We sat down to talk with Lucia Hilario Pérez, Professor of Mathematics and the Erasmus+ coordinator for Design students at the Technical School of Design, Architecture and Engineering of the University CEU Cardenal Herrera.
Hello, Lucia! Could you first tell us about yourself? What is your professional background like, and how did you start working at CEU UCH?
My name is Lucia Hilario, and I have been working here at CEU UCH since 2002. I was born in Alcoy, south of Alicante, and when I was 19 years old I moved to Valencia. I have lived here ever since. I studied mathematics, and after finishing my degree I began to teach here at CEU UCH while I was simultaneously working on my PhD. My current research is about robotics.
What attracted you to this field and career in particular?
I have always loved maths! Ever since I was a child and people would ask me what I want to do when I grow up, I would say that I want to be a maths teacher. I have always found maths interesting, and I think the maths techniques used in robotics are especially interesting.
Let’s talk about our Technical School of Design, Architecture and Engineering. What kind of degrees are there available?
Currently you can study Architecture, Industrial Design, and Computer Sciences at the Technical School. The degree programmes of Design and Computer Sciences are in Spanish, but our Architecture degree is bilingual, in English and Spanish.
What is the approach to teaching like at the Technical School?
The Architecture and Industrial Design students have a mix of theory based lectures and practical classes where they get to work with machines. Each year course has practical projects where they get to exhibit what they have learned in both their theoretical and practical classes.
We also arrange study visits for our students. For example, the Architecture students recently made a visit to the city of Cuenca to visit the site where they will be designing and constructing a building, their next practical project.
How does the School motivate the students with this approach?
You cannot motivate a person, the motivation needs to come from within. What we can do is to stimulate our students in a way that generates the motivation within them.
I think the best thing to do in teaching is to balance theory and practice. Depending on the theoretical concept the two need to be balanced differently, however: sometimes the teaching is 60% theory and 40% practice, sometimes those numbers are 50-50.
At CEU UCH we focus on generating a lot of practical knowledge in the students. Nowadays, the theory is easily available on the Internet, and we need to change our teaching approach to fit the times. The world is changing and so are the students, and we need to adapt to it.
What are some of the values the School would like to promote?
The teachers at our Technical School transmit knowledge on how to be the best at their field: how an architect can answer the customer’s’ needs, or how a designer can make useful things to improve people’s lives.
More, we like to promote the international mobility of our students. With the last economic crisis forcing a lot of Spanish people to move, students are looking to move abroad for work. An exchange during their studies is the first step to do that, and my advice as an Erasmus+ coordinator is for students to study for a semester or even for a year abroad.
We also like to receive international students, and I think it is good for our Spanish students. Getting them involved, sharing their study projects and participating in the same activities, gets them to share knowledge, language, and culture. It transmits respect for all cultures, which is important.
What are the facilities and the equipment of the Technical School like?
The equipment used depends on the subject. We have computer drawing classes with Macs and design software, such as AutoCAD, for our Design students. We have a sculpture drawing classroom where students will learn to draw from actual sculptures.
We also have a workshop with machines where Architecture and Design students get to make miniatures of their designs, for example with our 3D printer. It is useful for the students to get to physically touch their design in real life.
How does the School promote internationalization of the students?
The most important thing is to be able to communicate with others, so we offer them free English classes. We also arrange bilateral exchange agreements with universities abroad.
Besides study exchanges, we make a lot of study trips abroad with the students. For example, last year in April the Design students made a field trip to a design fair in Milan. The Architecture students have recently travelled to New York, Sweden, and Portugal, and most importantly to Belgium where they carried out their previous practical project designing the building for a new Health Centre.
What is the profile of the exchange students like at the School? Which countries do the Spanish students go to, and from which countries do you receive exchange students?
A lot of our Design students go to Italy, to Milan especially, and to Lisbon, Portugal. Our Architecture students like to do their study exchanges in Eastern Europe, and there are several universities in Europe that are popular among them for their projects.
As for the incoming exchange students, we get a lot of students from Italy and South America, especially Chile.
Finally, do you have tips to give to new exchange students, or students who would like to come to do their exchange at the Technical School?
I advise the new students to go to their classes and speak with their teachers! They have the best knowledge on your subject and can also help you the best with any doubts you have.
To help with integration I recommend new exchange students to participate in the university activities with our Spanish students, for example the events organised by Campus Life. It is the best way to integrate!
For students who are thinking about coming to do their exchange at CEU UCH I say this: our Technical School of Design, Architecture and Engineering is the best place to study. Our School is small, but that is an advantage, as our main characteristic is to be close to our students. It is safe and comfortable, and you will truly feel like you are a part of the School.