“It is very rare that you will get a job where you work alone or by yourself… we need to prepare our students to work in the new environment of today.” – Dr. Carlos Padín, Puerto Rico

A few short months ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to Puerto Rico, for two very important initiatives: first, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Microsoft Puerto Rico and the Department of Education, renewing our commitment of working together to transform education for five more years.  As a part of our alliance, we agreed to continue our joint work enabling access and technology adoption in schools; developing academic programs to improve student skills and competencies; providing ongoing professional development for teachers; and connecting Puerto Rican learning communities with others worldwide.

And second, I was thrilled to be a part of the Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forum in Puerto Rico. It was here that I met Dr. Carlos Padín, Chancellor of the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico. Padín has been instrumental in driving forward the school mission of providing a realistic and holistic education experience.

According to Padín, his school strives to “connect the university with the real society. The students and the professionals that we are preparing for the world are ready to work at the problems the country has. So, we have this practical approach to academic degrees.”  Each academic program also has a research component, which provides every student with experience inside and outside the classroom.

Padín has driven a focus on applying this academic research to broader societal needs, specifically environmental issues. He was responsible for developing the School of Environmental Affairs, which currently has more than 250 graduate students. Through his leadership, the school of Environmental Affairs has been recognized for its academic excellence and research. “One of the natural places to go was the environmental field,” says Padín. “Because this is a small island… every natural resource on the island has been impacted by the way we are developing and growing.”

The university developed a set of studies to show how development impacted social, economic, and health aspects of the Puerto Rican people. Their work outlined the problematic challenges and issues that development has created. But they didn’t stop there. “It’s very easy to criticize,” says Padín. “It’s not as easy to offer solutions. So we developed a series of solutions to the way we had been doing business on the island.”  These solutions were exposed to the Puerto Rican community at large, and have been incorporated in the island’s public policy.

Today, Padín shares the strategy behind the school of Environmental Affairs, as well as the new development of a business incubator at the university. At the heart of it all, says Padín, universities need to provide relevance to their students. “You cannot keep students in the classrooms anymore,” he adds.

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Carlos Padín.

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