Skip to main content

Improving Early Childhood Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands


An MBA team’s primary research with key stakeholders informed a nonprofit how best to use its resources in economically disadvantaged island territories

Eric Arneson visited Gifft Hill School, one of the top private schools on Saint John, and a day care center tucked in a narrow street


Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) is seeking our team’s help in assessing how it can best use its resources to improve the early childhood education system in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Should the organization act as a policy advocate/lobbyist? Should it focus on being primarily a funding source? Should it focus on operational initiatives like starting a new school? Should it rely on donor money or partner with the local university to find funding? Should it focus on improving public or private early childhood education providers? These questions and others are our focus.

Collectively, our team spent two weeks on the islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix — half the team during the first week and the other half during the second week. We visited schools of all types (from the best private schools to day care centers with limited resources), spoke with experts at the University of the Virgin Islands and interviewed parents both at schools and randomly in the community. We also attended a forum on children’s general welfare and visited government offices to see how the local system operates.

“The trip allowed us to see first hand the issues the citizens face in finding a job and a place to educate their pre-elementary school children.”

Our primary research involved interviews with key early childhood education stakeholders, which is different from working with a business and interviewing suppliers, buyers, customers or management. The teachers, parents and government officials in the early childhood education space know what needs improving and have suggestions about how to do it. Our job is collect this information, distill it into separate thought buckets, assess feasibility and ultimately suggest what CFVI should do with its resources.

The Virgin Islands experienced two major hurricanes in 2017. The rebuilding process has allowed our client to seek help in improving the early childhood education space. Our recommendations to CFVI are threefold. We propose they function as an information “broker,” helping to influence community among parents, medical providers and the government. We suggest they directly fund programs like teacher continuing education and provide tuition subsidies. And we envision CFVI as an advocate for expansion of Head Start’s facilities.

This research trip enabled us to make an informed recommendation to the client because we saw first hand the issues the citizens of an economically disadvantaged island territory face in finding a job and a place to educate their pre-elementary school children.

UCLA Anderson MBA students conduct Applied Management Research (AMR) projects in lieu of a thesis. The nation’s first business school field study program, AMR partners students with top organizations to solve a key strategic problem. The Center for Global Management supported UCLA Anderson Class of 2019 teams to conduct critical primary research and collaborate with established NGOs seeking sustainable strategies to improve local economies, health and education outcomes, empowering local communities and developing more sustainable supply chains in environmentally sensitive parts of the world.


Follow Us: