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MIT Sloan Latin America office works to build relationships, define areas of focus

Office aims to share expertise between MIT and the region

February 3, 2015

Lee Ullmann, director of the MIT Sloan Latin America office

Lee Ullmann, director of the MIT Sloan Latin America office

Opened in 2013 with a gift from Chilean businessman Andrónico Luksic, the MIT Sloan Latin America office in Santiago, Chile has formed valuable relationships with alumni and other universities in the region. Now, the office aims to focus on specific areas where MIT and MIT Sloan have expertise and where Latin American students, universities, organizations, and entrepreneurs are seeking new ideas and partners.

“The idea is to create a dialogue with Chile and other Latin American countries,” says Lee Ullmann, who began leading the office in October 2014. “We want to say, ‘Here’s what we do well at MIT. How could this work with what already exists in Latin America?’”

The main areas of focus—of particular concern in many Latin American countries as they look to move from economies dependent on natural resources to ones more reliant on knowledge work—will be energy and sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship, and productivity and growth.

The office is MIT Sloan’s first physical space outside Cambridge. Ullmann said that he, with assistance from the school and the office’s advisory council, is taking a flexible approach, trying lots of things to make a positive impact in the region.

The advisory council, made up of MIT Sloan alumni in the area, provides guidance and makes introductions to others interested in pursuing projects with the office. “The advisory council is extremely helpful,” says Ullmann. “I get calls and texts all day,” with council members responding to questions and offering contacts, he said.

The office, along with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad Adolofo Ibáñez, held a January conference in Santiago about action learning, a hands-on teaching and learning approach in which students work on projects on site in organizations around the world. The event drew speakers and alumni from all three schools.

Ullmann, together with MIT Sloan’s Office of International Programs, is now working on an event focused on energy, which will be held in August in Santiago. While conferences organized by the Latin America office thus far have been held in Chile and Brazil, Ullmann, who served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and was working for the U.S. Department of State in Chile prior to joining MIT Sloan, says he hopes to work on programs in Argentina, Mexico, and across the region.

The office has reached out to area alumni clubs to strengthen MIT’s presence in Latin America and increase the number of applications from local students. Ullmann will also be a contact for students looking to travel to the area for study tours.

The MIT Sloan Latin America office will serve as a hub of activity for the MIT community in the region, says Ullmann. “We want students, alumni, and faculty to engage with the office,” he says. “It’s for them … If they are in Latin America and they need help, we want them to look to the office. That’s what we’re here to do.”