When Marcus Moreno, 32, heard that a few of Laredo's insurance agency owners were close to retiring, he saw a golden opportunity to start his own agency and realize a long-cherished business dream.
Moreno has now secured his own office here, and said that in part, he owes his immediate success to his education at Texas A&M International University.
Armed with an A&M International master's degree in international logistics earned in 1998, and previous work experience in the transportation industry, Moreno said he was not afraid of the challenges that starting a business can often pose for a young entrepreneur with limited capital.
"I had to have the attitude that I had no fear," Moreno said.
The field of international logistics, Moreno said, taught him a number of important aspects business managers must tend to ranging from customer service, group work to writing a business plan. Most importantly, however, the field taught him versatility, he added.
Moreno said this versatility enabled him to better sell his business plan to financing institutions.
Kriztella Lopez, director of graduate student services, said few prospective university students know A&M International is the only university in the nation offering a master's degree in international logistics.
"Whenever I go to conferences to recruit, one out of two people will be surprised that we offer a program like this," Lopez said.
In recent years, the field has been gaining increased attention from prospective students simply because companies, especially those engaged in international trade, realize the importance of employing professionals trained to handle multiple tasks at once.
Dr. Jim Giermanski, Regents professor and one of the team of faculty members who introduced the international logistics program to A&M International, said logistics, which comprises 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, is becoming a significant sector in the national economy and salaries paid to professionals in the field are growing fast.
"I would say the average annual salary is in the $66,000 range," he said.
The field, in short, introduces students to the process of moving and storing goods and services in an efficient and effective manner so that they can reach the consumer from the point of origin according to the customer's requirements.
Giermanski said that while demand for professionals in international logistics is increasing, the field is not for everyone.
"This field has become sophisticated in the last seven to eight years. There's a lot that you have to know. You have to have an interest in satisfying customers," he said.
The program at A&M International has attracted students from all over the world who have traveled from far away to obtain a quality education, he said.
"For example, two semesters ago, everybody in my class spoke a multitude of languages, with the exception of one student, who was from Texas," Giermanski said smiling.
Moreno said that the diversity of the students enrolled in the program provided him with a richer educational experience.
"The program was good because it not only taught the United States' way of conducting business, but it also taught about Mexico and other countries, with students that have experienced certain situations in different countries," he said.
Like Moreno, Marcos Cedeņo, a student from Panama, said there are benefits to enrolling in the A&M International program.
Cedeņo, who worked for a third-party logistics company in Panama before coming to A&M International, said he found out about A&M International and its program through the Internet.
He decided to apply for the program after he further learned that the University was part of The Texas A&M University System and offered a relatively low tuition rate.
"The place is ideal to study," Cedeņo said, "There is a lot of trade going on in Laredo. You can offer this program in other places and you can learn the theoretical part. But here, you can feel it," Cedeņo said.
Increased investment in Latin America is another reason to pursue this field, Cedeņo said.
"At first, when I arrived to the United States, I thought knowing Spanish was a barrier. But now, I'm realizing that there are more businesses that need Spanish speakers especially as trade increases with Latin America. Companies need flexible, open-minded and bilingual people who understand different cultures," he said.
Finally, with the withdrawal of the U.S. presence from Panama and substantial government infrastructure left vacant, Cedeņo said opportunities are vast for someone like him to start an international logistics company there.
"The Panamanian government is trying to take advantage of this infrastructure like warehouses and make it profitable for the country," he said, "The field of international logistics is growing a lot in Panama."
For further information, please contact Kriztella Lopez at 326-2771. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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