Armando Villarroel, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of distance education in his native Venezuela, had the vision to see what distance education could mean for Latin America. He has dedicated many years and considerable effort to highlighting the importance of embracing international diversity, showing that work with international colleagues is a rewarding challenge. In working with colleagues in Latin America, North America and Europe to effectively create favorable conditions to undertake successful international projects, he has demonstrated both the feasibility and desirability of working with peers, independently of their cultures, languages and backgrounds.
Villarroel is the executive director of The Inter-American Distance Education Consortium, CREAD, a non-profit, membership-based non-governmental organization, now based at Nova Southeastern University which has been in existence for more than fifteen years and has approximately 100 institutional members. CREAD has partnered with its members in almost every country on the American continent to provide international conferences, workshops and seminars on educational topics, which are increasingly focused on the educational uses of technology. As executive director, Villarroel works with international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the Pan-American Health Organization on larger educational projects to benefit underserved communities in Latin America and the Caribbean and to foster North-South technology transfer and South-South cooperation.
During the early development of distance education in Latin America, when the idea was completely unfamiliar there, Villarroel worked on putting Latin Americans in contact with each other and with their European and North American counterparts. He was also a member of the organizing committee that established the National Open University of Venezuela (UNA) in 1977. He contributed to a number of international projects, including being conference coordinator for the 1990 International Council for Distance Education conference in Caracas, which put Latin America on the map and gave many Latin Americans first-hand knowledge of what was happening at the time in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Villarroel has been involved in a number of initiatives that have enhanced the visibility and stature of adult and continuing education, with an added intercultural perspective transcending national borders. He worked for several years with the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA), at one time acting as international coordinator, and has also assisted with the “Global Associates” group, putting together several international briefings and organizing an international study tour to South America in 2003.
Villarroel earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from Michigan State University, and has served as assistant professor of education at the Pennsylvania State University, as well as associate professor and academic vice president of the Universidad Nacional Abierta in Caracas. He has written a number of books and articles on sociology, demography and distance education in Spanish and English. He has also served as a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank and the Organization of American States.
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