Mr. Cristhian Fabian Uriona Herrera works as the Regional Coordinator for the IT and Information Systems Unit at the Bolivian Catholic University in Cochabamba, Bolivia, specifically in the area of academic planning. As a professor and Head of Computer Systems, he develops curriculum on information technology in his area of expertise and publishes in academic journals. His research on software development and the People Capability Maturity Model often appears in the ACTA NOVA journal and the PERSPECTIVAS journal, respectively.
Mr. Uriona’s background in higher education management, coordination, and development made him a model candidate to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) administered by the Institute of International Education, titled “100,00 Strong in the Americas.” This project centered around Expanding Hemispheric Exchange in Higher Education and was carried out in March of 2017.
During his time in the U.S., Mr Uriona reviewed best practices in higher education management, discussed some of the latest learning management technologies that are being developed, and examined the role of government in education. Mr. Uriona observed operations at several colleges/universities in the state of Utah and explored programs with a focus on distance learning methods. His group met with a myriad of professional resources, including the Utah State Board of Regents, Utah System of Higher Education, Instructure, Westminster College, the University of Utah, Utah State University, and the Utah Education Network.
One exceptional meeting for the 100,00 Strong IVLP group was meeting with Ms. Tami Pyfer, Education Advisor to the Utah State Governor’s Office , to discuss the role it plays in education in Utah and a number of the educational initiatives the office had implemented or promoted across the state during Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration.
Highlights of Mr. Uriona’s trip include attending an NBA Basketball Game in Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena (Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans) and meeting Utahns through UCCD’s Home Hospitality Program. Mr. Uriona recalls the kindness, warmth and respect with which he was greeted.
After he visited Utah, Mr. Uriona had a renewed sense of purpose in his work as the IVLP meetings and resources increased his knowledge as an educator. Additionally, he felt a greater connection to his community, and a clearer understanding of how his role in the community impacts others. He is happy to say he volunteers more since visiting Utah and seeks out opportunities to share his thoughts at public events. For example, he presented two projects to incorporate topics related to STEM and Distance Education that could possibly be implemented in the University where he works. Both projects were born as a result of his visit to Utah and the meetings he had. He is glad he had the opportunity to visit Utah and regularly shares his experience in Utah with others.
According to Mr. Uriona, the knowledge he gained in Utah on how to plan and implement massive online courses prepared him to navigate the effects of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the current political climate in Bolivia. He said, “Thanks to my visit to Utah, I was able to propose ways of working online and propose tools that [helped] other areas… teach virtual classes.”
In the face of these overwhelming obstacles, Mr. Uriona has managed to provide students at his university with access to the tools they need to progress in their learning goals. For many of these students, access to education means crossing the line from destitution to opportunity. We send our sincerest thanks and admiration to Mr. Uriona and educators like him who work tirelessly to ensure access to higher education, even in the midst of converging crises.