Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble will deliver a lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito as part of his trip to Latin America.

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 Travels to Latin America to Deliver Lecture, Meet With Students, Alumni

Helble will deliver a lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and connect with members of the Lehigh community in Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and Panama. It is his first overseas trip as president.

In his first overseas trip as Lehigh president, Joseph J. Helble ’82 will visit four Latin American countries over the next week to deliver a lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and connect with alumni, students, families and international colleagues.

Helble and other Lehigh representatives will travel to Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and Panama, continuing Lehigh’s long history of engagement and collaboration with Latin American nations.

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82

“I’m excited to reconnect with members of the Lehigh alumni community during this trip and share with them everything that’s happening at the university,” Helble said. “Lehigh is a truly international campus, and global engagement is crucial for our graduates to thrive professionally and personally in today’s international arena.”

Helble’s trip to Latin America is aligned with Lehigh’s new strategic plan, Inspiring the Future Makers, which calls for broadening Lehigh’s global perspective and impact. The plan notes that Lehigh’s educational and research activities span the globe.

Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs, said Lehigh’s very first international students—more than 150 years ago—were from Latin American countries. She said Lehigh remains heavily active today with global partnerships and faculty research projects with Latin American institutions.

“It’s very appropriate that President Helble’s first international trip is to Latin America, because Lehigh has such a deep history of engagement with that part of the world,” said Matherly, who is attending the trip with Helble. “It’s been a central part of the Lehigh experience since the earliest days of the university’s history.”

The Trip Itinerary

The trip will begin Nov. 30 with a visit to Ecuador, where Helble will deliver a lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) as part of its Chancellor’s Lecture Series. The series has featured prestigious speakers from all around the world, including Nobel Laureates, former heads of state, business leaders and distinguished scholars.

Lehigh is a truly international campus, and global engagement is crucial for our graduates to thrive professionally and personally in today’s international arena.

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82

The next stop will be Dec. 2 at the Galápagos Islands, where Helble, Matherly and colleagues will visit San Cristóbal Island, where USFQ has a campus and its “Center for Galápagos Studies” research center, and meet with students participating in Lehigh Launch, an experiential, integrative learning experience for first-year Lehigh students. Through this program, students have spent weeks in Ecuador, living with homestays with local families and engaging in hands-on learning experiences.

The trip will also include visits in Bogotá, Colombia; Panama City, Panama; and Guatemala City, Guatemala before concluding on Dec. 6. In each country, Helble and colleagues will attend events hosted by Lehigh alumni living and working overseas, where he will hold discussions and provide updates on what’s happening at Lehigh University.

Hispanic/Latino Population Growth

Helble’s visit to Latin America comes as the Lehigh Valley experiences considerable growth in its Hispanic and Latino populations. As of 2020, the Hispanic/Latino population has grown to 96,981 in Lehigh County, and 44,597 in Northampton County, which are increases of 47.8% and 43% since 2010, respectively, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census.

International week at Lehigh

Lehigh students participate in International Week on campus in Fall 2023.

International student enrollment nationwide has returned to almost pre-pandemic levels, with more than 1 million students enrolled in U.S. institutions, according to data reports. A total of 1,003 international students from 82 countries enrolled at Lehigh during the 2023-24 academic year, Matherly said, and Guatemala and Colombia are among the top-sending Latin American countries for the university.

Lehigh has global partnerships with several Latin American educational institutions, including USFQ; Tecnológico de Antioquia-Institución Universitaria in Colombia; Universidad de la Sabana in Colombia; Innova Schools in Peru; Universidad de los Andes School of Management-Colombia; and Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Peru.

Engagement with the Americas has long been part of Lehigh’s story. The university’s first two international students–Hildebrando Barjona de Miranda and Raymundo Floresta de Miranda–came from Brazil in 1868, just three years after Lehigh was founded. The first student club organized by Latin American students in the United States–the Club Hispano Americano– was founded at Lehigh in 1887.

–Story by Colin McEvoy

Related Stories

Santiago, Chile

Lehigh Launch Moving to Chile After Two Years in Ecuador

For the first time, the experiential learning experience for first-year Lehigh students will be offered in Chile.

Lehigh in Latin America

Lehigh in Latin America: View Photos of President Joseph J. Helble’s Trip

The itinerary included stops in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Guatemala.

Helble in Quito

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 Kicks off Latin American Tour with Lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Helble delivered a lecture during his first stop on a tour of Latin America Thursday, highlighting Lehigh’s commitment to interdisciplinary education.