By ZOE FOWLER
If you walk onto any college campus, you see students disengaged from their surroundings. They hurriedly walk to their noon classes with their heads drooped down, staring at their phone screens. Some have part-time or full-time jobs on top of academic responsibilities with social engagements thrown into the mix. For Jesus Cendejas, a senior marketing and entrepreneurship major, his responsibilities extend much further. Cendejas is the General Director for a private Mexican university, Institute of Academics in Accounting and Management, in Mexico City. He spends a majority of his time communicating with 50-plus of his employees at the university and is responsible for all of the decision-making.
[Balancing school and the business] is something very hard because my Mexico phone doesn’t have internet all the time. It’s supposed to, but you know, Mexico is mediocre. Sometimes it does work, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m on it 24/7.
The four-year university is in session year-round with the exception of holidays. Cendejas utilizes TouchCMS, an app for smartphones that allows users to access the home or office via live cameras. With the app, he is able to check in on his employees at the office while he’s at UT.
Cendejas grew up in a close-knit family surrounded by his grandmother and cousins in Mexico City. When he was 13, his family sent him abroad to Oakland Academy, a Catholic boarding school in Illinois, so that he could learn the value of hard work. His family owns 34 universities all over Mexico.
Oakland Academy differed from the privileged life Cendejas had known in Mexico. He described the religious boarding school as being incredibly strict. He had to go to mass every day at seven, wear a suit and tie to his classes and wait in line for three-minute showers.
“I remember the priest that was taking care of my group, he said, ‘Everything is not given.’ That was the motto I took from then on,” Cendejas said. “I [thought] I’d have to change my life because maybe when my parents pass away I’m not going to have anything, and then I started working for my own and deserve my own things.”
When Cendejas began his position six months ago at the day institute, there were only 350 students. The enrollment of students rose to 720 students in only five months, he said.
“I started implementing new things like digital marketing, internal communication, written processes like how they deal with kids. I was very strict with everything I wanted to do,” Cendejas said.
The employees who work for Cendejas have known him since he was a child. They didn’t necessarily see him as a leader because they knew him on a personal level; therefore, he had to gain their respect.
“The first thing I did was gain leadership by doing and acting and not just by being a director,” Cendejas said. “I think most of my leadership was gained through my decisions because I was always trying to do the best for these people, and I was always trying to talk about my students as my kids. People started believing in me because of what my conditions were and how I started working.”
Cendejas also noticed his institution had a poor retention rate. Three hundred students would enroll every year in August and only 30 to 40 students would graduate three years later.He set up a meeting with the management department and teachers to inquire about the lack of students graduating.
“A business with no retention is bad business, so I noticed that one of the flaws was that there was no English in my school,” Cendejas said. “For government to accept these kids to graduate, they had to have English and we didn’t sell them English.”
Cendejas partnered up with DynEd International Inc., an English language software company based in Burlingame, California. DynEd hosts over 13 million active users worldwide. Its method of teaching English is to teach the language like how babies learn: first by observing things, then by writing and reading. Seventy percent of participation is online and the other 30 percent is in school.
“Implementing English was like creating another school because you need to get pyramids and schedules,” Cendejas said. “A lot of stuff that I didn’t know about. But after three months, we finally made it. Now we have 117 students, which we thought we were only going to have 30.”
Cendejas considers Dr. Gary Beemer, his former Marketing Strategy professor and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing at UT, to be one of his mentors. Their relationship is built on collaboration and bringing Cendejas’ long-term vision to fruition.
“I am impressed not only with his business acumen and concern for employees, but also his desire to see Mexico become a country with greater opportunity and upward mobility for common workers,” Dr. Beemer said.
Cendejas said that he’s constantly thinking ahead and thinking of creating more businesses, but he wants to establish himself as a business leader.
“I want to try to do the best for the kids. I want to stand up for Mexico. I want to stand up for the values my family taught me,” Cendejas said. “I want to be able to get people to be inspired, to be motivated. I just want to keep growing. I believe that Mexico needs me, and I believe there’s a lot of potential for growth.”
Zoe Fowler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org