La Universidad Católica San Antonio, otherwise known as simply UCAM, is one of Europe’s most prestigious universities. Everything PR News recently had the distinct pleasure of talking with the school’s head of international communications, Dr. José Luis Mendoza García. In a candid interview, the son of now famous UCAM founder José Luis Mendoza Pérez, talks about UCAM’s recent outreach, responsibility, and his an interesting ideal with regard to the current economic crisis.
Before jumping off into the discussion, the reader should have some background on, not only Dr. Mendoza, but the University his father founder back in 1996. Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia is situated in Murcia, Spain, to the South and East, the school is roughly half was in between Valencia and Granada. What makes the university unique among Catholic schools of a type now, is that it was the first such school to come to being via Pope John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. This allowance made for the establishment of Catholic universities by laypersons, paved the way for D. José Luis Mendoza Pérez (the senior) to establish these institutions of higher learning.
Fast forward to 2012, and la Universidad Católica San Antonio (UCAM) serves the academic and European community. The school also has partnerships with dozens of universities around the world, Catholic and nonreligious as well, and is home to more than 7,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs in a variety of fields. Dr. Mendoza was kind enough to tend to questions across a spectrum of subjects.
EPR – Dr. Mendoza, as Director of International Communications at UCAM your work takes on an interesting “global” flavor naturally. How important is it for UCAM to engage with schools and students abroad?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – As a university situated in south-eastern Spain, UCAM is naturally obliged to become an international partner and an Intelligence Center linked with the world´s best institutions. The geographic nature of our region and the great distances one can find in the Iberian Peninsula have obliged us to earn our livelihood abroad.
Therefore the University has developed a global strategy which could be summarized as follows:
a) Global presence in the campus and increased diversity among students
b) Creation of an International Relations Department made up of communication experts which are divided by geographic areas.
c) Conversion of our Degrees into English (Business, Medicine, Communications, Nursery, Education as starting degrees)
d) Opening of strategic offices in the main capitals (Lima, Brussels, Yakarta, Singapo,eRoma, London)
e) Creation of a campus network abroad (La Habana, Roma, Singapore and Oxford in progress).
f) Creation of San Antonio Business School in order to accredit 3 star programs which allow access to the University according to global rankings, selecting our teachers from all over the world (literally, ALL OVER the world).
EPR – Along these lines, I noted back in March that UCAM and Universidad Azteca in Mexico partnered to launch several double masters programs across continents. Do you see these kinds of collaborations as a “must” for progressive education?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – This is the case of a partner who opens opportunities in evolving markets. The Bologna Process has paralyzed certain public universities and it has also created “Blue Oceans”, new markets that didn´t exist before in Higher Education. We work with several institutions in Austria which, paradoxically, don’t have a good understanding with their public universities (as the one in Vienna)… We may speak different languages but we “visualize” the future of Higher Education in a common way and this involves a cross-continent education. In Austria we are working, for example, on Online bilingual training (English-German), in business, psychology (coaching) and shortly we will work in international mediation.
EPR – When you were a Phd. candidate at Cal Berkeley Dr. Mendoza, you were a visiting scholar at the Center of Studies in Higher Education (CSHE). Can you speak briefly about such collaborative opportunities, their value to individuals, and perhaps similar programs at UCAM?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – During my year at Haas Business School (UC Berkeley) I had the great opportunity of analyzing the multi-campus management of the University of California and to meet key leaders from different California Universities such as Stanford University, UCLA, and so on… California has one of the most competitive university systems in the world, a system which succeeded in mixing the know-how of the industries with the R&D of the Universities and technological centers. At UCAM, we have developed a Vice-Chancellors’ Committee for International affairs with 140 partners. A great part of said partners are Research Oriented Universities. The objective is to have the possibility of enjoying a research period in the partner University. Our main goal is that every teacher at the UCAM, as well as all PhD students who initiate their thesis, have the possibility of staying at state-of-the-art universities for periods of time … All subject to a selection by the researcher and taking into account the interests of other departments abroad.
There are great opportunities in this regard and the UCAM is opening a strategic department focusing on this area: research oriented scientific productivity (publications with international impact, trend-topics oriented to get quotes from other researchers, obtain visibility and fundraising for developing patents and inclusion into Markets).
EPR – As news and consulting people in the digital age, we put a lot of emphasis on social media, globalization, and Internet technologies Dr. Mendoza. I notice that you seem to have heeded the call to “the conversation” – you have Twitter, Facebook, and g+ accounts that seem very wired. My question is; “How big a role does SM play in UCAM’s curriculum and business growth?”
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – Corporate and personal Social Media are KEY ELEMENTS in order to create a transparent and effective culture. I have personally used them for a short time but I really love them: I really like people to know what I am doing, all I proactively do, how much I progress… and I love thinking that someone may avail an article from Harvard Business Review which inspired my work that day.
We used Social Media at the UCAM. We were the first or one of the first universities which implemented Facebook and we did it for one very good reason: in 2007 I was in Berkeley and we had the opportunity to see the trend. The UCAM currently uses all social networks, we use them for monitoring the social status of public opinions, to resolve any incidents with our students, to answer and inform the stakeholders and above all and we principally use social media as the strategic base of our corporate communication to spread our contribution. Right now the UCAM has enough networks and contacts so that just one Tweet can reach 120,000 people related to us by proximity, by geography and of by common interests. We have a Social Media Manager, a Social Media Assistant and 12 Social Managers, one for each of the sport teams of the UCAM or key departments. For example, we are now launching Medicine studies and the communication tool “Twitter” is something compulsory for the teachers and WhatsUp is the internal communication tool used, to a greater extent more than e-mails… We have also recently signed an agreement with GOOGLE. All our teachers, employees and students use Google Apps and Google Plus as a tool for working in teams. We have implemented them this year and with great success! I won´t talk more about online marketing and our digital marketing strategies in Asia and South America but they go in a similar direction.
EPR – Switching gears, we have asked every decision maker about their role models. Who influenced you the most in your life and career Dr. Mendoza?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – Without any doubt my father and two of my teachers, the Pope and a football player. My father is a role model for me, a person for whom life is a test of faith, lived in virtue and without fearing to create new and revolutionary things. He transmitted the values of Faith, Christianity and self-transcendence, life philosophy and a way of acting in life, guidelines, a compass to help guide myself when there is not a clear or well-defined map to follow. A school teacher named Pedro Joaquin convinced me without wishing to visualize the roadmap of my life … Another teacher from the Università di Bologna, Stefano Zamagni, showed me the secret of economic and human growth: generosity and reciprocity are above market laws. The Pope John Paul II is someone for me who is worth being read about and listened to… but also analyzed and following his “Vision”. A football player: Raúl Gonzalez Blanco. He is someone who showed me that leadership and service are above skills and abilities…. to give it your all at all times in our lives, applying moral principles above opportunistic actions.
EPR – Along the lines of expert guidance and advice, given the current economic outlook and especially for Spain, what kind of career choices would you recommend for young people? Is the collegiate path more or less crucial in the coming years?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García– The University is fundamental in this process along with the development of values within the Family and the person’s environment. The path of the future, without any doubt, will be areas of knowledge including humanities, philosophy and moral ethics as the learning core of any person. Then we must talk about specialties and here we find two options: all learning corresponding to the natural talents and strengths of each student will always be a success for the University, the instructor and the student. I love the crisis, it´s something marvelous, and the best thing that ever happened in the last 50 years. It’s taking the desire to possess in second place below the desire to be or improve the way we are. The key question of training, no matter what your specialty is, will always be the formation of our character and the education in virtue. That is how we work at the UCAM, convinced that this value will always be a source for the development of service-minded social leaders.
EPR – I asked Melissa Waggener Zorkin, of Waggener Edstrom, one of the world’s most influential PR firms about her company’s “optimization” for engaging people via SM and other new channels. Do you think UCAM is ahead of the curve on digital awareness?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – Not at all. UCAM is really far from a modern digital corporation. We are very far from it and this is the reason why we have created several working teams that we call “Trojan Horses”. In order to execute an organizational change towards a digital organization, our strategy is working thanks to these “Trojan Horses” we have at UCAM. We take 3 or 4 employees of whom we invite to change their day-to-day management or communication using SM; we put them into contact with “viral” persons creating a boomerang effect in their departments. Now Twitter is starting to be used as a communication tool but we are just talking about 5-10% of our staff… we are very far from getting it soon.
EPR – Being multinational, multicultural, even multi-denominational in many aspects, academic institutions seem to have big hurdles to overcome. My questions is; “What is your best expertise or tool for overcoming the communications aspects here?”
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – This is an EXCELLENT question. The multicultural conflicts universities are now trying to overcome are a blessing. I recently had a meeting with my international communication department, we were all at the semifinals of the Europe Football Championships: a Portuguese, a German, an Italian… then I had a meeting with an Asian Team: a Chinese, an Indonesian, through Skype with our staff from Singapore and Malaysia… At my office we have 12 nationalities working together right now… isn’t it incredible? Our meetings are mainly held in English and we talk about the world, the trends found at the best universities and we hold interviews all over the world… I think Skype is a marvel for this purpose! It is a great tool. I do also recommend the use of Google Apps for cloud-computing jobs, it really increases the effectiveness and transparency of the teams. One of the subjects I take more care of is the human aspect of each person: everyone is worthy in the eyes of God, everyone has a family, a personality, a different leadership potential to be developed… we cannot generalize or standardize when we talk about international teams. We also find that the key is in establishment of a Mission and a Vision of the team: only if it is shared can multinational teams be made.
EPR – Every one of our interviewees has offered their “best advice” to the new professional. Can you offer yours Dr. Mendoza, from a communicator’s and an educator’s perspective?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García – I would give the following advice: to find God in everything and be friend with change. This rule comes from the 15th Century and was introduced by Saint Ignatius of Loyol, founder of the Society of Jesus, the greatest educative and religious multinational of all times.
EPR – Can you open a window for our readers where UCAM’s coming year is concerned?
Dr. José Luis Mendoza García– Of course… Oxford, London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Rome are our main fronts where we would like to open International Campuses. I cannot give much more information right now… follow me on twitter and you will receive news in the moment 😉 @jlmendoza83 THANK YOU!
Looking at Dr. Mendoza’s answers, a familiar chord strikes for me. In doing this series, I have made no secret of the fact that a larger discourse will be at hand, a look at leaders and decision makers, traits – expectations – their positions (or at least stated ones) on weighty issues. For Mendoza, and many of the CEOs and communicators I have questioned, there is an enthusiasm. A sense of optimism. Many in this day and time would jump on the veritable bandwagon of negativity, gloom and doom over Europe’s economy. To be certain, there is a lot about this time to be negative about. But a blessing?
And like other communicators “blessings” and turning lemons into lemonade (economic disaster into opportunity), Mendoza’s role models reflect a great deal too. I will never forget asking MWW Group’s CEO Michael Kempner about his hero, Ron Santo. I quote from Kempner’s answer there, in part:
“…Outside of politics, I grew up watching Ron Santo play for my beloved Chicago Cubs in the 1960s. Despite battling terrible diabetes and ultimately losing both legs to amputation, he loved the life he was given. No self pity, just real joy and a love for his Chicago Cubs…”
Michael is as much like his hero as anyone could ever expect a high powered PR to be. You can tweet him and see. So therein resides UCAM’s communicator’s core constituency – it occurs to me to be an undying faith in the positive nature of God, family, and change. I met with Dr. Mendoza via Twitter too, interestingly. Our client ComTranslations had done some work for UCAM, and I wanted to gain some insight into academia communications and PR. Apparently, schools employ the same excellence business firms do. Patterns do indeed emerge.
Thanks very much for the insights Dr. Mendoza. We’ll look for those tweets about UCAM California and so on.