At MAU, we believe in strong academic training in order for students to discover and reach their full potential. The heart of our academics department is our talented and diverse faculty, so we’ll be aiming the spotlight on them.
To start, we would like to introduce you to Instructor Luis Ramirez, MBA, who teaches in the areas of Business Strategies and Operations Management.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and what drew you to teaching at MAU?
Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, made it very possible to come from the oil industry family. My father had worked for many years in Chevron, and he would take me to his work every now and then. I learned to love that industry. My interest in engineering built up from very early. So, I went to Universidad Simon Bolivar, a very strong engineering school in Venezuela, to enter the oil industry right after graduating, by then nationalized. The experience there just made my passion for engineering stronger and with the support of the company, I got my first graduate degree in Maintenance Management. In 1993 a big shift in my career occurred. I earned a scholarship from my company, came to the US to study business, earning my MBA in University of South Carolina. Right after graduation went back to Venezuela to work in the business area of the oil industry. This afforded me opportunities to learn about the business side of such a technical industry; the most exciting part: this is a truly global industry, and maybe the first global industry!
I had the experience of working with professionals from many parts of the world, and learned about the importance of the cultural differences in management. I also had the opportunity to attend professional development programs in some of the most prestigious American Universities, such as Stanford, MIT, University of Michigan, Wharton, and Thunderbird among others.
Still working for the oil industry, I developed a taste for the small business sector. This took me to start my own businesses. When I moved to the US in 2004, due to political reasons, I was partner in a company with the exclusive right to western Venezuela of an international franchise and was already developing our own franchise in Central Venezuela.
Since I came to the USA, I have been a small busines owner, in the business service sector. For the last 15 years I have been a business consultant for small businesses and have had the opportunity to help many immigrants to successfully establish commercial operations in this wonderful country.
What has been your favorite experience as an instructor at MAU so far?
It is hard to pinpoint just one. The academic setting gives you so many opportunities to grow. Your students force you to be better every day. They force you to open your mind, they challenge you. The diversity in the school is an enormous asset for us as faculty. If forced to pick one moment, I might say it was the first time I went to a commencement ceremony as faculty. It was fantastic to see my students walking to get their diploma, after so much effort, and just thinking that I had something to do with that, very moving and satisfying.
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have had the opportunity to work in several very large and important projects. Nonetheless, I once had a student in an adult education college here in the US. A Cuban immigrant who would look very tired in every class. It was a very small class. At the end of our third class I asked him to stay, just to ask him about his situation. He explained me his reasons to be in school here was to obtain local professional credentials to better his chances a reinsertion in his profession. He already had a graduate degree in Cuba. He and his wife had recently arrived in the US, and that they both were working very hard to make ends meet. So, he felt he was not going to be able to handle the workload and had decided to drop out of school. I told him I would not let him do that and worked out with him an arrangement to assure his learning, including tutoring, which for me was not a big deal anyways. He completed his term successfully. I did not see him until his graduation when he approached me to tell me I had saved his degree. I have to say I felt that bigger than any of those large international projects I had been involved with in my career.
Is there a professor from your college days that inspired your method of teaching? How so?
Yes! But not from college. Most of the greatest learning I got in my life, I got from my father. He was a tough demanding person, but with an incredible passion for teaching. He purposely exposed me to his work from early in my life. Then I could not only enjoy his taking all the time to explain me how thinks worked, the logic behind the functioning of every equipment I would be attracted to but could see him coach his peers in his team. He did not have the opportunity to go to college, but he was an engineer by passion. So, when I see someone interested in what I can teach him or her, I try to put my time in it and see that the learning occurs.
What was the best piece of advice you received when you were a student?
My industrial internship tutor explained me that in college I would learn many tools, even a way to approach problems, and the ability to solve many of them, but that I shall never disregard the voice of those who have been in the trade for a long time. In many instances they might not be able to clearly explain why they would approach a situation in a certain way, in which cases it was my duty to find such explanation with an open and critical mind. He insisted that disregarding it, could be very risky. So, in a nutshell, what he told me was that I had to always respect and listen to the voice of experience; that I will always find wisdom in it. It has proven to be absolutely true.
What advice or tips would you give students as they prepare for their post-graduation lives that you wished you would have been told?
The professional life will put you in front of many situations in which you will feel doubtful as to what’s the right thing to do. When in doubt, always take the high road. When in doubt, let your moral and ethical principles guide you. This is so much so when people are potentially affected. There will always be possibilities to err, but if you always act based on your best and honest intentions, you will enjoy one of the most valuable riches in life: peace of mind.
When you’re not working, what do you do?
I study, enjoy time with my wife of 38 years and with my first and only (so far) grandkid. I have also developed a passion for golf, even though I am very bad at it. I don’t think it is the golf itself, it’s more the opportunity it has afforded me to develop fantastic friendships, almost a brotherhood.
I also dedicate part of my time to work for my country and the Venezuelan diaspora. I devoted a great deal of time to the Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce of the United States, of which I was director, vice president and president. I am currently vice president of an NGO with a mission to create awareness of the political, social and economic reality in Venezuela among the political community in the US. The final purpose is to promote programs and legislations to help the change in our country, and help it recover the wellbeing of my countrymen