On the 27th of April, a big crowd was gathering at the entrance of the School of Civil Engineering at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Some people were wearing black and golden robes and academic “regalia”, other people showed a more informal dress code, but all of them were “carrying” a big smile. It was the Graduation and Diplomas Delivery Ceremony for the 2021-2022 promotion of students, chaired by UPM Rector Guillermo Cisneros and with the presence of Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Third Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge. An outstanding event that also hosted a significant milestone for the EELISA Alliance: the issuance of the first eleven “EELISA Supplements”. In the words of Alberto Garrido, EELISA Coordinator, who was in charge of handing the EELISA Supplements to two of the honoured graduates, “The EELISA Supplement implies a recognition of the students who have carried out mobility and stays at another EELISA University. This is a document that is issued with the objective of reinforcing the curriculum of graduates, enhancing their employability and international projection.”
For the awarded students of the UPM School of Civil Engineering, this is also a way to receive recognition for their efforts to acquire multicultural skills, their ability to learn and work in international environments, and to get involved in projects with a societal impact in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. All are delivered by an experience that must represent at least 10% of the required ECTS to complete their studies.
Alberto Garrido (center) along with students Luis del Río Ferrer (left) and Carlos Nieto (right) who are holding their EELISA Supplements, awarded after their stay in the EELISA member institution École des Ponts ParisTech. Picture by Luis Martinez.
Dr. José Miguel Atienza, Director of the UPM School of Civil Engineering, holds the honor of being the first EELISA school director to have promoted such a milestone. In the following interview, he shares with us what this achievement means for him, and from his perspective, what it means for the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the EELISA Alliance as a whole.
Q. You are the first director of an EELISA institution that has delivered the EELISA supplement. From your point of view, what does this milestone mean for UPM’s School of civil engineering?
A. For the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and all its schools, internationalization has always been a key strategic line – we were pioneers in establishing double degrees with other European universities more than 30 years ago; we faced the launching of the ERASMUS program with great enthusiasm, we participated in the creation of international university networks such as ATHENS or MAGALHAES and now we are coordinating the EELISA Alliance. This is part of our university’s DNA.
In this context, we feel very honored that the first EELISA supplements have been issued in our School. But this is just a small detail. Above all, I would like to highlight the determination of all UPM Schools to contribute to the consolidation of EELISA in our university. And that is what we wanted to emphasize by integrating the delivery of the first EELISA supplements into an event as important for our School as the “Diplomas Ceremony”. For us, as the Civil Engineering School, this gesture towards EELISA and towards UPM is important.
Q. What is the added value of this EELISA supplement to the educational experience offered by your school?
A. At first, just like in any other groundbreaking initiative, this might be seen as something with a small value. However, it can lead to a game-changing scenario. For instance, some of us still remember the first ERASMUS. Who could tell us back then that ERASMUS was going to change the panorama of higher education in such a radical way? So, for me, the value of the EELISA supplement today is that it symbolizes the place where we should be: with a determined commitment to the European Universities Initiative and supporting the European Higher Education Area’s strategies.
Q. How do you think this supplement can become an incentive for students?
A. In general, all students are attracted to things that distinguish them. In this case, I think the incentive can come that way. Going through the experience of staying abroad in one of the EELISA universities is something new and different for them. Turning this new thing, this difference, into an added value is one of the challenges of EELISA.
Q. Finally, you were part of the driving team of the EELISA Alliance back in 2019 – what does it mean for you, personally, to witness the materialization of such EELISA supplement?
A. Yes, from a personal point of view I must confess that it was very exciting to witness how these first EELISA supplements were delivered at my School. I feel very proud to have participated in the creation of EELISA. But the most important thing for me is to see how something that was conceived back then is now being materialized and turned into a reality thanks to the effort of a new group of people. For this reason, I believe that we must congratulate Sofia d’Aguiar (EELISA Executive director), Alberto Garrido (EELISA Coordinator) and the entire EELISA team for the extraordinary work that they are doing. I want to send them a “Congratulations!” message and, of course, let them know that they can count on the UPM School of Civil Engineering as a platform of support to tackle next challenges.