The southern part of Quito, Ecuador, is home to the Armed Forces University, better known as ESPE. The school was originally established in 1922 as an engineering school for Army officers with a focus on military engineering. The school has gone through several changes since then, including the admission of civilian students in 1972.
Diálogo recently sat down with ESPE’s commandant, Ecuadorian Army Colonel Víctor Villavicencio, to discuss a variety of topics, including cooperation with other institutions throughout the hemisphere, as well as events scheduled to commemorate the school’s 100th anniversary.
Diálogo: What is ESPE’s main objective?
Ecuadorian Army Colonel Víctor Villavicencio, commandant of the Armed Forces University ESPE: ESPE has clearly marked its vision, its mission, and certain objectives. All this strategic framework that we manage can be summed up as such: We are here to serve society, in terms of training better professionals in a comprehensive way in the different areas of knowledge that we have at the university, and to contribute to the training and improvement of the military personnel of the Armed Forces, including the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
Diálogo: What is the profile of the ESPE student and what are admission requirements?
Col. Villavicencio: If we’re talking about profiles, I think that based on each of the careers that are part of our academic offerings, they have different profiles. The important thing is that they have knowledge in the area of exact sciences, because we were polytechnic and logically, we have a very strong component in the exact sciences. Subsequently, they have to meet the requirements in terms of their subjects. From the academic point of view, we are advocating a comprehensive education, because it is always embedded with values, principles, always concerned with the development of the nation and of society.
Diálogo: This year ESPE celebrates its 100th anniversary. How will you commemorate this milestone?
Col. Villavicencio: On June 16 of this year we are going to commemorate our 100th anniversary of the creation of the university. Many activities are planned. Since we are an academy, cultural events and international events corresponding to the International Congress on Science and Technology are planned, so that they can see what we are doing in terms of technology transfer. There will also be cultural events, sporting events, we will have a major event, a solemn ceremony in which the presence of the President has already been confirmed, who understandably wants to recognize the work that the university has done for society and for the country.
Diálogo: What are the benefits of the interaction between military and civilian students, and how does ESPE differ from similar institutions in the region?
Col. Villavicencio: That’s a very important question. The Ecuadorian Armed Forces developed in a very different context than the armed forces of South America, and I would dare to say, based on research done, that the Armed Forces University is the only one in the region because of its characteristics. The other universities have security and defense exclusively for military personnel. We have our own characteristic in which, in the majority, we welcome Ecuadorian citizens, and there really is this interaction with the military so that they can learn what the military does to support their people and their society.
Diálogo: What can you tell us about the agreement that was signed with the Army War Academy?
Col. Villavicencio: It’s an agreement that makes it possible to strengthen. Logically, we’ve always had this coordination with the Academy, and we’re concerned, as I’ve said, as part of our mission, to provide professional growth and the best skills to the military command, because we’re strengthening both the officers and troops in the different offerings. For example, there is direct recognition of military training with an academic degree, both for officers and for volunteers, which corresponds to undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Diálogo: Finally, what legacy would you like to leave to your successor?
Col. Villavicencio: This is a question that has to do with great responsibility. All those visionary rector-officers of our Army have worked hard for the university to be in this position. Possibly at that time it was a regional or national aspiration. Now, as we see through knowledge management, the exchange of knowledge with others, with other countries, it is to position the university internationally. But always taking into account and reinforcing that the essential is security and defense.