Alejandro Weinstein Varas (MIDP ’14) was one of four people elected to Chile’s National Accreditation Commission (CNA). During his four-year term on the commission, which began Jan. 9, he will be responsible for approving the accreditation of all higher education institutions in the country.
The 16 commission members are elected by private universities, community colleges, the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research, professional institutes and student federations. They are joined by the chiefs of the country’s Division of Higher Education and the Ministry of Education.
Weinstein, who was elected by the community college system in early December, said his victory was a very pleasant surprise.
“I was one of two candidates, and initially the other candidate was projected to have more votes than I did,” he said. “I ended up winning because people knew me from my previous job in the community college system and vouched for my integrity and transparency.”
Weinstein currently serves as education manager of the Association of Metallurgic and Metal-mechanic Industries (Asimet), where he administers a vocational high school that gives certifications in the metal sector. Previously, he worked in the Ministry of Education, where he was in charge of all vocational education – both technical high schools and the community college system. In this role, he created pathways to help students transition from high school to community college, and developed partnerships between public and private community colleges.
“They were split into segments,” he said. “I tried to create spaces where they could build trust in each other.”
Prior to his work with the government, Weinstein served as director of the Management and Business School in the Plaza Vespucio branch of Duoc UC, the most prestigious private community college in Chile. It was founded in 1968 by the Catholic University of Chile to offer training courses for blue-collar workers who lacked access to a university education.
His main goal on the commission, he said, is to serve as a voice for the community college system among other commission members.
“Most of them come from universities and don’t understand the differences between the two systems,” Weinstein said. “They try to compare them and say community colleges are bad universities. They are not bad universities; they are a different animal. We have to have a better understanding of what community colleges need and what they do.”
He also wants to promote the important role that community colleges play in the country’s education system. In 2014, approximately 55 percent of students in post-secondary institutions in Chile studied in community colleges. The system has grown 8 percent per year since 2008, when scholarships for poor and middle class students could be used for community colleges as well as universities.
The community college system also boosts the country’s economy by filling slots in many critical sectors, such as construction management, accounting and computer programming.
“These institutions need more funding for better teachers, better equipment, more resources,” he said.
Weinstein said he believes his experience at Duke University will serve him well in his new role on the commission.
“I think it will help me to communicate more effectively with other members and to have a broader perspective of the system,” Weinstein said. “My time at Duke was a great experience, both personally and professionally.