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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carolina, USFQ reaffirm commitment to partnership in Galápagos

President Carlos Montúfar of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador visited Carolina last month to join Chancellor Carol L. Folt in reaffirming their commitment to the Carolina-USFQ partnership and to the institutions’ collaborative activities in the Galápagos Islands.

At a ceremony on Nov. 8, Folt and Montúfar signed an agreement to commit continued support and funding for the Galápagos Science Center, operated jointly by the universities on San Cristóbal Island in Ecuador. In addition, the two chancellors executed a letter of intent with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and the Galápagos National Park to explore collaboration on a possible bio-specimen bank for biological material collected from the Galápagos Islands.

The GSC, a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, is the world’s only university research center in the Galápagos and provides a unique platform for Carolina faculty and students to conduct research and study within a cherished UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stephen J. Walsh, Lyle V. Jones Distinguished Professor of Geography at Carolina, and Carlos Mena, a professor in the College of Biological and Environmental Sciences at USFQ, direct the GSC and lead the joint Galápagos Initiative.

During the visit, Montúfar was accompanied by Diego Quiroga, dean of research and external affairs; Carlos Mena, co-director of the Galápagos Science Center; Claudia Tobar, director of the Institute of Teaching and Learning; and Alexandra Velasco, director of the Office of International Programs.

Sea lions on the beach

The delegation met with many of the faculty and staff who have been involved in the collaboration, including members of the Galápagos Science Center advisory board. They also explored possibilities for research collaborations and student engagement with the departments of geography, biology, marine sciences and anthropology, as well as with the curriculum in environment and ecology, the study abroad office and the schools of nursing and education and the graduate school. In addition, a reception celebrating the partnership was held in the FedEx Global Education Center.

The Carolina-USFQ partnership began in 2006 with collaboration between Walsh and Mena. The universities dedicated the joint GSC in 2011. The range of Carolina faculty engaged in study in the Galápagos and with USFQ reflects the diverse research undertaken and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. Disciplines represented include anthropology, biology, computer science, dentistry, economics, education, environmental sciences and engineering, geography, geological sciences, journalism, marine sciences, nutrition, political science and sociology. Students from both universities attend study abroad programs at the center that encourage movement between the classroom, field and laboratory. The center also provides education and outreach to the community.

Carolina and USFQ also collaborate outside of the Galápagos in a number of areas, and faculty members are often adjunct professors at the partner institution and serve on graduate committees. In addition, there is a growing undergraduate student exchange between the home campuses.

For more information, visit the UNC Global website at