In an attempt to recruit more talented South American students, Yale admissions officers have packed their bags and taken flight.

Until five years ago, the Undergraduate Admissions Office had not traveled to any Latin American countries besides Mexico, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Diana Cooke said. Since then, Yale has done four multi-week tours through the area with about 25 other universities in an attempt to increase Yale’s visibility and provide an overview of the American liberal arts education to interested students.

“We feel that it’s really working,” Cooke said. “It’s not just getting more kids to apply. We’re looking for quality students in any curriculum or school system.”

Cooke spent three weeks in September traveling through Central and South America with representatives from 28 other U.S. universities.

Throughout the continent, the consortium of schools held fairs targeted at students in the region who were in ninth grade or older. In addition to giving sales pitches for their own institutions, the Americans discussed broader goals of a liberal arts education. At the fairs, which were typically conducted at international schools, university officials also gave tips for completing American applications.

Cooke said some of the countries she visited included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

She said that as a result of the fairs, her office has been drawing impressive applicants who are enthusiastic about Yale.

“I think the ultimate goal is to be able to do outreach to talented students in these countries,” Cooke said. “They’re there and without exposure [they] would not see Yale as an option.”

As these students thrive at Yale, their examples encourage more people from their community to consider the school, Cooke said.

Francisco Jijon ’05, who is from Ecuador, said he did not think of coming to Yale until he met up with a Yale representative at a university fair.

“It was pretty much the first time I considered going here,” he said. “I didn’t have that much exposure to what American colleges were actually like. Being able to talk with a representative from Yale made me realize Yale was definitely a school I could aspire to come to.”

Luciano Custo Greig ’07, who hails from Argentina, said he saw a need in his country for information about the liberal arts education.

“People generally have no idea what the liberal arts education is,” he said.

Jijon said this is also true of Ecuador because professional schools are dominant there.

Yale is successfully increasing its visibility, Jijon said, but when he left Ecuador, there were still a few schools that were better known to its citizens.

“[Yale is] not as recognized as Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge,” he said.

The U.S. university representatives who went on the September trip were mostly from the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States with a large contingent from Florida because of its proximity to Latin America, Cooke said. She said Yale was the most selective college of the group, which included Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Purdue, Colgate and Tufts.