Thursday, December 19, 2013

COBI professor brings international, engineering experiences to business classroom

December marks the end of Dr. Marcelo Alvarado-Vargas’ first semester teaching at The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation department of management, but if he has his way, it was only the start of what he hopes will be a career at COBI. That’s the focused goal of a man who knows universities, having obtained four degrees from three universities on three continents.

“I was born in Bolivia, a lower-middle income country. I was strongly influenced by my father who sees education as an investment for personal development. Education has expanded my view of the world,” he said.

Dr. Marcelo Alvarado-Vargas
Alvarado-Vargas obtained his bachelor’s degree at Bolivian Private University (Universidad PrivadaBoliviana), where he studied production engineering.

“The university exposed me to various companies and business people. I am still in contact with them, and with authorities of the university.”
Later, he obtained a master’[s degree in international business at Florida International University in Miami.  “I returned to Bolivia in 2004, a young engineer with a master’s degree, but it was very difficult to find jobs…I was overqualified,” Alvarado-Vargas said.  “I was hired by Bata, a shoe manufacturer, and worked there for five months. I was happy there, but they did not use my full potential, and I didn’t see any challenges there.”

“I saw an opportunity to study abroad, in Belgium, so I obtained a scholarship from the Belgian government and went to Ghent University (Universiteit Gent) for a master degree in operations and technology management. They speak Dutch there; I already spoke English, Spanish and French, but I don’t like to feel lost, so I learned Dutch in the evenings.  I think to be functional in society you have to be motivated to be part of that society.”
“While in Belgium I was a graduate assistant to a professor who exposed me to different kinds of research, and pushed me to keep going,” Alvarado-Vargas said, reflecting on his own passionate interest in research.

“Then I received a stipend from Florida International University, arriving in Miami in 2007 to pursue my Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering, but I transferred to business administration….which was the best decision of my life. This is what I really like, and with my engineering background, I was unique. Strategic management, innovation, and technology management are my areas of research, and I was able to bring different angles and viewpoints to it. Some look only at business, and some look at engineering, but I was able to bridge the gap, which I think also enhances the classroom experience for my students. I graduated in the summer of 2013 with a Ph.D. in business administration.”
Alvarado-Vargas said he loves teaching, and recalled that his first instructional experience was as a private tutor as a senior in high school, charging a minimal fee to earn extra money. His first formal teaching on the university level was in 2008 at FIU, teaching Engineering Economic Analysis, a textbook which still maintains a prominent position on the shelf above his office desk in Stranahan Hall South. Later, he taught strategic management, international business, managing innovation, operations management, and organizational management at FIU.

In his search for a full-time teaching position, he accepted an invitation to visit The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation.
“I was very happy and surprised the first time I came to The University of Toledo; I knew I belonged here. When something is right for you, you feel that energy. Comparing it to other institutions I had the chance to know from inside, I think UT is equally competitive in resources for research, and, since it was founded in 1872, this school has a history.”

Alvarado-Vargas’ commitment to research even extended to his process for selecting a football team to cheer for, using strategy “to pick my NFL team forever.” He spent a year analyzing the 32 teams, their strengths and weaknesses, and finally determined that his winning team would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “Having an engineering background, I could relate to steel…besides, who has a dolphin for a mascot?”
Since settling in Toledo this past summer, he’s been to the museum, the zoo and some area restaurants, but admits he is still exploring the city. He added that he does not miss the traffic or weather of Miami, and that, “I think winter clothing is more elegant.” In addition to helping his students succeed, he enjoys a variety of live music, playing the guitar, travel, movies (Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind and Amadeus are his favorites), and admits to being into motocross sports, especially when he was younger.

“As a teenager, I was really determined about my future. If I wanted something, I found a way to get it,” he said.
Currently, his focus and determination remain intense and intact. “Everything is possible if you really put in the effort.”


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