Ambassador Luis Valdivieso, fifth from left, poses with a group of Peruvian students. Valdivieso visited universities in Utah in an effort to further friendly relations between them and Peru. Photo courtesy of Jesler Molina

Peruvian Ambassador Luis Valdivieso paid a visit on Oct. 6 in an effort to continue good relations with Utah. The majority of those in attendance were from Peru, evidence of the strong Latino presence in the state.

This presence is reflected in the student body.

In 2005, Latin students accounted for only 3.9%. Last year, that number rose to 7%. At this rate, even accounting for an increase in Latinos in the general population, it won’t be long before the university can at least match Utah’s 12% Latin American population.

According to Yudi Lewis, a counselor in the Latino Initiative, the university boasts a Latin population of over 2,100 students. She says this shows the university’s commitment to its mission.

“When I was a student here, there were very few other Lantino students. Things have changed a lot. It shows that we’re dedicated to that word that the president [Holland] is always saying: ‘inclusiveness.’ ”

Apart from reflecting the university’s Latin American population, this visit also gives students more opportunities at achieving a global education. As Lewis points out, the ambassador’s visit strengthens relations with the government of Peru, which can pay off in study abroad programs.

She noted that David Knowlton, a professor in the Behavioral Science department, has done extensive studies in sociocultural anthropology in Peru. There is also a study abroad program to Peru available to students.

Student Body President Richard Portwood, who was in attendance at the event, added that this visit can give students ideas of what is attainable in the outside world.

“I think it’s a good indicator of what you can achieve as a student. Our sights are set beyond graduation and what we want to do and what we want to accomplish, so it’s good to see an accomplished person,” he said.

These types of opportunities aren’t to be taken lightly, says Portwood.

“In education, we’re here to learn, and you need things about different people, you need different views to strengthen your own and to make your education richer while you’re here. I would encourage all students to be aware of the opportunities [such as meeting the ambassador] that UVU offers.”

Valdivieso, who became ambassador to the U.S. in 2009, has a long history in international economics. He held senior management positions at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 1991-2008, including Advisor and Division Chief, as well as positions in the Asia and Pacific, and European Departments.

This type of experience gives him an international economics viewpoint that few diplomats have, according to Miguel R. Rovira. Rovira is Regional Director in the International Trade and Diplomacy Department for the state of Utah.

Rovira said, “He [Valdivieso] isn’t a career diplomat, so he has a different perspective. His business background allows him to comment on global economics in a unique way.”