The Pittsburg State University in Paraguay Program holds a special place in the hearts of Dr. Sang-Heui Lee and Dr. Bienvenido Cortes — both professionals in the Kelce College of Business.
Both of the faculty members, who teach in the Pittsburg State University (PSU) online Master of Business Administration programs, are United States immigrants. Dr. Lee is from South Korea, while Dr. Cortes hails from the Philippines.
The PSU in Paraguay program allows students to take general education courses and earn up to 50 credit hours in two years at the Comité Paraguay Kansas in Asuncion, Paraguay.
The students can then complete a bachelor’s degree with the major of their choice on campus and pay Kansas in-state tuition. Dr. Lee and Dr. Cortes have each taught in the overseas program on two occasions.
“Both times I taught there, I really enjoyed it,” said Dr. Cortes, who teaches economics. “Paraguay reminded me very much of my home country. There’s a strong Spanish Catholic history and influence.
“The economic structure — rich and poor — was also familiar to me. The best way is to not just go on pure lecture and have more participation. These students are typically straight out of high school. It was a great learning experience for me.”
Dr. Lee agreed that teaching English-speaking students in Paraguay is much different than teaching in front of a classroom at Pittsburg State. However, there is also only a one-hour time difference between the campuses.
“The students’ characteristics are very different than our students in Kansas,” he said. “The way I am teaching here must be adjusted to teach the students there.
“Instead of giving a lecture and a one-way conversation, I have to incorporate all these ideas to let the students adjust to work with them. They are very smart, selective and good students.”
Some Place Like Home
The roots of the PSU in Paraguay Program were planted long ago since Kansas is a sister state of Paraguay. In fact, Kansas Paraguay Partners and its counterpart, Comité Paraguay Kansas, were established in 1968. The PSU in Paraguay Program started 40 years later.
“It’s a great way for Pittsburg State to get a funnel of students from Paraguay,” Dr. Cortes said. “Quite a few of them come here. We have about 12 students from Paraguay right now.
“My wife, Paige, who is the coordinator of PSU’s Intensive English Program, is working with the same group. She loves having them here.”
In addition to the experience of teaching abroad, Dr. Lee enjoys seeing students following through by coming to the United States and completing bachelor’s degrees as international students. He has taught at PSU since 2010.
“The students are from good families and backgrounds, but the country itself is poor compared to the United States,” he said. “As a teacher, one of the responsibilities is to pave the road to a better environment and a better education.
“It’s not easy to deal with those different environments, but I am glad and grateful that I have the opportunity to provide a way of coming to the United States in the future for their education.”
Dr. Cortes, who is in his 36th year at PSU, has changed his teaching philosophy for the better as he gained experience teaching in Paraguay.
“I have gotten lighter over the years, encouraging that two-way interaction and more participation,” he said. “That active learning is a lot better.
“Every time I teach overseas, I try to get a lot of those experiences, bring them back home and infuse them in my classes. At the same time, I do it the opposite way when I go to Paraguay.”
The great bonus of the PSU in Paraguay Program is that it increases the university’s diversity and gives U.S. students exposure to different philosophies and cultures.
“Nowadays, we have to deal with business and diverse situations and more international situations,” Dr. Lee said. “PSU is in a small town in the Midwest.
“I am seeing pretty much the same type of students each year. Ninety percent of our students are white, but you still have those international students, too.”
Dr. Cortes agreed that increasing diversity on campus remains a positive direction for Pittsburg State as it continues to grow.
“These Paraguayan students are lively, which brings a different environment to the classes,” he said. “We love and encourage that diversity.
“The more international students we have at the university, the better for the university and the community.”
Of course, the ultimate reward for Dr. Lee and Dr. Cortes is seeing Paraguayan students succeed after earning bachelor’s degrees in two countries.
“It’s been very positive,” Dr. Lee said. “I met many more former students who took my classes in Kansas who are now successful businessmen in Paraguay.
“It’s cool to see them thriving through all these situations and mature as people in society and the community.”
Dr. Cortes added: “Hopefully, we can open up our international market with the professional MBA program to Paraguay. It’s a little easier because we have this historical dimension. We’ve had a lot of our students go back and work. I’ve had graduate assistants who work for large banks over there.”
They say two brains are better than one, and Dr. Cortes and Dr. Lee are putting their brains together to improve PSU’s learning opportunities for students.
Learn more about Pittsburg State University’s online MBA programs.