Zulema Jiménez has never missed a graduation ceremony at EARTH University. As an Admissions professional for the past three decades, she has contributed to the evolution of our selection process. Although the essential requirements for applying to EARTH have remained constant, the methods we employ to assess each potential addition to our annual cohort of young leaders have changed – propelled in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jiménez began working at EARTH in 1991. At that time, the Guácimo Campus was still under construction and the second cohort of students had just arrived. Access to communication tools was limited: There were no telephones, no fax machines, no computers. Founding faculty members Daniel Sherrard and Germán Vargas traveled throughout Central America to spread the word about a new university in Costa Rica where young people, mainly from rural areas, could be trained in agricultural science and be readied to sustainably develop their home communities. Hundreds of young people from across the region excitedly began applying.
In the meantime, Jiménez would collect every envelope as it arrived by post. “Our office was overflowing with papers for each student file. We had to be very organized,” she says. “In their application, prospective students were asked to write down the number of the nearest telephone to which they had access. Sometimes that phone number was to a radio station, so I would have to send a message to the DJ requesting the applicant contact EARTH because he or she had been selected or won a scholarship.”
It was Jiménez who routinely reached out to candidates, announcing their admission to EARTH, which is one of the reasons she is close with the students. “I supported them during the whole process of coming to EARTH, and I still do. Many students would come to me to talk about how much they missed their families. I have always listened to them because they are like my children,” she says. “At graduation, I love watching them walk to receive their diplomas. I am proud of them because I know all they have accomplished and endured since the very beginning, back when they were simply applicants.”
Everything changed with the arrival of the internet, a revolutionary tool that enabled Jiménez and the rest of the Admissions team to streamline the process and start corresponding with applicants from outside Central America. This year, they again have demonstrated impressive adaptability. In collaboration with EARTH’s Faculty and Finance Office, Admissions has overseen the administering of exams, interviews, aptitude tests, and socioeconomic evaluations – and done so virtually. The admissions process remains highly rigorous, thus ensuring that each admitted student has what it takes to lead groundbreaking projects in their corner of the world.
Mil gracias to Zulema Jiménez and the entire Admissions team for shepherding this effective evolution and enabling us to recruit the most promising ethical leaders.
Know a young person (or two) eager to make the world more just and prosperous? If they would benefit from a best-in-class agricultural education, encourage them to apply here.