LEADERSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Luis Umaña, Vice President of Business and Finance | Universidad Zamorano
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LEADERSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Luis Umaña, Vice President of Business and Finance

Luis Umaña Timms joined Zamorano as the Vice President of Business and Finance in January 2020. His previous experience includes the roles of Rector and Chancellor at EAN University in Colombia, Executive Director at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Dean at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, California, and Director of Graduate Business Programs at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Luis pursued his Ph.D. in Cross-Cultural Marketing at the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam and got his MBA from Universidad Interamericana de Costa Rica.

The newly appointed Vice President of Business and Finance shares his vision to transform Zamorano from “Latin America’s best kept secret” to an internationally renowned university.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP PRIORITIES AS VP OF BUSINESS AND FINANCE?

“There is a plaque in the W.K. Kellogg Training Center that describes Zamorano as ‘Latin America’s best kept secret,’” Luis said. “Zamorano has existed in a bubble. We need to tap more deeply into the world of global education, to stop being an American university in Honduras and truly become an international university. Zamorano has the potential and built-in capacity to go to the next level, and to be more proactive and visible.

“Firstly, we must diversify and grow the school’s sources of income. At present, we are truly dependent on few sources of income, enrollment fees, donations, etc. We need to move past our current level to succeed here and move on to the global stage.

Each January, we begin to produce professionals who will join the labor market four years later. The requirements of that labor market will be different in four years. In a way, universities are always playing catch up. In this era of rapid change, we need to find the crystal ball that allows us to have relationships with industry and technology, and awareness of world happenings in the classroom so that when our students graduate, they are relevant professionals and attractive hires because they are up to date. They cannot be obsolete the day they graduate. Unfortunately, that happens every day around the world. In order to rectify this, we need to find new resources and alliances. We are in need of funds to cover modern machinery, renovated classrooms, and state of the art technology that will allow us to teach skills, competencies, and knowledge that will be required for the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Secondly, we need to enhance corporate relationships. Tropical agriculture feeds the world. Most food production around the world happens within the tropical belt and is not limited to summer. Learning by Doing (LBD) became an aspiration for business schools 10 years ago. Zamorano has been doing it for 80, but very few know about it. Many schools worldwide (in places such as Denmark, Germany, Australia, New Zealand to name a few) are teaching tropical agriculture but lack the LBD philosophy. They may be larger, but they are not in the tropics and they lack fields for their students to experience it. Zamorano is unique. We could be a research partner for universities that have the discipline but lack the campus for practical application. The same logic applies to corporations in agroindustry.”

WHAT STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES DO YOU SEE?

“The more people discover the caliber of our research, and quality of our students and alumni, the more opportunities will arise. We wouldn’t have to spend our time and resources looking for opportunities and partnerships because these companies and organizations would be lining up to hire our graduates or offer internships.

“Our target student market is not the wealthy. Our students will return to their communities and will have a greater impact on well-being, general health, and livelihood there than if we were exclusively educating the wealthy. Relatively speaking, the impact of an education is low if the student does not know what it means to live and struggle at the bottom of the pyramid. In these circumstances, educating one person benefits hundreds, giving us the potential to have real impact on Latin American communities.

“Our target market is also a weakness, in that almost all students need scholarships, some more than others. This puts great pressure on the Institution. We have the opportunity to turn these students into the “poster children” to attract funds to support others like them. Some universities need to work hard to find that “poster child” while we have an abundance of them, not because they are minorities, but because they are living examples of our mission. We are not just talking about bringing high potential kids out of the bottom of the pyramid in LATAM. We are doing it. Walking the talk is a strength of Zamorano. Finding the funds is a challenge. We need to confront these two big challenges to allow Zamorano to break out of its bubble.”

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