Memoirs of a Campus Director by Juan Ceballos

Following 25 years of professional life as electronics and telecommunications engineer and having managed business units, I took to the time to return to my Alma Mater at Popayán, the Universidad del Cauca to pursue a Master Degree in Engineering. On the 1st of May 2018, together with two young engineers, we presented to the Hult Prize in Bogotá a project for renewal energies using nano-grids called Inclusive Solar Power for Colombian Peace. It was a terrific experience.  We had the opportunity to network with ambassadors to Colombia coming from Sweden and Germany, moreover, we interacted with venture fund managers that provided constructive feedback coming from their experience.

It was apparent that some universities had structured departments to select and support their teams. For the Universidad del Cauca it was the first time that a team was participating in the Hult Prize. Nobody had heard of the event before.

On July 2018, I got an invitation to become a Campus Director for the Universidad del Cauca (2018-2019). Taking this opportunity wholeheartedly, I created the corresponding website and fan page.

The Universidad del Cauca has about 15,000 students in several campus around the city of Popayán and an additional camp at Santander de Quilichao.  I went directly to the Dean of the University, to request resources: people to make a up a team, judges and a venue for the OnCampus event.

José Luis Diago, the Dean, directed me to the viceDean for Investigation, Hector Villada to get the necessary support. Following the meeting with Hector who assigned the DAE (División de Articulación con el Entorno), headed by Adolfo Plazas, to support the OnCampus event and to provide the air tickets and hotel accommodation for the regional event in Bogotá to the winning team.  Catalina Rua was assigned as the team to support in the logistics. She went ahead and recruited the judges and scheduled the event. In addition the graphics team from the DAE made all the promotional material for the University’s intranet and a massive e-mail inviting the students to participate.

Carmen Vargas and Carlos León from the DAE arranged for the tickets and the lodging of the team. The OnCampus event was planned for the morning of the 14th of December 2018 at the Auditorium of the Administration faculty at the Tulcán campus of the university. I had the pleasure of knowing Carlos and Adolfo during my time as undergrad. Catalina, Carlos and me worked in a cluster of IT companies a few years ago.

A local newspaper ran an article encouraging participation of the students in the event, thanks to Alberto Muñoz director of the newspaper and a close friend.

So we were all set for the event on the 14th of December, with over 10 teams registered and our judges all set. Then we ended up in the middle of a national students strike and during a  demonstration on the 13th of December a student of the Universidad del Cauca got seriously injured. The Dean decided to close the University on the 14th of December, and the DAE cancelled the event. All the teams started calling me as we were at the deadline for participation on the regional event. Without expecting it Juan Fernando Vergara, brother of a close friend called me first thing on the morning of the 14th offering to hold the OnCampus event at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (FACA), which was open for other on going event and it was far from downtown and turmoil. He even offered bilingual judges with vast experience in entrepreneurship. Took his offer, re-scheduled the event for the afternoon of the 14th and I rushed to downtown trying to get a meeting with the Dean and Vice Dean to get their agreement, eventually managed to get the authorizations from University, VRI and DAE, before lunch.

In the afternoon we had the event with fantastic judges, 10 teams and the PR coverage by the DAE. The winning team was Youth Led Tourism followed closely by ScientiAgro. After filling all the required paper work and communication to the Hult Prize, got the confirmation the first team was going to the regionals in Bogotá, and we had a surprise, ScientiAgro was invited to the regional in Rio de Janeiro. That was quite interesting as we had planned all along just to send one team, now we had two but the commitment was to finance the travel of only one team. ScientiAgro was an electronics engineer team, so they managed to get the faculty of electronics engineering to cover the trip eventually to Mexico city.

With Youth Led Tourism arranged a mentoring session with me in preparation for the Regional in Bogotá and off they went early in May, ending up 2nd and invited everyone to send a video for the Wildcard Round. They were selected to go to Hult Castle!

All very excited, now working on how to get financed for the trip and visa costs.  It was a fantastic experience to be a Campus Director, promote ideas from our students and increase the visibility of the university.

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