April 23, 2024
Empowering Entrepreneurs

Photo: Irvin Harrell

Carlos Penaranda, left, pursued an MBA at Nova Southeastern University to help him bolster his non-profit. Jose Brache, an assistant professor and the academic director of NSU's Huizenga Business Innovation Academy, says the program is all about "active learning."

MBA Programs

Empowering Entrepreneurs

Nancy Dahlberg | 3/28/2024


For Carlos Penaranda, the pandemic was a time to reflect on his life. His wife was pregnant, and they had just moved to South Florida. He had been a project engineer with a good salary, but the work left little time for family or to give back through a non-profit he had set up for his homeland, Ecuador.

In 2022, Penaranda, a U.S. military veteran, embarked on a professional MBA at Nova Southeastern University with a focus on entrepreneurship to gain expertise that would help him run his non-profit, and he thought he’d probably start his own company someday. He also liked that NSU was military-friendly, with services for veterans and a military discount.

Jose Brache, an assistant professor and the academic director of the Huizenga Business Innovation Academy at NSU, says most of the students who typically enroll in this MBA program are, like Penaranda, already involved in building a company or a non-profit or have an innovative role inside their companies.

“Entrepreneurship is not only about starting a business, it’s about the management style. Intrapreneurs work inside corporations, developing new products and services, and even developing startups for big corporations. Exercising methodologies for entrepreneurship can bring all sorts of innovation, whether you work for government, work at a hospital, wherever you are.” That includes non-profits like Penaranda’s, Brache says. “It’s about how are you going to make it sustainable? Where are you going to get the funds?”

A program pillar is “active learning,” and students are encouraged to work on their own projects as they progress through their MBA, Brache says. In a course titled “The Startup Experience,” they work with a new business venture. Students also participate in programs and lectures at the Alan B. I NSU Broward Center of Innovation on the Davie campus.

Penaranda graduated in 2023 and is a product manager for DCE Solar while also running his non-profit, Compartiendo Nuestros Sueños, which teaches English and other subjects to vulnerable kids in Latin America. His employer is supportive and the company is even one of his nonprofit’s sponsors.

Back in Ecuador, his non-profit is teaching English to students at three schools, including one with 200 students. He hopes to add computer science classes over the next year or two. With knowledge from the MBA combined with his engineering background and his extensive personal study of how other developing countries have thrived, he is putting lean processes into place and incorporating artificial intelligence technology to help the students thrive.

The MBA has helped Penaranda learn about ways to get more villages involved as stakeholders in the children’s futures and he’s looking for more corporate backers, with the eventual goal of handing off more of the oversight. Penaranda wants his students to eventually be able to excel on standardized tests, attend universities and have access to higher-paying jobs at home or abroad.

“It takes thinking differently to be able to play in the developed world and to create the people that can play there,” he says. 

Tags: Education, Feature, MBA Programs

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