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PSU in Paraguay Program Creates Big Opportunities for South American Students

Pittsburg State University (PSU) business professors Dr. Kristen Maceli and Dr. Lynn Murray got to experience global marketing up close by teaching in the PSU in Paraguay Program.

The program offers local students up to 50 hours of general education courses over two years in the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay. The students can then finish their bachelor’s degrees on campus in Pittsburg, Kansas.

“I taught in the program once, in 2012,” Dr. Murray said. “I keep trying to go back, but something keeps popping up — family, COVID-19 or a job change. I am planning to go back in the spring and teach a couple of classes.

“The students there were amazing. It’s a very friendly culture that is similar to Kansas. It’s land-locked. The food is different but similar — a lot of meat and potatoes.”

Dr. Maceli and Dr. Murray both teach marketing courses in PSU’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs.

“The first week I was in Paraguay, several of the students I had in class in Kansas took me out to eat and to a club to see their lifestyle,” Dr. Maceli said. “I have had a ton of students from Paraguay in my undergraduate courses. I have also had a few in the MBA program.”

Dr. Murray has also taught several students from Paraguay in her courses at Pittsburg State. She said the experience of being part of the program is life-changing for faculty and students alike.

“A lot of business students have come up here to Kansas,” she said. “The courses that we teach down there apply to any degree. Paraguay is a sister country to the state of Kansas, so they pay in-state tuition.

“One of my goals was to live overseas, which I did there for four weeks. That was my big adventure. It’s a great way for a faculty member to go down and teach. It’s a great opportunity and to start to get embedded in the culture.”

Familiar Faces

Dr. Maceli graduated from PSU with an MBA and has been a faculty member at the university for 20 years. She taught in the PSU in Paraguay Program in 2017.

“It’s a cool experience because the kids are all getting their degrees from both schools,” she said. “They were taking one class at a time when I was teaching there. They came in four days a week.

“They were pretty focused because they only have one class … The hardest part is doing a class in four weeks.”

However, that experience was especially valuable for Dr. Maceli in compacting the material into shorter semesters back on campus at PSU.

“It probably had more of an influence on my summer schools classes, learning to get all of the material down in four weeks,” she said. “It was a different experience, and the students were always very interested in politics. They seemed to know more about American politics than most Americans.”

Dr. Murray, who graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration and an MBA from PSU and has taught there for 15 years, appreciates how the experience of teaching in another country opened her eyes to what it’s like to be an international student.

“We have to import a lot of our diversity here,” she said. “The biggest thing the program did for me is increase my empathy.

“Until you’re in a foreign country and trying to converse, even if you have a smattering of that language, trying to navigate your day-to-day life is exhausting. It gave me an understanding of what our students go through and the courage it takes for them to come here and attend a university.”

Pinch Hitter

Dr. Murray planned to return to the PSU in Paraguay Program in September 2022, but she had to postpone. One of her former graduate assistants, Emilia Cardenas, will teach Introduction to Business in her stead.

“When teachers aren’t able to come as planned, they rely on alumni,” said Cardenas, who is from Asunción. “This is my first time teaching an in-class course for the university.”

Cardenas, a concert violinist, earned a bachelor’s degree in music at PSU before switching gears to business. She also graduated with an MBA from PSU in 2019.

“I learned a lot about marketing from Dr. Murray,” she said. “It was a unique experience because I pivoted from another career.

“It was important if I was going to cross the bridge from one field to another completely different field; I wanted to immerse myself in it. I achieved that through the MBA program and being a graduate assistant.”

With some academic experience under her belt, Cardenas is eager to teach in the PSU in Paraguay Program in what will be a full-circle experience.

“I work remotely as an academic coach for three or four universities in the United States in different executive MBA programs,” she said. “I am basically a graduate assistant with a little more responsibility. I am pretty much teaching adjunct, but this is the first time all of the responsibility will fall on me.

“It will be rewarding. Eight years ago, I went to Kansas for the first time as a student. Now, I’ll be able to bring my experiences into my own country, teach and provide that support. When my alma mater needs it, I am always there. It’s really exciting.”

Dr. Maceli has enjoyed teaching students in the program and then seeing them complete their degrees back in Kansas. To her, the diversity that the program provides at PSU is invaluable.

“It’s great that we’ve got so many students from different countries — especially considering the size of school Pittsburg State is,” she said. “It’s an interesting relationship. There was some concern about keeping it going through COVID-19, but we made it happen.”

Learn more about PSU’s online MBA programs.

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