[guiding hands]
Border Crossing
Continuing education schools Mexican workers on the American way of business
by Julene Snyder

Trainer Alejandro Casteneda, who works in conjunction with USD’s continuing education office, describes the training that’s provided to Mexican workers as like a “mini-MBA.”

For proof positive that the reach of the University of San Diego stretches beyond its own verdant campus, look no further than a company based in Monterrey, Mexico. “It’s like USD South, ” says Jodi Waterhouse.

Over the past two years, hundreds of workers have benefited from attending seminars in Mexico on leadership, team-building and other management skills, says Waterhouse, the manager of corporate and professional programs for the university’s Office of Continuing Education. Launched in April 2005, the program’s biggest client is Deacero, a steel manufacturer with 11,000 employees.

“What’s unique is that it’s not just USD showing up on their doorstep,” Waterhouse says. “At the executive level, they’ve embraced USD as the educational arm for the entire company.”

Alejandro Castenada serves as the primary liaison between the university and Mexican businesses like Deacero. He works in partnership with Waterhouse to help the program expand and prosper.

“We get many of our instructors from Mexico and have created a program — which is managed and designed by USD — that’s built to satisfy the client’s needs.”

Castenada points out that much of the credit for the success of the partnership belongs to Maria Tolman, the Latin American academic coordinator who takes care of the complicated logistics. “She has managed to control 900 students 5,000 miles away from San Diego,” he says with admiration.

For both employer and employee, one of the most attractive elements of the program is the awarding of certificates to students who’ve successfully finished the training. “After completion,the employees know more and perform better,” Castenada says. “We certify that they have these up-to-date skills.”

It’s no cakewalk: “We are very tough; we have homework, online material, books. It’s like a mini-MBA.”

Already, the presence of the University of San Diego is strong throughout Deacero, Mexico’s largest steel wire manufacturer. “Every cubicle has a USD binder, and I’m talking about a five-story building,” Waterhouse says.

“Students love this university. They treat us as if we were down the street. They see us as unique because we have the ear of their executive-level team.”

Deacero is committed to keeping its workers in Mexico by offering not just the continuing education program, but also providing them with competitive wages and travel opportunities. To date more than 700 workers have graduated with certificates.

“Deacero wanted their employees to understand the American way of business, and USD was able to customize the curriculum based on their biggest needs,” Waterhouse says. “In time, we hope to develop other partnerships with other Mexican entities.”

Indeed, it’s already happening: In June, a partnership with the Universidad Anáhuac Cancún will pair USD instructors with students of that university, a Catholic institution grounded in Catholic social teachings.

Sound familiar?