officially established in 1933, UANL is the city’s oldest institution of higher learning and traces its origins back to 1824 when it was a law school. Some 35 years later, a civil academy and a school of medicine were founded. In 1933, these schools were united under the name Universidad de Nuevo Leon with the addition of engineering, chemistry and pharmacy, and nursing and obstetrics, among other colleges. In 1971, the university gained its autonomy and today, UANL celebrates 79 years at the forefront of education in the region.
UANL is the third largest public university in Mexico and was ranked in 2009 by Mexican newspaper El Universal as the fifth best university in the country. With total enrolment of nearly 142,000 at its seven campuses, it offers 247 academic programs among its 26 departments.
Dr. Jesus Ancer Rodriguez, UANL Rector and former Director of the Faculty of Medicine, stresses the importance of quality and research at the university, and is proud of UANL’s achievements. “We called upon an external organization – the Inter-institutional Committees for the Evaluation of Higher Education (CIESS) – to come and evaluate the quality of our education. Currently, there are just 13 universities in Mexico that have 100% of their courses classified as level one, which is the highest. We are the only one in the country that for three years running has achieved level one. In this quest, we had to conduct extra training among professors and encourage some to pursue higher degrees. I would like to say that today, 94% of our full-time teaching staff hold master’s and doctorate degrees. By next year, that figure will reach 100%,” says Dr. Ancer.
“It is part of the university genome to generate knowledge. This is the only way that society can advance.”
Dr. Jesus Ancer Rodriguez,
Rector of Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon
Furthermore, UANL is the only ISO 9001:2008 certified university in Mexico.
With quality and excellence as its guideposts, UANL places great emphasis on research (indeed, its research system has 480 rigorously selected researches, a number surpassed by only four other universities in Mexico) and earlier this year began construction on a new section, the US$15.1 million Research Center for Biotechnology and Nanotoxicology. Researchers at this future center will investigate the modern-day problem of the deteriorating quality of air, water and food, and will offer technical assistance to industry in an effort to increase sustainability and improve health.
“The most important thing is to generate new knowledge through research,” says Dr. Ancer. “It is part of the university genome to generate knowledge. This is the only way that society can advance.”
The new research center isn’t the only novelty at Nuevo Leon’s largest university, however. New courses and programs have been created to stay abreast of changes in technology, society and business as well as changes in Mexico’s priorities. These include degrees in mechatronics, aeronautical engineering, petroleum engineering, multimedia and digital animation, international business, security, genomic engineering, biotechnology and nanotechnology, among others.
Preparing students for their professional futures in the classroom, however, isn’t where the learning ends; UANL students are required to donate four hours of their time per month over six months to community service.
“The university has 15,000 students in all areas working on community events. We created a volunteer program so they can ‘adopt’ institutions that need their help. We like to remind our students that the university is public and therefore we owe a great deal to society,” says Dr. Ancer.
The university’s social responsibility policy has become such an integral part everyday life to the extent that it has been included in UANL’s Vision 2020. Dr. Ancer explains: “We’ve just finished writing Vision 2020, which dictates that we continue doing everything we have on now. The social responsibility section defines what the university has accomplished to date and what we expect for the future to change society.”
Vision 2020 goes further to address sustainability, as well. “We’ve also added as a central point sustainability and the environment. For this, I decided to create the Sustainable Development Secretariat so that all departments, students and systems work on recycling, energy saving, etc. The Vision 2020 has also led to the creation of the Economic Development Secretariat. We’re the only university with such an entity. Its purpose is to generate additional resources through agreements, the sale of services, and through businesses, given that we’ve already got patents and experiences. This money will help finance the university’s future growth,” says the rector.
As a famed university in a thriving city, it’s been quite easy for UANL to attract foreign professors and students to its campuses and to form partnerships with universities in the U.S. and Canada. As for Mexico’s reputation in these turbulent times, Dr. Ancer is reassuring in that Monterrey is quiet and safe and that “now is the moment to strengthen ties with universities around the world.”