Katherine Robles receives her graduation certificate from from professor Samuel Irizarry at the Hispanic Business Entrepreneurial Program Graduation at the CCSU Institute of Technology & Business Development. Photo Credit: Wesley Bunnell | New Britain Herald her with Farmington Bank held on Wednesday June 1st.
As Richard C. Mullins Jr. began calling each graduate to the front of the downtown conference room, so began a commencement ceremony that hadn’t occurred in the city for over a decade.
The 16 graduates, who hailed not only from New Britain but from Stamford, New London, Hartford and beyond, had completed the Hispanic Business Entrepreneurial Program, the only business course taught in Spanish in the state of Connecticut.
Designed for Latinos who may not have a strong command of the English language, the 10-week course at Central Connecticut State University’s Institute of Technology and Business Development aims to provide a way to tap into a growing population brimming with entrepreneurial ideas, but lacking the tools to turn those ideas into a reality here in the U.S.
“It’s to try to reach the American dream,” says Samuel Irizarry, an assistant professor of business at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield who taught the course. “There are a lot of people who come from other countries who have ideas. They come here with a lot of skills and knowledge, but they may have a language barrier.”
In several Spanish-speaking countries, becoming an entrepreneur is a way of life for many, he explained.
“You have to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “There’s not a lot of employment opportunities.”
Irizarry, who was born in Puerto Rico and came to the U.S. in 1980 at age 9 with his parents, learned English and went on to start his own business consulting service, Irizarry Enterprises, LLC.
Along with teaching the most recent program, Irizarry taught the first Hispanic Business Entrepreneurial Program at CCSU in 2005. The course was the result of a study funded over a decade ago by Joseph Harper, the former vice president of external affairs at CCSU, said Mullins, the executive assistant to the president at CCSU and the director of ITBD. A group including Mullins and Christine Traczyk, who then worked for TD Banknorth, traveled to Lawrence, Mass., a city north of Boston with a large Hispanic population, where a similar class was being taught. Upon their return, the group developed a curriculum with Irizarry for the first class of its kind at CCSU.
Fast forward 10 years to 2015, when Traczyk, now the executive director of the Farmington Bank Community Foundation, read an article about how virtually no technical assistance is offered in Spanish to Hispanic entrepreneurs.
“Think about it: business concepts aren’t always the most basic things to understand,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to get all of the information in the language that you’re most comfortable with, and really…..
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