In an organization of our size, the profiles and diverse experiences of our leadership is something that has always inspired and interested me. Couple that with the fact that we are a large, mission-driven global company, working across many geographical, social, and economic strata, and it becomes clear that the profiles of those leading many of our key regions, countries, and departments are unique and informative.
For those reasons, we’ve started a series of “Laureate Leadership Perspectives” featuring short, targeted interviews with some of our leaders in order to share a look into their leadership journeys, insights about our network, and thoughts on the future.
One of the first people that came to mind when deciding who we would talk to first was Jesus Villate, CEO of the Laureate Andean Region, which includes eight institutions in Chile and Peru. Jesus has been with Laureate for more than 12 years and has spent time on campuses, as a rector, and also leading some of our key business units. His perspective on our students, operations, and unique role in higher education is one that we can all learn from.
Esther Benjamin: Tell me more about what drew you to Laureate and what kind of work you had been doing before joining us.
Jesus Villate: I was working in telecommunications [as an executive with Verizon, formerly MCI] and had been a part of some amazing innovations, including the growth of the internet and all that went with that. But, I still thought there had to be something more, maybe something with more of a mission. I got to know people involved with Laureate and became more and more interested. It got to the point where I decided to join the company, and it’s been a fantastic experience, to say the least.
EB: You joined Laureate in 2004 as VP of Business Development in Mexico and Central America, and since then, you’ve worked across many different areas, can you tell us more about what that experience has been like?
JV: I have been fortunate to work not only in different geographic environments, but across many parts of our business, including in business development, as a CFO [for the Andean region], and as a rector [at Instituto Profesional AIEP]. Now, I have the opportunity to lead the Andean region. This variety of roles has helped to build a profile that I think is somewhat unique in our network. But no matter your role, you must be analytical and forward-looking to really be successful with this organization, and because of the experiences available within our work, we have so many interesting and competent leaders.
EB: The Andean region is one with many different types of institutions, specializing in a diverse range of offerings. What is notable to you about the region and what excites you moving forward?
JV: Between these two countries [Chile and Peru], we have many important models and innovations. To begin with, Chile is a “founder” in a lot of ways in our network. Many things that we take for granted now, were started in Chile. UNAB exemplified the complex university with research model. UDLA Chile demonstrated how working adult programs could be successful. AIEP proved that technical vocational education was something we could do as well as any other institution, and perhaps better. Peru is one of the largest countries in the network in terms of number of students, despite being newer and having younger institutions. It is growing extremely quickly and there are many opportunities, all while being led by truly impressive leaders. I know that they will be at the forefront of innovation and transformation for Laureate. All of this has been possible with the support of the tremendous leaders we have in both countries, who show every day significant collaboration with the network and the institutions that are part of it.
EB: When it comes to Laureate’s Here for Good mission, can you think of any specific examples you have seen on our campuses or within our leadership?
JV: Laureate truly lives out the vision we have for our network on the campus level. I see it every day in people that we work with. First off, in Chile, we have faced challenging times for many years now, but the loyalty of the people in our organization is truly remarkable. Even those who have been with us for shorter lengths of time recognize our vision and have become some of our key defenders. In Peru, we recently had terrible flooding, especially in the north of the country near our campuses in Trujillo, and I saw how it wasn’t even a question that our institutions would help communities respond and recover from the crisis. They were doing it before anyone even asked them. And lastly, if we even look at the leadership in the highest levels of government in Chile and Peru, it is clear that we are having an impact that extends far beyond our campuses. In Chile, the current speaker of the house [Paula Narvaez] is one of our graduates and the environmental minister [Marcelo Mena Carrasco] was previously the director of our Center for Sustainability at UNAB. And in Peru, the minister of education [Marilú Doris Martens Cortés] is a graduate of UNAB, and the former dean of our business school at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) [Jack Zilberman Fleischman] was just named vice-minister of institutional management for the Peruvian Ministry of Education.
EB: What impressive examples of Here for Good in action. Lastly, as we look to the future, what do you think all of us at Laureate should keep at the front of our minds as we continue our work?
JV: First, we must always keep our focus on students and let that drive our work. We can’t let anything get in the way of that. We also should keep it simple by leading by example across the many different areas of our operations. And lastly, we must work as a team for the benefit of our network and all that we do for the communities we serve. All of this, will help us to guarantee that we our work is in alignment with our mission and B Corp designation.
I want to thank Jesus for taking the time to talk with me, and for his insights about our network and dedication to our mission. We are looking forward to featuring more of our leaders and identifying the ways that we can learn from each other to better serve our network.