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Alumni Profile/Gained in Translation

A fortuitous connection and a new law may combine to create a pipeline of students headed to St. Norbert College, thanks to Peruvian alum Fiorella Cipriani Sumarriva ’10.

Sumarriva first arrived at St. Norbert by way of an acquaintance her father shared with Richard Porior, then-director of the college’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Now Sumarriva is poised to take her father’s education business to a new level with the development of an East Coast branch, likely in Rhode Island.

“A lot of Peruvians want to come here,” Sumarriva says. “We hope to open next year and expect about one hundred people will come here to study.”

Sumarriva, 31, is president of EIGER (Escuela Internacional de Gerencia). The company has 13 branches, including a high school in Peru’s capital of Lima. The Peruvian government last year made it a requirement that all university graduates must know a second language, and many students are opting for English: “Learning English in Peru is not the same as when you come here and are surrounded by native speakers,” Sumarriva says. “That’s why we decided to open a branch [in the United States]. Students can go back to Peru and finish their bachelor’s degree or stay here, and this is why we have a relationship with St. Norbert College.”

The school’s Peruvian website touts its tagline “Train and Educate – For Work For Life” under an image of St. Norbert’s main entrance and an invitation to “Read more about this agreement our great institution has achieved with a recognized university in the U.S.”

After graduating from St. Norbert, Sumarriva earned a master’s degree in public administration. Her interest in politics and social improvement has her meeting with state and local legislators as a voice for the Latino community, and she is working to complete her immigration paperwork.

Becoming a business leader is more common in the U.S. than it is in Peru, says Sumarriva, making her task as a woman a little easier in America than it might be at home. Along with mastering the language, Sumarriva says her biggest challenge in the U.S. was getting used to the food, and the way Americans communicate: “We [Peruvians] tend to not get to the point. We like to talk more and try to translate our feelings. Most of the time, that doesn’t work here. Americans are more to the point, and I like that.”

Sumarriva began working in her father’s business at about age 13, doing everything from working as a cashier to customer service, marketing and human resources. Her experience, education, drive and English skills made her a natural fit to run the EIGER operation in America.

“Passing the presidency to my oldest daughter was not a difficult decision, because she possesses all the qualities to be not only a good leader, but a great one,” says Victor Cipriani Nevad. “When the board of directors decided to pass the presidency to Fiorella, they mentioned that she will bring innovations to our business, and I agree. Fiorella has all the traits to make our business more successful.”

Sumarriva is working to recruit agencies in Peru and elsewhere to send their students to EIGER in the U.S. The school will begin as an ESL-only program, with plans to add technical skills such as computer science, managerial courses, accounting and nursing at a later date.

“I know what I’m doing, and that’s why my father believes in me,” she says. “This is only the beginning. I believe we’re going to be big.”

Oct. 31, 2015