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21.4.2021 | School of Business

FHNW Latin American Centre: Exchange with 43 partner universities in Latin America

The University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) has established a network in Latin America over the last several years, and developed competencies in the areas of practice-oriented vocational training and culture. Since September 2020, these activities have been coordinated by the FHNW Latin American Centre, which is headed by Paloma Baumann Carmona. She took on the role of lecturer of Spanish 25 years ago and has since then been committed to introducing insights into this new culture to the FHNW School of Business.

Universidad de San Andres in Argentina, Universidad de la Sabana in Colombia and Universidad Panamericana in México - these are the names of the youngest three of a total of 43 partner schools of the FHNW, which are located in the nine Latin American countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. They offer a range of networking opportunities both to FHNW students and continuing education participants, as well as to all lecturers, researchers, and practice partners who wish to enter into direct exchange with Latin America. In our consecutive education programmes, students are taught international competencies, thus improving their career prospects. And lecturers, researchers and practice partners can come into contact with scientific partners in Latin America through the network and activities of the FHNW and carry out joint education and research projects.

A new culture and many new ideas

"For students, the Latin American exchange is a journey of discovery," says Paloma Baumann Carmona, head of the new Latin American Centre. "Some didn't speak more than three words of Spanish before they left. When they came back, they could communicate and had learned about a new culture and many new ideas. It's absolutely fascinating to learn so much in such a short time. " Paloma Baumann Carmona herself grew up in Madrid, studied linguistics there and knew thus much about Latin America because its history and language are closely linked to Spain.

When she started as a lecturer for Spanish in Olten 25 years ago, she noticed that basic knowledge about Latin America was lacking in Switzerland. Since then she has been trying to change this, for example, as Academic Coordinator in the International Office of the School of Business since 1992, later for three years as Coordinator for International Relations with Latin America, Spain and Portugal and now as head of the Latin American Centre FHNW. Her main tasks include monitoring the political, economic and social situation in Latin America, especially Colombia, strategically building up and maintaining an (educational) network and promoting student and staff exchanges in Latin America.

Everything has grown slowly, it's been a journey of discovery not only for me, but also for the students and the whole school.

Paloma Baumann Carmona, Head of the FHNW Latin American Centre

Projects at the School of Business and the other schools of the FHNW

There is now a range of cooperation activities with Latin America at the School of Business and the other eight schools of the FHNW. For the first time, these are being coordinated by the Latin American Centre. As they got to know each other, it quickly became clear that the universities could learn a lot from each other. For example, from the projection system that was developed by the FHNW School of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geomatics and adopted, with minor adjustments, by the National Geographic Institute of Colombia as part of the reform of the land administration. Or from the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, which is active in the field of art, offering residencies to students and carrying out art projects with other universities. The FHNW Academy of Music, whose head of ancient music, Federico Sepúlveda, is from Colombia, is also in contact with various Latin American countries.

Summer School Entrepreneurship with EAFIT University in Medellin 

EAFIT University in Medellin (Colombia) and the FHNW School of Business run a joint two-week Summer School on entrepreneurship in an intercultural context. Students develop business ideas together during the two-week programme, with one week each in Colombia and Basel. The initiative came from Carmen Zahno, an FHNW School of Business alumna who graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration (International Management) in 2018. During her studies, she completed two semesters abroad with the support of the International Office. One of these was in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the other at EAFIT University in Medellin. Fascinated by how this city was transformed from being the most dangerous place in the world into being an innovative metropolis, she became involved in a joint project between the FHNW and EAFIT after her return. As the main topic of her bachelor’s thesis, she established the Summer School with Prof. Rolf Meyer. The programme has attracted a lot of interest from students at the FHNW and EAFIT since 2018.

Although the Summer School will take place virtually this year, the emphasis will still be on cultural exchange. Registration is now possible.

Thus, new ideas between Latin American universities and the FHNW are being continuously developed and quickly implemented. A Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Land Administration in Colombia was developed by the FHNW School of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geomatics in cooperation with Colombian partners and implemented in 2020. It was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Further initiatives along these lines are now emerging from this successful cooperation, and one such is about to be launched. Since the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the largest guerrilla movement in 2016, there have been many positive signs that the path is leading to a lasting peace, a "camino de paz." This is partly due to the many educational initiatives.

Paloma Baumann Carmona is convinced that exchanges between Switzerland and Latin America will continue to gain momentum: "A few years ago there was a boom in China, now it is in Latin America."

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