President Becerra shares innovations with international audience at USAID

President Becerra shares lessons and MU innovations with USAID


Late last month, Marymount University President Irma Becerra spoke at the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C., where she shared her thoughts with university presidents and vice chancellors from across the world on how to build long-term institutional ties and university partnerships with innovation. She also reflected on her journey from growing up in Cuba to today serving as President of Marymount.

“I owe all my career success to higher education,” Dr. Becerra said. “I firmly believe that it is the great equalizer and it offered a pathway to the American Dream for this Cuban refugee.”

“I was born in Cuba, and immigrated to the U.S. with my parents when I was just an infant to escape (Fidel) Castro’s revolution. My family had to start from nothing, and there were many challenges we faced. However, those experiences gave me a passion for knowledge.”

President Becerra was invited by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau for Development, Democracy and Innovation (DDI)/Center for Education and Asia Region Bureau to share her experiences on being a female leader at an institution of higher learning. DDI/EDU hosted 20 presidents and vice chancellors from USAID partner universities affiliated with the USAID-funded Higher Education Systems Strengthening Activity (HESSA) project in Pakistan.

“The delegation visiting from Pakistan was composed of university vice chancellors, and one of the priorities of the country is to promote women leadership in higher education,” said Ghazala Syed, Senior Education Adviser at USAID. “They really enjoyed hearing Dr. Becerra’s personal approach and the examples from her work.”

President Becerra shares innovations with international audience at USAID

In addition to her journey of becoming a university president, Dr. Becerra spoke about governance at higher education institutions and the importance of access to information. She highlighted her work in launching a new Strategic Plan when she began her tenure as President of Marymount in 2018. She also spoke about implementing a new information technology system, Workday, that would better deliver the quality of service needed for the school community.

When she previously served as a professor at Florida International University’s College of Business, Dr. Becerra taught for years about the strategic value of information systems and the importance of organizations having a fully integrated enterprise system, which essentially acts as the organization’s central nervous system.

“Workday revolutionizes how we manage data, processes and people across campus, and we are growing and improving our business practices while delivering an exceptional service experience to our students and prospective Saints,” President Becerra said. “The pandemic has made it clear that our enterprise technology must exist in the cloud. In case we have to pivot again in the future to remote work, having that technology at the ready is required.”

Last year, Marymount partnered with Netflix and 2U to launch a virtual tech boot camp for the University’s undergraduate students in high-demand IT areas that include Data Science, Java Engineering and UX/UI Design. With the goal of increasing diversity in tech fields, President Becerra spoke on how the curriculum is designed to further develop students’ industry-relevant technology skills and teach them how to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world business solutions.

“Students partner up with seasoned employees on Netflix’s engineering and data teams to gain industry insights and key learning through regular one-on-one mentorship sessions, as well as dedicated support services and career coaching from 2U’s expert team of advisors,” President Becerra said.

Her engaging talk showcased how Marymount has become a cutting-edge institution that will continue to grow in the years to come, especially with Workday powering the campus full time. The delegation appreciated President Becerra’s insights on partnering with the private sector to improve student employability, student campus life and effective university governance.