Marta Muñiz: “Schiller’s educational model and international environment make it exemplary”
July 05, 2021
All Knowledge Areas
Marta Muñiz, Ph.D. in Economic and Business Science from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, has been named CEO and President of Schiller International University (SIU). She has executive responsibilities of four university campuses located in the United States and Europe. Dr. Muñiz joined SIU in 2020 as President and General Director with extensive experience in the academic world.
Q. What objectives do you have as the new CEO of Schiller?
A. My main objective is to convert Schiller into the university of the future. This entails understanding how to adapt the university to meet the needs of today’s society, creating a sort of meeting point between university, business, and community and by continuing to educate students to convert them into leading professionals who are capable of working on a global level. This involves ensuring that they are prepared not only professionally but also personally to solve complex problems and to carry out transformational leadership by revolutionizing the world in which they live.
This way of thinking continues in line with Schiller’s history, an institution that has been a leader in Europe since the 1960’s with its North American higher education model. In the 1970’s, Schiller established a multi-campus platform allowing students to rotate between different campuses when the Erasmus program did not yet exist. Schiller International University was the first institution to combine both North American and European educational systems and to establish immersive educational models.
Our plan is to continue to respond to the needs of both students and society and this requires strong innovation in educational technologies. I want to ensure that Schiller students acquire analytic capabilities, the ability to communicate and work in groups, technological knowledge, leadership skills and the ability to solve problems that today’s organizations demand regardless of which degree they choose to study.
Q. What differentiates Schiller International University from other educational institutions?
A. There are three primary differences. To begin with, the true international experience. You can participate in as many international management courses as you want, but only truly being exposed to diversity allows one to develop multicultural competence. At Schiller, internationality is present starting the first day of class. In fact, only 25% of our students’ study in their country of origin. Our students can move among the different Schiller campuses every four months, which allows for a true international experience. On the other hand, our academic model not only complies with US requirements, but also must be approved by each of the countries in which we operate: Spain, Germany, France and, in an indirect way, with the British system through our double degree agreement with the University of Roehampton. Therefore, we are combining the best aspects of the American model with those of the European model.
Our students can move among the different Schiller campuses every four months, which allows for a true international experience.
Schiller’s third differentiating factor is linked to an area that we believe is key: employability. We understand it is our responsibility to ensure that our students be highly employable and therefore we have facilitated the opportunity to obtain a double degree in Europe and the US, which also allows for access to the professional markets in both Europe and the United States.
Q. What methodology does the university follow?
A. When discussing an academic model, from my point of view, there are four fundamental pillars. The first is flexibility and this is tightly linked to the American model. According to this model, students continue to make decisions as they advance in their studies. During the first 18 months, students have the opportunity to explore different knowledge areas and, especially at Schiller, we open them to different professional realities which allows them to make decisions according to what they like, their skills, possible professional outlets in different specializations, etc. This flexibility sets us apart and allows Schiller students to choose their specialization or even opt for a double degree once they have the maturity and knowledge necessary to determine their professional future.
We also have an immersive educational model which is absolutely ground-breaking in Europe. Our students partake in one course per month which means that, during a four-month period, they study the same courses as a traditional model, but focus only on a single subject during a period of time, allowing them to maximize their efficiency and learning of each subject.
Our Challenge-Based Learning also sets us apart as it allows students to develop strong capabilities to resolve complex problems because they are able to connect different subject matters. In order to achieve this, we invite businesses and all types of organizations to propose real challenges that students must work on solutions for. In this way, we encourage students to affront real situations that will later come up in the professional world.
The last pillar centers around Schiller’s multidisciplinary focus. We believe this last pillar to be essential in the university’s ability to adapt to today’s reality and at Schiller we have already started breaking the barrier between science and the arts. Students are able to design their own educational path, but our objective lies in making sure Schiller’s professionals are ready for the real world which requires analytic and communication skills as well as technological and humanistic knowledge. We create a much deeper multidisciplinary education that we consider to be necessary for solving complex problems, valuing diversity and to be able to adapt to the changes that innovation and future environments will bring. Our students learn to learn, to question the world surrounding them and to value different perspectives.
Q. What are the educational advantages offered by Schiller?
A. Among many advantages, I would highlight the flexibility students have when making decisions as they progress in their studies as well as the visible results of our educational model in the profile of the professionals that graduate from Schiller. Education is an investment decision: students are going to dedicate four or five years of their lives to an undergraduate program and a year in the case of a graduate degree and they demand a return on their investment which translates into global employability. With us, students obtain the skills and knowledge they need: problem-solving, cultural intelligence, language acquisition, resilience, etc., and, above all, the vital experience Schiller offers its students. The university doesn’t exist only as a place where one goes to acquire knowledge and competence, but also to develop many other elements that form a person and citizen and, in the case of Schiller, as a citizen that understands global challenges, is committed to sustainability and is ready to lead the transformations needed to build a better world.
The university doesn’t exist only as a place where one goes to acquire knowledge and competence, but also to develop many other elements that form a person.
Q. What are your thoughts regarding the educational system in Spain today?
A. The Spanish educational system is currently on alert, and I believe it’s becoming more aware of the changes it will need to adapt to. Without a doubt, the pandemic has made more evident the need for digitalization, but it is not a relevant situation because today large businesses are appearing with educational and training projects because they fail to obtain the professionals, they need from the university system. I believe the challenge lies within this adaptation to change and in this sense, there are universities that present more possibilities than others. At this turning point, there is an amazing opportunity for Spain and for us to convert ourselves into a true international educational hub. We have very high-quality higher education, and we possess a geo-strategically privileged position in Europe, serving as a door to other continents which makes us especially interesting. Spain is a safe country, reasonably priced, with a good quality of life where there is an increasing level of interest among international students. In order to achieve our goal, we must offer programs taught in English and be much more flexible when incorporating professionals and professors with different profiles in our universities.
In this sense, I consider Schiller to be an excellent model to aspire to, the internationality and modernity of the educational model that we are providing constitutes best practice and is also scalable.
The university sector definitely finds itself in a moment of paradigm change which provides a good opportunity for higher education in Spain. I would like for Schiller to be an active contributor that participates in the leadership and transformation process that has arrived.
Schiller is, above all, a university with a lot of internationalization. How do you plan to approach this aspect in the coming year?
Before COVID-19, we already had a lot of experience working in virtual global environments and flexibility has always formed a major part of our DNA. We want to return to in-person campuses if health conditions allow, although in the past months we have invested more in technology for helping students feel as if they are inside the classroom and have also offered hybrid formats of many programs.
We are convinced that COVID-19 has accelerated a trend that Schiller had already previously initiated.
Q. What relationship does Schiller have with the business world?
A. It has a very close relationship from many different points of view. To begin with, one of our investors’ biggest motivations is to establish a link between the university and business world to incite the transformation we have mentioned and that we consider necessary for shaping professionals that are prepared to work in today’s environment. Therefore, all of the programs we offer have advisory councils that help to design study plans and carry out periodic revisions to guarantee that both the content and methodologies are adequate for each different industry. On the other hand, our challenge-based model incorporates organizations into the classrooms and our students are the ones who work toward providing solutions to the aforementioned challenges. This connection is fundamental in our model.
All of the programs we offer have advisory councils that help to design study plans.
Additionally, we are creating meeting points between the university and different companies with the objective of facilitating a bidirectional knowledge transfer: from the companies that lay out their challenges and needs and from Schiller providing the university investigation results to society. Unfortunately, in general, this bridge between company and university continues to be very distant. We understand it is part of our responsibility to bridge this gap. Here, our access to the business world also gives us an advantageous position.
Q. From your point of view, what do you think current university students look for?
A. What becomes more and more demanded by students is a return on investment, or employment. As we’ve mentioned, a university is responsible for providing much more, which is why we’ve talked about the virtual experience, the meeting point, knowledge transfer, etc. Students look for a series of experiences and learnings that allow them to become not only efficient professionals capable of directing their own destiny, but they also look for organizations whose values coincide with theirs, both as students and as future employees. They also seek flexibility and are highly aware of the tools available to them and the opportunities technology offers. They demand more personalization and expect academic institutions to adapt to their learning needs, changing the perspective of “teaching” which focuses on the teacher to “learning” which focuses on the student.
Lastly, students also look for a vital experience that will open doors to new worlds and new development opportunities. This is precisely one of the elements that makes our university more attractive. Those who value diversity and those who are eager to work in global environments come to Schiller looking for an international experience and the flexibility that helps them to make decisions. This can be seen clearly in Schiller’s alumni who share a greater intellectual interest, are more entrepreneurial and are attracted to global challenges.
Q. How do you visualize Schiller’s future?
A. I visualize Schiller as being a model university for students who look to become global professionals and who aspire to be transformational leaders on a global level. I believe the future is going to demand a permanent reinvention of ourselves and we must therefore provide students with the tools needed to lead this reinvention. On the other hand, within the university community, I visualize Schiller as a cutting-edge university and an example for the educational sector during a time when we must adapt our needs to today’s world.