Zamorano changes lives and transforms communities.
While that may seem like hyperbole, everyone who interacts with the Honduras-based agricultural university seems to come away with that opinion. Since its founding 80 years ago, Zamorano has educated students from across Latin America and the Caribbean to become agricultural and agribusiness entrepreneurs and leaders.
While many universities may talk about educating students to be future leaders, Zamorano’s approach is distinctive. “You have to go to Zamorano to understand Zamorano,” says Erik Peterson, Chairman of the Zamorano Board of Trustees. “When you actually see the students, you grasp what a profound experience this is for them.”
Most of Zamorano's students live at or below the poverty line, and most are only able to attend the university because of scholarship funds. According to Erik, "Educating a single student can break the cycle of poverty. It can transform an entire community." The students bring skills, knowledge and environmental awareness back to their communities and countries that can help create businesses, grow economies and provide leadership to build sustainable agri-food systems. Alumni go on to run multinational organizations, large farms that employ hundreds of people, and governmental agencies—indeed, the current Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock in Honduras (the first woman in the country's history in that role) is a graduate and former professor of the university.
A Zamorano education is focused on "learning by doing" and is based on the school's belief that students build knowledge through practical work and collaboration in agriculture-based business. The students—one-third of whom are women—spend half the day in the fields learning experientially and attend classes during the other half. Students are expected to work hard; they start their day no later than 5:00 a.m. and all lights are out by 11:00 p.m. Not only do they receive excellent hands-on practical training, but they also receive a world-class education. In addition to offering its own master's programs, approximately 30% of Zamorano students go on to attend graduate programs at other institutions, including elite universities such as Cornell, University of Texas, Purdue, and other schools in the U.S. and Europe.
Internships are another aspect of the experiential learning program. Students travel internationally to pursue internships at other academic institutions or in industry. As Ana Maier, Acting President of Zamorano, says, “These kids have often never left their communities. The opportunity to travel internationally can completely transform their perspective and what they think is possible.”
Zamorano's endowment plays a pivotal role in facilitating this potential for transformation, providing the bulk of financial support for most students. When the university was looking for a new OCIO (Outsourced Chief Investment Officer), cultural alignment was important. Erik commented, "The Brown Advisory team, led by Brandon Parrish and Amy Seto, was committed to the power of education and to sustainability, which was meaningful to us. They have spent time getting to know us and to understand how much our endowment matters to our mission."
"At Zamorano, we are committed to educating future leaders and innovators capable of tackling global challenges, such as achieving food security, improving nutrition through sustainable agriculture, combating climate change, and building resilient communities across Latin America and the world. "
Acting President, Zamorano University