null In the Spotlight: Juny Montoya Vargas


Founded as an international network, Globethics has long sought to be inclusive of diverse cultural, religious, philosophical, and humanist ethical wisdoms, and to be the bridge between the different world views on ethical issues. As part of this, we strive to make our resources accessible across the globe. We are, therefore, very proud to offer the third edition of our Spanish-language course, Cómo incluir la ética en la formación universitaria (How to include ethics in university education), this semester, starting 2 March 2023. The course is the product of a fruitful collaboration between Globethics and the Universidad de los Andes (Los Andes University, UniAndes), Bogotá, Colombia.

Our latest In the Spotlight interviewee, Juny Montoya Vargas, is Director of the Center for Applied Ethics at UniAndes, and a long-time supporter of and collaborator with Globethics. In this interview (also available in Spanish), María Eugenia Barroso, Globethics Latin America Regional Officer, talks to Juny about her professional experience, her work with Globethics, her motivations, and why ethical leadership is so important.

María Eugenia Barroso (EB): Please tell us a little about yourself and your professional experience in education and ethics so the Globethics audience can get to know you a little better.

Juny Montoya Vargas (JMV): I studied Law and Philosophy at Los Andes University and although I graduated as a lawyer, I have always been interested in moral philosophy. I even did my master’s studies in this subject, in advance. My doctorate is in Education and, for the last 20 years, I have been dedicated to Curriculum and Pedagogy at the university. I have been a professional ethics professor at the Law School since 2001 and I designed a general education course on ethics in professions that I have offered since 2009. The possibility of combining ethics and pedagogy allowed me to advance the project I have been working on for the last 10 years: the creation and implementation of the Center for Applied Ethics, whose main strategy is the ethics transversality project that seeks to promote ethical reflection in all the university's mission areas.

EB: Could you summarise what ethics means to you?

JMV: To me, ethics means taking seriously the most important questions that a person must ask themself in life: what kind of life is worth living? What should I do? How can I be happy? What are my duties to myself and to others? And, most importantly, it means trying to live in a way that is consistent with the thoughtful answers we give to these questions.

EB: What do you find in your work/life/teaching that motivates you?

JMV: This is going to sound like a cliché, but I believe in the power of education. I have seen many students grow at a personal level, I met them as teenagers and now I see them as successful professionals and as productive members of society and that fills me with joy. Not with pride, because they are not my "artwork", but because I know that I have contributed to their training. When dealing with ethical training, I know that my contribution, even if it is small, provides key elements for making better ethical decisions and for developing the character of a good citizen, a good professional and above all, a good person.

On the other hand, by working with fellow teachers I feel that my contribution has a greater "impact", to use a fashionable word, because strengthening the pedagogical competencies of other teachers has an enormous multiplying power since each one of them will reach hundreds of students in their classrooms. That is a great motivation I find in my current job.

EB: What has been your experience collaborating and developing synergies with Globethics in the last years?

JMV: Since I learned about the existence of Globethics, I have been interested in its approach and its commitment to networking. I have had the opportunity to participate in different meetings promoted by Globethics, such as the Global Ethics Forum in 2016, the launch of the Globethics Consortium in 2017, the BNBT event (Building New Bridges Together) in 2022, as well as in several international virtual events.

Similarly, Globethics has supported the realisation of several of the ethics teaching congresses that we develop as part of the Network for Ethics and Citizenship Training (Redetica). In recent years, we have worked together to offer, through the Globethics platform, the Cómo incluir la ética en la formación universitaria course, which has already been offered on 3 occasions, in some cases in partnership with other universities in the region. More recently, we have been designated as a Competence Centre for the region, which will undoubtedly open up new possibilities for collaboration in the coming years. It will allow us to increase the visibility of our ethics transversality proposal and to rely on the network to strengthen our tools.

EB: How did the course Cómo incluir la ética en la formación universitaria come about and how was it developed?

JMV: This course was developed to offer support to professors of all disciplines who were interested in including ethics training in the curricula, providing them with conceptual and pedagogical ethical tools for the design of learning objectives and teaching, learning and evaluation activities aligned with ethics training objectives. Initially, we designed the course for UniAndes professors of different disciplines, but we soon realised that it would be of interest to professors from other universities as well, since ethics transversality is based precisely on the shared understanding that ethics underpins all human activities and is relevant in all subjects of study. In partnership with Globethics, we have been able to offer the course to professors from several universities in El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela.

EB: What has been the main motivation in your alliance with Globethics to offer the course jointly? What has been your experience in this regard?

JMV: The main motivation has been to be able to reach a wider audience and broaden our experience and knowledge thanks to the interaction with colleagues from other latitudes. In that sense, the experience has been very positive because we have recognised that despite the diversity of contexts, we share similar concerns in the region. With that said, learning about the specific contexts in which our colleagues work in other countries also enriches us greatly and represents a challenge to ensure the relevance of the course.

EB: The course is very well received by the participants, what do you think is so special about it?

JMV: That's good to hear. I think it has several key elements: an active pedagogy, focused on the participants; a methodology that combines group classes with individual counselling; and a team that is very committed to its work and that values interaction with participants.

EB: One thing that Globethics course instructors and teachers often say is that they learn as much from the participants as the participants learn from them. What have you learned in this process?

JMV: As I mentioned before, learning about very different contexts and, at the same time, sharing challenges, helps me to relativise my own experience and forces me to keep researching and working to make the course relevant and responsive to that kind of diversity.

EB: What would you highlight as an instructor of the course Cómo incluir la ética en la formación universitaria?

JMV: As an instructor, I consider it important to foster dialogue among participants on different experiences in different places. I also consider it important to highlight the different views from the different professional approaches of people who have participated.

EB: Why is it important to include ethics in university education in general and particularly in your region? How does this contribute to the training and development of 'ethical leadership'?

JMV: University education in the region tends to be too technical and, in that sense, does not necessarily promote commitment to the ethical and social responsibility of professions. Universities claim to train leaders, but without adequate ethical training, such leadership can be very harmful to organizations and to society in general. The true leadership that education institutions should promote must be ethical leadership if we want it to contribute to human flourishing, social development, and the sustainability of the planet.

EB: Globethics’ vision and mission is 'ethical leadership for a just, inclusive and sustainable world'. In your opinion, why is this vision important?

JMV: Because of what I mentioned before: without ethical leadership we run the risk that the world will not be a place where human coexistence or even survival is possible.