Dr. Irma Becerra has been president of Marymount University only since July, but she clearly has jumped in with both feet. On November 10, she won first place in the 2018 DCs Dancing Stars celebrity dance competition. “I like to dance a lot, but have never before danced professionally. It was more demanding than I thought it would be,” Dr. Becerra said. “I think I’ll quit while I’m on top.” In addition to the $55,000 she raised leading up to the competition, first prize earned an extra $10,000 for Marymount. The $65,000 is being used to start the Sister Majella Berg Internship Fund, which provides a stipend to students working in unpaid internships.
Dr. Becerra is a firm believer in the benefits of such practical experience for her students, and
Marymount’s proximity to Washington offers rich opportunities. “We are 10 minutes from the White
House,” she said, “D.C. is our classroom.”
Marymount’s main academic and residential buildings are on Glebe Road in Arlington. The university’s
Ballston Center for business us in Arlington’s professional district and the nearby 4040 North Fairfax
Drive complex houses several medical programs.
Currently, 2,323 students are enrolled as undergraduates and 1,070 as graduate students. Dr. Becerra would like to see those numbers grow. “We have capacity for 6,000 on the ground students and we’d like to expand our online offerings as well.” The university’s strategic plan, to be announced in March 2019, at Dr. Becerra’s inauguration, has the total student population capped between 8,000 and 10,000. “We are not really looking to grow to the size of the larger public schools. We want to maintain a personalized experience for our students.”
Marymount’s student body leads the nation in global diversity, according to U.S. News & World Report, with 76 countries represented. Dr. Becerra is a Cuban-born American who immigrated to the United States with her parents. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Miami and went on to become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Florida International University (FIU).
She founded FIU’s Knowledge Management Lab and led major projects as principal investigator at the
National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Air Force Research Lab. She was also a Sloan Scholar at
MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research.
Dr. Becerra has written four books and numerous journal articles about knowledge management and business intelligence. Her original research has spanned enterprise systems, disaster management and IT entrepreneurship.
After years as a working scientist, Dr. Becerra fell in love with teaching and returned to academia.
“I love the DNA of Marymount: a practical education underpinned by the liberal arts.” She explained
that Marymount was founded on the idea that “education prepares you for work,” and those principles
still guide the school.
Dr. Becerra believes firmly that this philosophy is good for Marymount students and good for Northern
Virginia. “Our degrees are 21 st -century degrees, in nursing, cybersecurity, psychology, from undergrad all the way to doctorate. Our degrees reflect the needs of our community.”
Amazon’s announcement that it will locate half of its HQ2 in the Crystal City area was welcome news to Dr. Becerra.
“We are well-positioned to have the conversation with Amazon. What are their interests? How best can
we support their employment needs? We are ready to be a strong partner with Amazon.”
In an effort to ensure that Marymount students are ready to flourish in Northern Virginia’s
technologically advanced workforce, Dr. Becerra recently signed an agreement with Workday for a new
enterprise resource planning system.
“It will be the information technology central nervous system of our business. Student recruitment, HR,
housing, it’s all integrated. We wanted to make a leap to the gold standard,” by providing the intuitive
technology that students need and expect, she said.
Dr. Becerra said that the $6 million commitment to Workday is part of the university’s effort to continue
to provide “a culture of extraordinary service to students.”
For more details, visit the article, written by Robin Earl in The Business Voice.