MAKING SENSE OF A COMPLICATED REALITY IS KEY FOR STUDENTS
“Politically, I don’t want to get into, ‘Do we need a wall or don’t we need a wall?’” says Alan Lerchbacker. “The real issue is this: Let’s make sure that the people who really belong here are able to get here.”
President and CEO of San Diego-based Naval Coating, Inc., Lerchbacker has taught at USD since 2008. While all of his employees are U.S. citizens, roughly one-third of them live in Mexico and commute to the States to work each day. But when the San Ysidro Port of Entry was briefly shut down in November 2018, these folks couldn’t get to work. “That was very significant for our employees,” he says.
He’s quick to say that border enforcement officials on both sides have subsequently done a great job of making the crossing process as smooth as possible. “Our governments are working well together, and access to the U.S. is really good for them now.” That experience reinforced his belief that the University of San Diego has a responsibility to make sure that its students understand the complicated reality of the border situation.
“We’re an educational institution, first and foremost. While it’s really important that we listen to what that students have to say, and to listen to their ideas, they need to understand how important the relationship between our two countries is.”
In the global leadership course he teaches at the USD School of Business, he’s made it a point of getting his students up close and personal with businesses looking to expand internationally. “I approach CEOs of companies in Southern California and ask them, ‘What is your biggest international problem?’” He then charges his students with finding solutions.
“For example, Niagara Water has nine water bottling manufacturing plants in the U.S., and they wanted to expand to Japan. Our students found that while it would have taken the company six years to get a plant in Japan due to rules and regulations, they could have a plant up and running in Mexico in less than six months. So they made that recommendation to the company and helped them figure out the best way to do that.”
Lerchbacker is quick to give the credit where it’s due: “Our students are really great. They’re super-motivated, very, very smart and just phenomenal all around.” — Julene Snyder
Read our complete border story package, Beyond the Wall.