Transforming Knowledge into Social Impact: The Responsibility of Universities

(Adapted from the original by Arturo Padilla, October 30, 2023:

In a world where global challenges demand concerted and innovative responses, the role of higher education institutions in shaping a better future is more crucial than ever. This was the central theme addressed by Lic. Antonio Leaño Reyes, Rector of the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG), during his participation in the “Educational Social Responsibility Symposium.” This event was part of the celebration of UAG’s Golden Jubilee, marking over 50 years of dedication to education, promotion of social responsibility, innovation, and the defense of life, family, and transcendent values.

Reyes emphasized that the core social responsibility of higher education institutions lies in ensuring that their students, staff, and alumni act for the common good. This involves transforming knowledge into social impact and, consequently, a commitment to the future of society as a whole.

“The transformation required for the 21st century demands that we lay down tracks for a 22nd-century economy,” said Reyes, who is widely recognized for his role in UAG’s transformation. He stressed the importance of modifying the culture of teaching to meet the needs of a globalized, digitalized, and ever-changing society.

The rector outlined that responsible education means shaping individuals who can actively participate as citizens and contribute to societal improvement through knowledge, culture, and their freedom directed toward the common good. This involves an educational management that focuses on academic integrity and participation in joint projects addressing social and environmental challenges.

UAG’s approach to academic management and social responsibility involves empowering students to face future challenges and build a sustainable future based on a global understanding of problems. Reyes highlighted the necessity of starting with institutional visions and missions that explicitly commit to social responsibility. This commitment should be integrated into strategic planning, with specific objectives and goals, and the allocation of necessary resources.

To manage and coordinate these initiatives effectively, UAG has developed organizational structures, policies, and standards that support this commitment. This includes interdisciplinary initiatives that foster intercultural understanding, empathy, and action oriented toward global justice.

As part of its commitment, UAG includes courses focused on social responsibility in its education programs and engages in service-learning that combines education with social action. This offers students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and learn in real-life settings while contributing to the community.

Reyes also stressed the importance of promoting research and establishing partnerships, like with the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (CEMEFI) and its regional ally, the Fundación Expo Guadalajara, to tackle social and environmental challenges.

Finally, Reyes called on societal actors, including government, education, and businesses, to join this significant initiative and promote social responsibility as a corporate or institutional practice, as this will lead to transformative changes both internally and externally.

The symposium also featured contributions from experts and educators, including Dr. Fernando León, President of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP); Dr. Antonio Flores, President of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities in the United States (HACU); Dr. Ma. Vicenta Mestre, Rector of the University of Valencia, Spain; Dr. Bernardo González-Aréchiga, Secretary-General of the Federation of Mexican Institutions of Higher Education (FIMPES); and Dr. Arturo Cherbowski, General Director of Universia Mexico.