Richard Navarro, a faculty member in the College of Education and Integrative Studies (CEIS), recently returned to campus after two-years of leading a five-year, $22 million project focused on creating opportunities to boost economic growth in El Salvador.
The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International is leading the USAID-funded initiative.
“This project was an effort to try to promote economic recovery in El Salvador by combating the country’s greatest barriers including a shortage of investments in innovation and research, and the lack of skilled workers,” Navarro said. “I think the challenges that El Salvador faces are issues that higher education and the private sector are struggling to address around the world, including in our own country.”
During his time in El Salvador, Navarro set up new academic programs to meet the needs of employers, established four career centers, held two career fairs, set up internships in the private sector and developed the first national master plan for higher education in partnership with the Salvadoran government.
“I think it’s important to recognize that the Salvadoran Civil War tore the country apart causing the private industry and the universities to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum,” he said. “This project has resulted in both sides reconciling and working together for the benefit of the country after 25 years of distrust.”
The project continues under new leadership to ensure sustainability once the funding has ended. Navarro and his wife, Esmeralda Gonzalez, also established a non-profit organization to promote education in impoverished communities and parental involvement in their children’s schooling.
“It’s not enough to graduate students from college. We must ensure they’re career ready,” he said. “In order to accomplish that, we must have a much closer relationship with their future employers.”
Navarro has served CEIS for 20 years. He teaches various undergraduate courses in the Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies. He also teaches in college’s graduate and teacher credential programs, as well as in the doctoral program. Recently, he was named graduate studies coordinator for CEIS.
Navarro was a Fulbright Research Scholar in the Maldives, chief of education for UNICEF-Afghanistan, chair of the California Commission on Technology and Learning, and prior to coming to Cal Poly Pomona, was an American Council on Education Fellow at Stanford University, serving as a special assistant to former Provost Condoleezza Rice. He is also the founding director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University.
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