Making a difference for Dominican Latino students lives through school, ethics and soccer
When he was interviewed by WAG magazine about why he chose to become dean of the School of Business at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, Anthony Davidson said in typically wry British humor that it was because the school had two soccer fields.
But the real reasons for him accepting the position in 2011 were much more serious than that. He saw an opportunity to apply his entrepreneurial spirit to an educational setting, realizing “that education is a business just as any other nonprofit is a business. If we’re going to make a great impact, we need to have programs and curricula that are relevant in the marketplace and ethically serve the community—i.e. the body of students that we attract,” he says.
This is well in keeping with earlier gigs as a business consultant, where he was focused on helping companies build and grow to become as successful as they could. This is demonstrated by his drive to not only improve not only academia, but also general societal outreach, including both locally in Westchester County and in such seemingly far-flung locations as the Dominican Republic.
During his stint as the founding dean of New York University’s Division of Programs in Business, Davidson, who lives in Queens with his wife Linda, who’s from Venezuela, had the opportunity to offer a business Master’s certificate to students in the Dominican Republic. According to him, the program was so “wildly successful that some members of the government got wind of it, including then-President Leonel Fernandez. He subsequently came to visit me in my office in New York and thereafter invited me to put together a one-day economic summit for the government, the cabinet, the leaders of the bank, the president of the Federal Reserve and major corporations down there.”
Based on that event and a quickly tightening bond between the two men, Davidson was introduced to the Ministry of Education to discuss the possibility of sending fully sponsored students to Manhattanville’s School of Business. Davidson, realizing that this was a great way for his school to provide an education to students who might otherwise not have had the opportunity, readily jumped at the opportunity.
In a short two weeks, he soon had 95 high-performing Dominican students applying to the school. After personally interviewing all of them, he chose to accept 38 into the program, recalling that deciding on who would be able to attend was “very difficult, because all 95 were so unwaveringly committed to further enrich their lives.”
As proof of that, over a third of the 38 accepted students still had straight-A averages after two semesters and began taking 12 credit hours per semester, up from the nine typically associated with full-time graduate studies. Thanks to this accelerated study coursework, some of the students have already returned with to the Dominican Republic, degrees in hand, well before their expected completion date..
Making All the Difference
This post-graduation move back to the Dominican Republic is part of the sponsorship agreement between the students and the government, with the students committing themselves to helping improve their country’s economy and passing on what they’ve learned. “Education holds a very, very special place in the Dominican Republic, and the government’s dedication to that is that the students are going to learn and bring back their skill set to help the country,” Davidson says. "I have observed first-hand how the Minister of Education takes a personal interest in their careers once they return home."
Education is in fact so important to the country that Davidson has become a Dominican celebrity of sorts. When attending a ceremony for the opening of a new building for the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the minister himself personally escorted Davidson to the front-row center seat. Around 10 minutes later, a security guard asked him to move to the next seat to make room for somebody else. The minister was having none of that—despite that other person turning out to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. (“When the ambassador told me who he was, the only thing I could think was, ‘I hope my passport’s going to be okay,’” Davidson recalls with a laugh.)
But this revered status is secondary to Davidson’s more noble goals. The most gratifying part, he says, is making a difference in people's lives, Dominican and otherwise. As he puts it, “When you get an email from someone that says how much a program meant to them and how they’ve advanced in life, that they’re able to achieve their career goals—without mentioning that it’s because they have a degree but rather because of what they learned—that makes all the difference.”