By David Elvir
Honduras, a developing country often referred to as the heart of Central America due to its geographic location, and Trevecca, a small college that proudly proclaims itself “A Christian University in the heart of Nashville,” have forged an unexpectedly harmonious partnership.
While Tennessee may be known as the home of Nashville, it’s not among the top five destinations for Honduran migration in the United States. Yet Trevecca and Honduras have found common ground, demonstrating the transformative power of education.
Honduras, a nation with a rich cultural heritage and a resilient spirit, has long faced challenges on the path to higher education. According to Honduras’ National Statistic Institute (INE), only 23 out of every 100 Honduran teenagers aged 18 to 24 have the opportunity to attend college. And within this select group, an even smaller fraction is able to venture beyond their homeland in pursuit of higher studies.
Honduran students make up the largest portion of Trevecca University’s international student body. According to Rebecca Merrick, the director of global engagement at Trevecca, over half of the university’s 207 international student body is Honduran. This Year alone 24 of the 44 new international students came from Honduras.
Michael Newland, who served as the international admissions counselor at Trevecca for an extended period, played a pivotal role in establishing this strong relationship between the university and Honduran students and was perhaps the catalyst for this phenomenon.
“When I was working in the undergraduate admissions office in 2014, we were proactively looking for new markets of students and Trevecca had not Historically done much international recruiting, it’s something that a lot of universities do, and it just hadn’t really been something that we had tried. I lived in Honduras when I was out of college for a year and had some connections at some of the international schools, and so I decided, with support from our leadership, to go and make some presentations and see if it would be beneficial,” said Newland.
The following year, in 2015, Trevecca went on to welcome its first group of Honduran students, six of them.
From then on, the Honduras-Trevecca relationship has gotten increasingly fruitful. Welcoming new students year after year and becoming one of the common destinations for private bilingual schools in Honduras, Trevecca has solidified its reputation as a bridge to higher education opportunities in the United States for Honduran students. Its commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment has contributed to its popularity as an international destination for education.
Trevecca is now known as ‘one of the options to always look into’ for graduating high school seniors in Honduras, a testament to its enduring appeal and track record of success in educating and empowering Honduran youth. The university’s commitment to fostering a global community on campus has not only benefited its students but has also enriched the campus experience for everyone.
Cesar Marini (Honduras), former International Student Council (ISC) president and current admissions office employee, got to Nashville in 2019 and has seen the Honduran population at Trevecca grow exponentially every year. His journey, like that of many others, reflects the serendipitous alignment of personal aspirations and opportunities.
“Yeah, I am not even sure how it is we all get here; it is a very odd combination. I had my reasons for coming, and I am sure everyone does, but somehow everything always aligns perfectly for people to keep coming,” Marini said. “Whenever I go back [to Honduras], people always know about Trevecca, and they have it in their college list. I guess people over there have also become curious about here after seeing so many of us end up here.”
The institution has not only attracted students from Honduras but has also piqued the curiosity of countless others who now view studying at Trevecca as a distinct possibility.
When Marini was the ISC president, the entire council was entirely Honduran. This year again, another Honduran, Claudia Núñez, was elected to the council presidency, accompanied by a council composed, again, entirely of Hondurans. This continuity speaks volumes about the strong sense of community and support that Honduran students find at Trevecca, where they can lead and contribute to the international student body’s growth and success.
The ISC is a component of Trevecca’s Office of Global Engagement, which comprises a team including a Director of Global Engagement, a Graduate Assistant, and the previously mentioned International Student Council. Merrick couldn’t offer a definitive explanation for the high number of students choosing to come here, but she and his team are dedicated to ensuring their experience is enjoyable.
“The main thing we do to promote cultural adjustment, is have a thorough orientation schedule, make ourselves available to the students as questions arise, and then encourage students to participate in the life of Trevecca,” Merrick said.
Central to this strategy is the availability of the Office of Global Engagement team to address students’ questions and concerns promptly. Moving to a new country and adapting to a different educational system can be challenging, and having a responsive support system in place is invaluable.
The department strives to be a reliable resource, ensuring that international students receive the assistance they need throughout their time at Trevecca.
Naomi Schweitzer, International Student Admissions counselor at Trevecca, did shed some light on the intriguing question of why Trevecca has become a destination of choice for so many students from Honduras.
“It’s honestly just been word of mouth,” Schweitzer said. “I believe that Trevecca is very similar to Honduras’ Christian schools. We are smaller, it’s not gonna be a really giant campus, and then, we are one of the best when it comes to international students and scholarships, and we are very accommodating.”
Newland also emphasized the power of word of mouth when asked about marketing strategies triggered exclusively toward Honduras. Which he makes clear are non-existent, as they put on the same effort to attract any other international student to Trevecca.
“We haven’t done any marketing outside of word of mouth and physical recruiting there. We haven’t done any sort of radio advertising or billboards or anything there. It’s all been word of mouth and it’s all been recruiting and relationships.” Newland said.
Honduras and Trevecca is a perfect love story and as stated by all figures interviewed, is a love story that they do not want to see ending any time soon.
“I hope it will continue because the students bring an incredible vibrancy to campus, and we have wonderful success stories about students coming and doing amazing things going on to graduate school and getting jobs that are incredibly successful. Academically, they are some of the strongest students that we have at the university. It’s been a real win for Trevecca” Newland said.