By Jamie Gnazzo ’13
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and raised in an Army family, Maribel Carrion has always been familiar with travel. Moving from North Carolina to Germany to Panama to Miami, Carrion grew up with a larger sense of the world and its cultures, a mindset she has carried throughout her life.
Carrion first came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an undergraduate, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1977. She returned to Chapel Hill a few years later to obtain her Master of Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler Business School. From there, Carrion took a position managing software development and infrastructure groups with multi-national telecommunications firm Nortel Networks, which sent her all over the globe to locations like Mexico, Singapore, and Central and South America. Today, Carrion serves as executive director of student administration and enterprise reporting in the Information Technology Services department at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“I always have felt I was very lucky through my education and family experience to see how small the world really is, and I want to make sure as many students get that global taste as possible,” Carrion says. “I’m a big proponent of supporting student access to global opportunities, especially for those who didn’t have the opportunities I did.”
Toward that goal, Carrion has become involved in a number of global initiatives on campus outside of her day-to-day responsibilities, including serving on the international advisory board for Carolina Performing Arts; the Chancellor’s Global Leadership Council; the Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity; and more. When the Center for Global Initiatives and the Institute for the Study of the Americas approached her four years ago about supporting a new program called Global Takeoff: Puerto Rico, it was a natural fit. Carrion has been funding the initiative ever since, in memory of her late older sister, Marisela, who spent a transformative year abroad studying in Spain while at UNC.
“I thought [Global Takeoff] was a really good starting point for students who have never traveled outside of the U.S.,” Carrion says. “I think travel exposure just changes you, and it’s been fascinating to see how this program affects the students who participate. A lot of them come back and change their major, take new languages, spend a semester abroad — that was really the whole point, to start opening those doors.”
With years of global experiences behind her, Carrion notes that travel becomes easier with each new journey. “It doesn’t matter where you go, if you treat people with respect, engage them and express a genuine interest in who they are and what their environment is, they always respond positively,” she says. “We just aren’t that much different from one another.”
UNC-Chapel Hill continues to develop new global initiatives, such as the Global Guarantee, prioritizing a global education for Carolina students. Carrion says she is very proud to see initiatives such as this, which reflect Carolina’s commitment to educating young people who are ready to be a part of the global community, contribute, learn and expand their global awareness. “When you’re at Carolina, make time for experiences that take you out of your comfort zone and push your boundaries a little bit,” Carrion encourages students. “You never know what you’re going to discover.”