National Autonomous University of Mexico

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The National Autonomous University of Mexico (Spanish: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, commonly abbreviated as UNAM) was founded in 1551, making it the oldest in America. It is the largest university in Latin America and was ranked no.1 in the region in a study conducted by Beijing University and The Times. It is a napoleonic university, i.e. it consists of faculties, rather than departments. Both undergraduate and graduate studies are available. UNAM is also responsible for the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (ENP) (National High School), and Colegio de Ciencias y Humanidades (CCH), which are high schools, scattered around Mexico City. Counting ENP, CCH, undergraduate and graduate students, UNAM has over 250,000 students. It has several campuses in Mexico City, as well as some other around the rest of Mexico (mainly aimed at graduates), and one campus in San Antonio, Texas, USA. In addition, it is the only University in Mexico with three Nobel Laureates among its former students: Alfonso García Robles (peace), Octavio Paz (literature), and Mario Molina (chemistry).

Contents

Undergraduate studies

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Rectorate Tower (Torre de Rectoría)

UNAM is organized into faculties, (Spanish: facultades). Each faculty offers several bachelor degrees, as well as courses for graduate studies. Each faculty is further divided into departments, each of which group together professors from a single knowledge area. Departments are internal to each faculty. This results in having multiple different departments in the same subject but in different faculties.

Several faculties are physically located at the main campus, University City (CU) in Coyoacán, while others are scattered around other parts of Mexico City. Some of UNAM's research institues outside Mexico City (like the Nitrogen Fixation Center, in Cuernavaca) also offer undergraduate courses.

List of Faculties

There are also five campuses (Aragón, Acatlán, Cuautitlán, Iztacala, Zaragoza) which call themselves Escuelas (Schools) and which offer several degrees in different areas.

Currently a total of 23 bachelor degrees are offered at UNAM. Many of these are not offered elsewhere in Mexico, thus attracting a number of students from outside Mexico City, for whom no accommodation is provided by UNAM.

Foreign students are able to enroll themselves in any bachelor program, provided that they pass a Spanish-language proficiency test. A special school, called the Center of Teaching for Foreigners (CEPE), is available, where foreign students are taught Spanish and introduced to the Mexican academic system.

Graduate studies

Research

UNAM conducts half of Mexico's scientific research. It has research centers and institutes in many fields of natural and social sciences, the research centers and institutes are the following:

Each of them has dedicated facilities, of varying degrees of sophistication. Particle accelerators, supercomputers, electronic microscopes and wind tunnels are only some of the many resources available to researchers. Researchers actively participate in different international programmes, and thousands of papers are published yearly by UNAM researchers. Funding for this research comes mostly form UNAM itself, as well as Mexican CONACYT (National Council for Science and Technology), private funded research is not much, but it is increasing mostly due to budget restrictions on UNAM.

University City

"Ciudad Universitaria" (literally: University City), UNAM's main campus, is located in Coyoacán borough in the south part of Mexico City. It encloses the Olympic Stadium, about 40 faculties and institutes, the Cultural Center, an ecological reserve, the Central Library, and a few museums. Built during the 1950s on an ancient solidified lava bed to replace the scattered buildings where classes were given, it was finished in 1954. Although the University has other buildings in Mexico City (mostly for undergraduate studies and cultural purposes) and in other states, Ciudad Universitaria, known simply as "C.U.", is the prime symbol of the University. Following are some highlights of Ciudad Universitaria.

Atmosphere

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Central Library (Biblioteca Central)

Ciudad Universitaria was meant to be an open place. Previously a volcanic rock bed in some places, with heavy vegetations in others, there are very few straight roads or paths. Roads tend to be concentric circuits, with buildings located inside them. Some can only be reached by a short, 5-10 minute walk. Volcanic rock was removed to make room for the buildings, and it was used to make pathways and outer walls. Buildings themselves are made with common materials, concrete and brick being most common, and usually have big windows and gardens, both inside and outside. Most buildings have two to three floors.

Although different in style, gardens and volcanic rock are a common theme across all buildings with some notable exceptions: the Rectorate Tower and the Central Library. These tall, square-shaped buildings, standing a bit isolated from the rest, are adorned by mural paintings made by famous Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros (Rectorate Tower) and Juan O'Gorman (Central Library).

This last mural, covering all sides of the Library, based on Aztec and Spanish motifs and UNAM's coat of arms, makes the Central Library Ciudad Universitaria's most iconic building.

Sculptoric Space

Inside the ecological reserve stands the Sculptoric Space. It is a big round natural solidified lava bed surrounded by many white triangular prisms that seem to radiate from its center, a bit like a sunflower. There are many big and colorful metallic sculptures made by contemporary artists surrounding this area, hence its name.

Museums

  • UNIVERSUM, the Science Museum. It houses interactive exhibits about science, geared to the general public.
  • University Museum for the Sciences and Arts (MUCA, Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes), holds contemporary art exhibits.
  • Museo Universitario del Chopo. An art deco building near downtown Mexico City, with a couple of towers designed by Gustave Eiffel. Mostly temporary visual arts exhibits.
  • Museo de San Ildefonso. In the heart of downtown Mexico City, holds temporary and permanent exhibits of art an culture.
  • Palacio de Minería. A classical building in downtown Mexico City near the Palacio de Bellas Artes, holds permanent and temporary exhibits as well as "Feria Universitaria del Libro" (University Book Fair) two weeks every year.

Sport facilities

Mexico 68 Olympic Stadium. As its name says, it was made for the 1968 Olympic Games, held in Mexico City. It was also used for the 1986 Soccer World Cup. It also holds football matches for Mexico's City university league. It also has a race track, used for international invitation-only athletic competition in recent times due to the success of Mexican athlete Ana Guevara.

There are also football and soccer fields for training of student and children teams. Gyms for martial arts and boxing training are near the stadium, intended mostly for students.

Culture

  • University Museum for the Sciences and the Arts (MUCA). Open all year, holds temporary contemporary art exhibits from Mexican artists and works of art property of the University,
  • Sala Netzahualcoyotl. Orchestral performances can be found here. Eventually dance.
  • Teatro Juan Ruiz de Alarcon. Major Theater. Both classical and contemporary works.
  • Centro Universitario de Teatro (CUT). A smaller theater (about 100 seats) attached to the theather school.
  • Several movie theatres are also in the Cultural Zone, screening mostly International (European, Asian...) films, as well as classics, all at affordable prices (about MXN $10 or $15). Also film clubs exist in almost all schools, providing screenings of independent and art films to all public.
  • Colegio de San Ildefonso. A beautiful baroque building (founded 1588) in the heart of downtown Mexico City, now devoted to culture and arts.
  • Museo Universitario del Chopo. An Art Deco building following the London Crystal Palace architecture and two towers designed by Eiffel, close to Mexico City downtown, mostly devoted to visual arts.
  • Radio UNAM. XEUN 96.1 MHz & 860 KHz in Mexico City, XEYU, short wave 9600 KHz in the 31-meter international band. Musical, cultural, informative and recreational programming.

Transport

There are three bus routes. Their base is on the west side of the University, near the metro exit (Metro Universidad, terminal). They are free and work from Monday to Friday, from 06:20 until 22:30 hrs. Cars are allowed inside the campus, and there are also taxis taking passengers in groups, following the official bus routes. Two of these routes have long and short versions, a few first and last stops are the same but the long version takes a different route to less visited zones.

There are three main points of entry to University City, two from the metro (Metro Universidad and Metro Copilco stations) and Avenida Insurgentes, running north to south, splitting University City in half. This important avenue is useful to reach other parts of the city, and is near the Olympic Stadium and Cultural Zone.

There is also a small bicycle pathway that connects most of the main faculties (schools).

Shops

There are university owned cafeterias around the campus, but they are "franchised" to cooperatives. These cafeterias are permanent, one floor buildings and very similar to each other. There are also small, permanent shops on the side of some non-schooling buildings, where a full-size cafeteria would be impractical. Some of these shops don't sell food but photocopies and office supplies. Lastly, some semi-permanent shops, selling mostly candies and packaged food, are around the campus. These are built and dismantled every day but are very stable, lasting years in the same place. A few sell University memorabilia, mostly related to the soccer team. Around the campus, but mostly between the Central Library and the School of Philosophy, one can find people selling crafts as well as music, films and books, some used, some new, most of them pirate.

Around the metro stations close to the University there are many food shops, but also bookstores, photocopying, photographic studios and the like. Near the northern station, Copilco, just outside University City, there are many printing shops running for some blocks, where students get their theses bound.

Near Metro Universidad station, on the fringe of University City, is the "Tienda UNAM" or UNAM Store. A big single floor supermarket, selling furniture, clothing, food and beverages, vegetables, electronic and computing equipment, toys and many other things, it is run by the University itself. Meant for university employees and their families, it is open to everyone, and prices are competitive.

Security

Given its size, the lack of entry controls and compared to the rest of the Mexico City, University City is quite a safe place. There is an internal surveillance group, "Auxilio UNAM" (UNAM Help). They patrol the city on car all day, especially on vacation days and weekends, but have no firearms. For historical and legal reasons (i.e., university autonomy), law enforcement officers do not enter University City unless specifically requested by the University authorities. Crimes happen, but are sporadic and usually late at night, when most people (both students and employees) have already left. There is also an hospital and a fire station inside campus.

External buildings of interest

Palacio de Minería

Under the care of UNAM's Engineering Faculty, this beautiful colonial Palace of Mining is located in the historical center of Mexico City. It has three floors, and houses the International Book Expo ("Feria Internacional del Libro" or "FIL") and the International Day of Computing Security Congress ("DISC"), among regular events. It also has a permanent exhibition of historical books, mostly topological and naturalist works of 19th century Mexican scientists, the original library of the School of Engineers, and exhibits related to mining, the prime engineering occupation during the Spanish colonization. It is considered one of the jewels of Mexican architecture of its period.

Casa del Lago

House of the Lake, in Chapultepec Park – a place devoted to cultural activities like dancing, plays and ballet. It also serves as meeting place for University related organizations and committees.

Museo de San Ildefonso

A baroque building in downtown Mexico City, held the first schools that later became UNAM.

Museo Universitario del Chopo

With an art deco architecture, large crystal panels and a couple of iron towers designed by Gustave Eiffel, it held the National Museum of Natural History for almost 50 years, now devoted to temporary exhibits of visual arts.

Observatorio Astronómico Nacional

The National Astronical Observatory is located in the San Pedro Mártir Sierra in Baja California, about 130 km south of the border with the United States. It has been in operation since 1970 and it currently boasts three large reflecting telescopes, with plans for installing a large instrument sensitive to milimetric wavelengths already under way.

Political Climate

UNAM students and professors are regarded around Mexico as very politically aware, and sometimes politically active. The general tendency is left-wing, with several socialist movements emerging form university students and staff.

However, UNAM is perhaps the place with more active political discussion in Mexico, including serious debate, mostly on the part of the faculty members. Among professors one can find persons influential in Mexican politics, as well as respected analysts. Discussion of political subjects is often encouraged by professors. International politics are also discussed, and several groups of interest have been formed, again mostly by professors, which have several degrees of influence in national opinion.

Despite the general leftist orientation, some right wing organizations have also benefited from university members. Some versions indicate that some of the current high-ranking government officials (Secretaries and advisors) emerged from a particular right-wing movement of christian-nationalist orientation, born in UNAM in the 1960s.

In general, being a former student or professor at UNAM, almost guarantees a degree of political awareness not present in the average Mexican population. It is for this reason that political unrest is not uncommon among the UNAM community.

Football team

UNAM's football (soccer) team "Club Universidad Nacional" participates in the First Division of the Mexican Professional Football League. The "Pumas", as the team is known, are current back to back champions (Apertura '04 - Clausura '04). They play at the Mexico 68 Olympic Stadium and are coached by Mexican football legend Hugo Sánchez.

Famous alumni

Presidents

Politicians

Scientists

Writers

External link

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