It was clear to me from day one. We’d be focusing on three pillars: inverting the pyramid so that students and teachers were at the heart of the institution, incorporating a learning-oriented spirit of service, and encouraging innovation as a fundamental premise.

Alva was chosen to lead the Tec on September 12, 2011. He announced his retirement a little after having held that position for eight years. “The time has come for someone to take over my role at Tec de Monterrey. David Garza Salazar will occupy the position of president from July 1,” he tweeted on January 10 of this year.

“We’ve achieved a lot under his leadership,” acknowledged José Antonio Fernández, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Tecnológico de Monterrey, at the 2020 Annual Board Meeting. “Today, we have a Tec that is more robust, more proactive, and more admired than ever.”

Together with his team (explained Fernández), Alva has strengthened the quality and impact of education, attracted better students, brought about greater inclusion, and positioned the Tec not only as a leader in educational innovation, but also as one of the best places to work in Mexico.

For Rodolfo Rubio, Vice President of Communications and Institutional Image, Alva’s presidency has focused on encouraging a culture that is focused on value and processes, the disruptive vision of educational innovation, and collaboration and openness.

Juan Pablo Murra, Vice President of Relations and Development, also emphasizes that he has brought teams together under one roof at the Tec, made a commitment to talent and innovation, and achieved his goal of the staff making it their mission to serve students and teachers (the inverted pyramid).

In an interview with Tec Review, Alva shares some of the lessons he’s learned during his time in office as President of Tecnológico de Monterrey.

What was your most memorable moment as President of the Tec?

My son Diego’s graduation at PrepaTec Santa Catarina. As parents, we witnessed the great work our institution does by transforming the lives of its students.

What was the most difficult moment of your presidency?

The 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, when we lost five of our students and an entire campus attending to 8,000 students from one day to the next. Now, this worldwide pandemic is having terrible effects on health, the economy, society, and especially on mental health.

What surprised most you about Tec de Monterrey?

The great sense of pride and belonging of our teachers and collaborators, in short, their values. They’re open to change and have taken on board our criticisms of many of the things we used to do that we wanted to be better and different.

Would you have liked to do anything differently?

Not differently, but I would have placed more emphasis on developing talent. We have wonderful people, but forming leaders is a complex task, as talent is scarce. Humanity needs leaders who are less hierarchical, more inclusive, empathetic and collaborative, who are very capable of forming agile organizations that are based on values, positive energy, and social awareness.

What have you learned from the Tec community?

Tecnológico de Monterrey has enabled me to be a better person, a better leader. It’s given me the opportunity to meet great thinkers, to talk to incredible people from all over the world, and to put together an amazing team who’ve been able to add some advanced ideas to our 2020 syllabus that’s been taking shape.

Who do you admire?

My father and humble people who dare to be authentic and different.

What’s your favorite pastime?

The simplest things: walking and observing nature, the sea, a good read, a movie, a conversation that challenges me to think differently, meditating, and helping people.

What do you imagine Mexico and the world will be like after the pandemic?

I hope we flourish as more humane societies that are based on values and less centered on ephemeral things and the accumulation of material goods.

What do you imagine education will be like in the next decade?

I’d hope it would focus on developing skills in a more student-centered way and that the digital world can be accessed by everyone. We need to close the digital divide that has kept those of us with access to good education apart from those without.