On a cold morning with some breeze in the air, Valdemar Espinoza leaves his house at 7:00 am to take the bus on his way to the Universidad LaSalle Saltillo, better known as ULSA. There, students from the metropolitan area of Saltillo, the capital city of Coahuila, a state in the north of Mexico, go to school.
He takes around half an hour to get there, a campus that was formerly a ranch but was eventually donated to the Lasallian brothers to start a university back in 2005.
Espinoza arrives to take all his classes in a small classroom with around 15 to 20 chairs, in a building dedicated to half of the majors that are taught there.
“Here, everyone knows each other,” Espinoza says. “It’s a very close community and we bump into each other all the time. It’s one of the things I love about this particular campus.”
Of course, there are not only students around this peaceful atmosphere that permeates the mountain range, but faculty and staff also walk from one building to another trying to make it to the next class in time.
Carlos De León, in charge of the department of pastoral at the university, runs the office that connects the day-to-day activities with the mission and vision of St. John Baptist de la Salle.
“Our main issue is that students that come from diverse backgrounds have no idea that we are such a big organization with presence in 82 countries, and more than a million other students around the world.”
Because of this, he encourages students to participate in missions in different parts of Mexico, courses that teach faith in the contemporary world, and social responsibility through programs that reach out to communities of lower socioeconomic levels.
An example of this is a Community Center started on March 15, where students will use not only what they learn at school, but also their talents, to support those who need it the most.
“My main goal,” De León says, “is that students discover themselves through the programs the university offers them, so they can believe in themselves and thus transform their environment and the people that surround them.”
Dreaming high and big is not only reserved for students after the “American Dream” in the big apple.
Natalia Fontini, a junior at the ULSA told us her point of view about the Lasallian education system in her university.
“Although I do not agree with some of the traditionalist aspects of the techniques used to teach, I do believe that there is a big difference between someone that graduates from here and someone from another university,” Fontini said. “There is a big impact on the enterprises we go to, and we change the perspective on which a lot them see the processes and employees.”
This continuous process of evolution was started by her creating her own student club called Juvenile Committee of the ULSA Saltillo that recently was part of the organizers of an inter-university weekend to create a sense of belonging at this institution.
This shows that Manhattan College is not the only Lasallian institution with an elevated value and a high return on investment. Brother Felipe Pérez Gavilán Torres, Rector of the university, argues that this is not a random success of events.
“This system is a well planned machine that operates parallel to other 70 higher learning institutions,” Gavilán Torres says. “We offer a holistic formation to give to the world good workers and good people.”
In the distance, we hear: “Acordémonos de que estamos en la Santa presencia de Dios,” which translates to, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.”
At the end of the day, these not-so different universities pursue a similar goal more than 2,000 miles away from each other. In New York City, a student in Horan Hall goes to bed looking at the same moon that gives light to both sides of the border.