For Alicia González, a Spanish representative of the Ibero-American Young Leaders Program organized by Santander Bank, social change must begin in universities

With a Law Degree from the University of Salamanca with a focus on Political Science and Constitutional Law, Alicia is a young woman from Salamanca about to start her doctorate degree: “My immediate calling is to work teaching at a university”. This year, González formed part of the Ibero-American Young Leaders Program after having been selected from hundreds of transcripts and having proved her social skills from amongst dozens of candidates.

Very aware of the generation that she belongs to – known as centennials – she knows her goals pass through this collective. “It is necessary to review the behaviours and democratic processes of our time, our generation has to be a leader for change, and for this education is key”. Alicia believes that our current university model is obsolete – as are the dominant systems of civic participation- and that in order to survive we must adapt to the modern age.

The Ibero-American Young Leaders Program, promoted by Santander Bank through Santander Universities and the Carolina Foundation, has for more than 15 years helped talented young university students, selected as candidates from more than 300 public and private Ibero-American universities, share their vision of the world through conferences full of fresh, interesting ideas, and spirit, with the idea of improving the society in which they live.

For proof of this spirit we needed nothing more than ask Alicia about this change of attitude and the model of higher education that she so fiercely defends: “Until now, the university has adhered to a very traditional system, and that of formal classes. I think is necessary to promote other important skills such as public speaking, persuasion, empathy and an understanding of pluralism”.

She is not the only one with this opinion. Together with her, is a group of young people from various nationalities. “The university must change, must adapt itself to the modern age, teach us how to discuss, to understand different points of view”, said another. Despite not sharing with Alicia her nationality nor place of birth, he agrees that these demands must be applied in Mexico, his home country. This sort of discourse is commonplace in the program: during itsmore than 15 years of existence more than 650 young people from every Latin American country, Spain, and Portugal have participated in the congress.

During two weeks with a busy schedule, Alicia, along with the rest of the participants, is a main character at the conferences, meetings, and visits that make her a witness of social reality and of European and Spanish politics. Afterwards, this promising young woman will take part of a research group at the University of Sevilla that works to study political participation and democracy in our society today.