Chile's First Female President to Teach Seminar at UC Berkeley

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Beginning Friday, former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet will teach a four-session seminar at UC Berkeley, drawing on her experiences as a leader and marking her third visit to the campus in the past four years.

Bachelet - who is currently serving as the under-secretary-general and executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, established in July by the United Nations General Assembly - will address development issues, women's rights and democratic governance in her month-long seminar, which will consist of 30 undergraduate and graduate students of various majors and some faculty members.

Bachelet was elected the first female president of Chile in 2006 after serving as the country's minister of health beginning in 2000 and minister of defense from 2002 to 2006. She left office in March 2010 with an approval rating of over 80 percent after serving as president during the country's 2008 financial crisis.

Emily Tsitrian, a senior economics major who was one of over 100 students who applied earlier this semester to take the seminar, said she looks forward to hearing Bachelet's observations on Chile's economic past, among other topics.

"As a woman, I think the opportunity to interact with this incredible world leader is just something that will show me what my place is in this increasingly globalized world," she said. "I'm also looking forward to the insights she'll provide on women's role in the tumult in the Middle East."

According to Mark Healey, assistant history professor and chair of the Latin American Studies Group Major and Graduate Program, Bachelet's visit to the campus is part of a tradition of "intellectual and academic exchange" between the University of California and Chile that has dated back to the Gold Rush.

In 2008, Bachelet visited the campus to give a public address after signing an agreement with former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote collaboration in alternative energy, technology and higher education.

"There's a lot to learn from her about overcoming the challenges of the past, charting a path from the past and dealing with the difficulties and inequalities that come with globalization," Healey said. "Her being here brings together this long-standing state and business connection with California, but also this other cultural and political connection."

Healey added that Berkeley has been a center for the Chilean exile movement, with a number of Chilean exiles housed in the Bay Area and the opening of the La Peņa Cultural Center in 1975 on Shattuck Avenue in response to the military coup that overthrew former president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in 1973.

"We hope that this will be a long-standing relationship with her, and we're just very, very honored to have her on the campus and have her come and share her experience with students and faculty," said Dionicia Ramos, acting vice chair of the Center for Latin American Studies. "We're really grateful that she's taking the time out of her busy schedule to visit the campus."


Alisha Azevedo covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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