Written by Meghan O´Farrell, IE Master in International Relations Student, 2014/2015 Intake 

His ‘andalú’ accent was lost a long time ago somewhere in the mix between Galicia, Boston, and Berkeley. But a southern Spanish accent wasn’t the only thing noticeably absent from my hour-long chat with IE Professor José Ramón Montero. While many with his CV and long list of accomplishments could very easily possess an air of narcissism, Professor Montero has none at all. He still admits that his nerves creep up before each class as he lectures to a group of new students, who grow increasingly smart and mature with each passing year according to him. But as one of Spain’s leading political scientists and with the credentials that he boasts, there’s no one more capable or deserving to be front and center in the classroom. We all owe it to ourselves, as part of the IE family and students of international relations, to get to know this man a little better. (Sneak peak: Professor Montero was current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s law professor at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela).

1. Jose Ramon Montero

His roots

Prof. Montero was born in Cádiz yet hails from conservative Castillian roots. Both his parents had careers in civil service and, like many during the mid-20th century, migrated from Madrid to Andalucía during a wave of economic development in Spain’s southern region. His mother worked in the Ministerio de Hacienda (Treasury Department) and his father was a marketing expert in car sales.

On his education

As a child growing up against the backdrop of the Franco regime, the option of pursuing social sciences was nonexistent during the heyday of the fascist dictator. Heeding the recommendation of his parents, he attended the Universidad de Granada. There he studied law, although a bit reluctantly he adds, and met his wife who also moved from Cádiz to Granada to pursue her studies in biology.

They later moved to Santiago de Compostela where Prof. Montero completed a PhD in law studying democratic regimes and the failure of the Second Spanish Republic. He started a professional, peaceful anti-Franco movement on the conservative Santiago campus only later to be wrongly accused of orchestrating a more violent, subversive student movement when many of his pupils adopted more extreme measures. Here he met his mentor, Juan Linz, and studied under his tutelage which profoundly influenced his political thought and professional trajectory.

On Harvard and Berkeley

When he finished his dissertation in 1974, Prof. Montero, along with his wife and two daughters (ages 1 and 3) left for Cambridge, Massachusetts to complete a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard. Amid his countless memories include witnessing and studying the Watergate Trial, Richard Nixon’s resignation, and publishing pieces addressing the consequences of these events on American history. As a student and professor of political science and electoral processes, one of his greatest regrets is missing Spain’s democratic transition after Franco’s death in 1975 and the first democratic elections in the post-Franco era.

After a brief stint back in Spain, Prof. Montero and his family moved to Berkeley, California. San Francisco in 1979, in the wake of the Vietnam War was a life-changing experience. Vietnam was over and, as veterans were incorporated into universities, he recalls studying side-by-side with wounded soldiers who attended classes on hospital beds.

On his proudest professional achievement

Prof. Montero could easily cite as his proudest professional achievement one of his many books or published pieces in some of Spain’s most influential newspapers. He could also mention his time as the Dean of Faculty of the Universidad de Cádiz Law School (even though he never really wanted to study law in the first place). But instead he turns the conversation to his students. He is proudest of supervising more than 30 doctoral dissertations and admits that his students know much more than he does. He claims that his most rewarding professional experience has been the role he’s played in the education of his students and invokes the metaphor of “leading his students to the bridge, preparing them for the journey to cross it, but falling back and allowing them to do it on their own.” He likes to think of this as the defining philosophy of his career- preparing his students for greatness that, hopefully, will surpass his own.

On his hobbies

Prof. Montero spends his time outside the classroom as a family man. He’s a grandfather to six children ranging from 3-9 years old and admits he loves reading novels and listening to music including classical operas and the Beach Boys.

On what he finds as the most hopeful and promising attributes of his students

He mentions, with fondness and pride, that his students have the remarkable determination and capability to overcome challenges, most notably economic, in completing a university education. He notes that this accomplishment and universal academic incorporation in Spain has taken place over the course of only a single generation when other western countries took two or three times as long. “It is both an individual and joint effort to bring an education to young people in Spain, and I’m very proud to be a part of that.”


The Beyond the Classroom series is a monthly installment on our blog where a current Academic Fellow for the Master in International Relations shares with us insights into current MIR professors and faculty. The scope of this series is to see our diverse faculty in a different light away from the classroom, highlighting aspects of their rich personal lives and experiences.

You can read all the articles here.   


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I believe that every student should work overseas at least once in their lifetime even if it’s just for a summer. It would be easy to get a work placement. We supply promotional products Sydney is competitive for branded merchandise and promotional gifts. We have clients and suppliers from around the world but we find it hard to find bilingual employees with experience. I suppose the US doesn’t have that problem.

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[…] In this series, you can also read  “Going Beyond the Classroom: Jose Ramon Montero”  […]

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