Situated on the eastern coast of Honduras between breathtaking mountains and the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Centro Universitario Regional Del Litoral Atlántico (CURLA) is an extension branch of the national university system. Many of its 2,500 students come from low-income families who live and work in the surrounding rural area. Tuition averages approximately $20 year—but even with such a seemingly-affordable fee, the university is looking for ways to grow and attract more students.
To help CURLA meet its goals, the John Ogonowski Farmer-to-Farmer (FTF) program sent Randall Martin (BA ’76), lecturer in the Department of Management and International Business in the College of Business Administration, to Honduras to work directly with CURLA faculty and administrators to analyze the university’s current situation and to help create a viable strategic plan and operational design.
“We are very pleased to have Martin lead this effort in Honduras. He is the first professor from the college to participate directly in the program,” said Carmen Algeciras, (MIB ’03, BA ’01), director, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program, which falls under the umbrella of the Knight Ridder Center for Excellence in Management and the Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center. The FTF program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Program gets down to business—with an eye to future possibilities.
During his three-week stay in Honduras, Martin interviewed representatives from each CURLA department, undertook a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, and conducted training sessions about how to develop an effective strategic plan.
“My primary focus was on operational processes. I looked at all aspects of the university, gathering information about its current operations, budget, student enrollment, and course offerings,” Martin said.
Ecotourism is one opportunity he identified.
“This seems to be a completely untapped area in this region of Honduras,” he said. “With the right investments and course development, CURLA could develop a curriculum geared toward supporting the travel and hospitality industry, teaching students how to be tour guides or even to open tour companies catering to the growing number of adventurous travelers looking for the ‘next new hot spot’ to visit.”
FTF helps CURLA reinforce its strong commitment to strengthening higher education.
The overriding mission for CURLA is to teach, conduct research, and transfer technology with the purpose of preparing capable professionals while contributing to the development of the country and improving the quality of life for its citizens.
CURLA turned to the FTF program for guidance on how best to meet these goals.
“We requested technical assistance to help CURLA create a strategic plan,” said Candido Ruiz, Honduran country manager with the FTF program. “Professor Martin helped create a plan that showed the CURLA team where they need to invest to strengthen the institution. He also led discussions on marketing the institution to increase enrollment, on which careers/curriculum should be focused on, and on what external factors should be considered in making the strategy work.”
In Ruiz’s opinion, one of the most important aspects of this project was how the teachers as well as the administrators worked together and really got involved in the projects led by Martin.
“The results are all very positive,” Ruiz said. “We are proud to say that CURLA is the first extension branch within the entire Honduran university system to have completed a strategic plan.”
CURLA project exemplifies what FTF is all about.
Projects like this one in Honduras play a vital role in the greater FTF program.
“Working with universities in the FTF program is part of what makes our activities sustainable,” Algeciras said. “Strengthening higher education creates a multiplier effect and has proven to be a critical step in improving employment, competitiveness, and the creation of knowledge-based societies, thereby alleviating poverty in the region.”
To learn more about the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program, visit http://entrepreneurship.fiu.edu/usaid/. For more details about participating, contact Carmen Algeciras, program director, at 305-348-0399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.