President Joseph J. Helble in Latin America

President Joseph J. Helble ’82 at the El Chato Tortoise Reserve with Lehigh students.

Lehigh Visits Latin America

In his first overseas trip as president, Joseph J. Helble ’82 connects with alumni and students.

Photography by

Taylor Stakes

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 traveled to four countries in Latin America, delivering the esteemed Chancellor’s lecture at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador and connecting with alumni, students, families and international colleagues. It was his first overseas trip as president.

The trip included stops in Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and Panama. Held at the end of the Fall 2023 semester, it continued Lehigh’s long history of engagement and collaboration with Latin American nations.

It also aligned with Lehigh’s strategic plan, Inspiring the Future Makers, which calls for broadening the university’s global perspective and impact.

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

The Trip Itinerary

Helble kicked off the tour with the Chancellor’s lecture, as he addressed the importance of interdisciplinary education and Lehigh’s commitment to deliver the broadest education possible to students. At his next stop at the Galápagos Islands, he met with Lehigh students who were participating in Lehigh Launch, an experiential, integrative learning experience for first-year Lehigh students. Next year’s program will move to Chile.

“I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness, curiosity and maturity of the Lehigh Launch Ecuador students and their knowledge of the complex environmental issues and research projects they were undertaking,” Helble said.

In each country he visited, Helble attended events hosted by alumni living and working overseas, and he held discussions and provided updates on what’s happening at Lehigh.

Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs, said it was appropriate that Helble’s first international trip as president was to Latin America, given the university’s deep history of engagement with the Americas.

“It’s been a central part of the Lehigh experience since the earliest days of the university’s history,” said Matherly, who accompanied Helble on the trip.

A History of Latin America Engagement

Lehigh’s first two international studentsHildebrando Barjona de Miranda and Raymundo Floresta de Mirandacame from Brazil in 1868, just three years after Lehigh was founded. The first student club organized by Latin American students in the United Statesthe Club Hispano Americanowas founded at Lehigh in 1887. A total of 1,003 international students from 82 countries enrolled at Lehigh during the 2023-24 academic year.

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

Colin McEvoy

Photography by

Taylor Stakes

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