Portrait – Yan David Vargas

At Chaoyang

Please provide a brief sentence or description of yourself.
Social butterfly interested in helping others. My thoughts are often occupied with quite a few issues and their possible solutions. Here there is a sample of the most relevant: Quality of education, environmental preservation and sustainability, preservation of natural ecosystems, animal welfare, the positive effect advances in science and technology can have on our lives as well as the risks of improper use of technology, inclusive urban planning and greening of cities, local food production and anything else that builds sustainable relations between humans and nature.

Please provide a brief bio of your current professional role.

I am the project manager of the MUNI 4.0 Strategic Partnership project at the Masaryk University Faculty of Education PdFMU. My role is to successfully align the institutional stakeholders from the partner institutions and PdFMU, namely, Bishop Grosseteste University of Lincoln BGU, The Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences JAMK, The Hague University of Applied Sciences THUAS, and the University College of Teacher Education of Christian Churches Vienna/Krems KPH. The key priorities of the project are to develop, plan, initiate, control, supervise and deliver activities as proposed in the project charter.
Besides, I am an ETEN board member (Board Secretary). I act as a voice for ETEN members bringing out issues or participating in discussions in benefit of the ETEN community.

Tell me something (personal?) about yourself!
I was born in Colombia, South America but immigrated to Canada as a refugee. In embracing Canadian multicultural society, I identify as Colombian-Canadian. My life in Colombia provided me with many challenges and difficulties, some of which pushed me to run away to stay safe and alive. Canada opened its doors and provided me with challenges and opportunities and to have a purpose in life. Canada also provided me with the opportunity to be true to myself. I now have the confidence in saying that I am proud of being openly gay and not afraid to show my true colours. All of these experiences in life helped me to shape my moral compass. I learnt to accept and admire the diversity of all human beings, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

What are your interests (in an out of your professional realm)an out of your professional realm)?
Professionally, I love to meet colleagues as well as students and help them out in the best possible way I can. I love to listen to what they have to say and provide them with advice, suggestions, or give them a hand with whatever they need support with. I am interested in environmental education and how to transfer positive values to students as well as to help them to develop social and transversal skills. Personally, I am passionate about environmental conservation and sustainable development initiatives. I love travelling and see new places and in the process, learn about history, culture, geography, sciences or any other interesting fact which relates to the place I am visiting. I am not a sports person but I always wanted to be, therefore I have tried and succeeded at learning how to ride a bike and go biking (I am a latecomer), swimming and dancing. I am also passionate about the arts, in special painting but I keep it as a hobby for now. I love sailing but never tried it. It is in my bucket list of things to do. I would love to get involved in environmental conservation and the protection and rehabilitation of habitats and ecosystems.

How did you get involved with ETEN?
Back in 2017, our faculty was looking for ways to strengthen cooperation with our future institutional strategic partner, The Hague Univerisity. Sigurd Rimmelzwaan invited us to participate in ETEN. My manager at the time was scheduled to go but she wasn’t able to attend. She suggested me going to the General Assembly meeting to get to know more about ETEN. There was a confusion in the information and a week before the event, I realized that instead of learning about ETEN I was going to make the case and present our institution for membership. I scrambled to put together a slide presentation and ended up arriving in Antwerp with a lot of anxiety about what to do next. The day of the presentation at AP College, I noticed that people were less cold and more friendly than expected. I understood then that the experience was going to be positive and felt reassured about my role and task. After coming back from Belgium packed with the good news of our acceptance, I was surprised to learn my manager did not want to take the ECO role and that no one at our institution was ready to be the coordinator for ETEN. They all hinted at me to take on the new role. I accepted and it all started to feel like it was filling in place. I began to feel comfortable and confident to take on such responsibility. Nowadays when I look back at that moment in time, I fully realize that ETEN was the right call for me.

Do you have any good experiences/memories about ETEN which you would like to share?
I think that in general ETEN has been a great experience for me. But if I have to choose the most memorable, I can say that attending my first conference is the one that fills in all checkmarks for great memories. It was April 2018 and Hogeschool Rotterdam organized a conference with a very eye-catching topic “Diversity as a Resource.” Mieke and her team did a great job of organizing the conference. They got the right venue, proper student engagement in all of the activities including entertaining, and overall, great attendance numbers. I was now being more acquainted with my colleagues in the network. I managed to remember a handful of ECOs names and had enjoyed form the pleasure of being an ECO for less than six months. I have to admit I was still nervous in this new environment but the moment of truth came when I decided to run for Board Elections. Presenting myself as a hopeful candidate gave me the opportunity to connect with people in a way I would not be able to do by being just an ECO. Also, it showed to me that people were ready to see new faces, new ideas and new way of action. This whole outcome gave me purpose and defined my way of working and helping others in the network.

Has your engagement in ETEN affected your personal life?
Yes, it has positively affected my personal life. ETEN has become a second family for me.

From Rotterdam 2018

What is the value of the network for your institution and students?
So far it has been great at bringing new Erasmus exchange opportunities for our students. At the project level, it provided the institution with value added partners willing to commit to joint projects.

How do you think we can develop JETEN/etenjournal.com?
I think the two journals share a very similar name which makes it confusing for people to understand they are separate entities. JETEN should stay as a peer-reviewed article journal dedicated to research and scientific articles produced by the ETEN Conference attendees. The Etenjournal should be renamed in a way that defines more news, blogs, network opportunities, new study programmes for exchange students, opportunities for staff training, and even the ETEN institutional content, The Etenonline.org page should be merged to these as it does no longer serves the purpose.
The articles belonging to JETEN should be organized appropriately and can only be available under the JETEN tab.
Links to JETEN and to the Conference should be placed at the top of each page even if it looks redundant. People need, regardless of which page or content they are browsing, be able to quickly go back to these two important elements of the ETEN services.
The TIGs should have their own space and information should be updated periodically, with engaging content.
More videos, links to pictures and engaging content as well as the overall background of the page must reflect the dynamic and easy to collaborate with members philosophy of the network.

Plans for the future?
Yes, I would like to further my studies by taking a masters degree program and even a doctorate. I would also like to work with a grassroots organization focusing on environmental conservation & sustainability and education. My dream is to start an organization called The Urban Garden Centre, focused on providing support and advocacy for the creation, rehabilitation and protection of micro urban ecosystems such as building roofs, parks, power line corridors, public spaces, river banks and water canals, roads and highway corridors, gray and brownfields and any other space that can sustain micro ecosystems. Also, I envision it to focus on environmental education initiatives and community engagement, specially people or communities at the margin of society, schools, universities, private and public institutions and business to foster environmental conservation awareness and action.
My other plan is to do consultancy work and start a tinkthank organization focused on the redevelopment of educational campuses into sustainable inclusive educational campuses in which institutions can effectively develop programs and courses attractive to international students which can be developed in an strategic partnership scheme so students can effectively study abroad or internationalize at home while taking part in such courses and study concentration programmes. Additionaly to include a component in artificial intelligence to make education of good quality trully inclusive as well as de development of educational policies and good practice for achieving such goals.


Yan david vargas
Manager MUNI 4.0 Strategic Partnership project; ETEN Board member

Masaryk University | Faculty of Education
A: Porici 31 | 603 00 Brno, Czech Republic
T: +420 549 49 8 537 | M: +420 733 269 036 E: vargas@ped.muni.c z | W: https://www.muni.cz/lide/465690-yan-david-vargas FB: Let’s Internationlize!Internationlize!

Categories: Portraits, Uncategorized

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