Born in Germany, Candace M. Mehaffey-Kultgen moved to the United States as a young child and, after graduation, began to pursue her career in Business, Ethics and Organizational Behavior. Assistant Professor at Fort Hays State University with 30 years of experience, she has taught in Guatemala, Russia, Estonia, China, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Denmark.
Candace’s passion for knowledge and world cultures makes her much more than a teacher, but a beacon for those who truly seek to learn, “I am old enough to be wise and young enough to know that I still need to learn” she said. Having spent her childhood in an orphanage and being adopted in the United States she took advantage of her new opportunities and created a unique perspective of Business and Education.
Check out this remarkable interview where Candace M. Mehaffey-Kultgen tells her experience in the Strategy & Marketing for Emerging Countries program at Universidade Paulista in São Paulo, Brazil, and shares details about her career and her professional ideology!
You are attending the Strategy & Marketing for Emerging Countries program here in São Paulo, Brazil. What was the most memorable experience you’ve had?
I loved all the teachers, they brought new information to my life. I teach business at a Business School in the United States, but we do not have much information about Brazil. This has been a delightful experience in learning how the economy works in Brazil and how businesses react to poverty. I loved every minute of it.
You are currently an Assistant Professor at Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. Is the program providing you new perspectives in teaching?
Certainly! At that moment our university had no information about what is happening in Brazil. Now we will have a perspective of the emerging economies in South America. When I return to the United States, I will put together a presentation to the entire university, so they can understand what I am learning here, taking it to their classrooms, in Business, Leadership, etc. Because people always want to make new business, especially to emerging countries that they would like to teach or invest. I will also give lectures to our community. I will teach all that I am learning, things that my students and co-workers have no idea about.
Did you get a chance to talk to your classmates about their country’s economy? We have people from Peru, Colombia, etc., in the classroom. How was this experience?
It was fascinating. In the class we have people from the United States, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and when we are talking in the classroom, bringing all the ideas and cultural information, it gives me the opportunity to have an insight beyond Brazil, but also about the other countries. Having these classes, to know about the country of each one and perhaps to travel there, learning individually what the market works, how they are working with social economy, improving the lives of the people who live there, etc. We talked about many things, for example the coffee industry. It was a fascinating experience. There is so much knowledge! I could not put together all the information so fast.
Was there a reality clash regarding the cultural differences of your country and the Brazilian culture?
I think there is an awareness. The culture of the vast majority of Americans and the culture of Brazilians is different in many ways, but I do not see it as a conflict, only different. For me, when it comes to cultures, there is no right or wrong, only different. When I think in terms of Brazilian culture, there are several wonderful characteristics.
Areas that need improvement in the Business sector, to help the poorest to make money, providing them with better living standards. I think this is very important. From what I’ve learned so far, it’s something Brazilians are trying to do. This aligns with everything I believe, even if there are cultural differences. There are people in business, teachers, etc., who says “we do not care about the poor! Let them find out what to do“. I do not agree with that, regardless of culture. Say “Oh, I did not know that! What if we did this? What if we did that?” is to take up different cultures and create something new from it. It’s unbelievably fabulous.
You are an academic professional with multiple certifications. Almost all the themes of your work involve cultural differences, both in business and social matters. What is so intriguing about it?
Oh, I do not want to cry! We need to be the agents of change. We know that people have their rights and should have things like food, clothing, education. We know that education is what drives people out of poverty and gives them a better chance in life. This means cultivating the values we believe in, living everyday, joining forces, taking the best from each culture, and developing a plan of action that touches everyone’s life is important. That’s why I educate. Every student, when I see the lamp turn on, I think it’s one more to join the group that says “no.” The government can’t do it or will not do, I don’t know, don’t want to get into political issues, but for who is it? It’s for you, for me. If we do not understand the cultures of the people we are talking about, their needs, their wants, we can’t build anything good. If we want change, we have to understand each one. We don’t need to say “I love you” but we need to say “I respect your right to feel the way you feel and together we can find a common ground to build the future of all people.”
That’s why I’m passionate about what I teach. I teach Business, I still consult and things like that, but my biggest goal is to teach young people to be agents of change, uniting cultures rather than, “No, I do not like them.” This brings us to nothing but down. We need to get people to grow, that means working together. Find common ground. And the common ground is not money, it’s who you are, what you feel, what you want to see happen. That is where the change begins and takes us to the next level. That’s what I hope to do.
When you enter a classroom, what is your ultimate goal?
Teach something new, to take with one and use in one’s work. I do not want to use only book knowledge, I want them to see how this applies, just as the teachers here do. They bring the information to real life and open space for questions, as it was in Natura (Brazilian company that operates in the sector of products for face, body, etc.)
When a person is memorizing, there is no knowledge. But when you can relate what you learn to what you are living, there is a greater understanding. This is knowledge, for it will be forever. Every class is a transfer of knowledge. I give them something that they may already know, but for the first time they associate it with practical life. I can see it here in the program. At Fort Hays University we have teachers who do not have this experience in business, this is something that IBS Americas adds and is valuable in the academic and professional world.
What is more important: method or content?
I think both. Some learn from mistakes, is it content or method? I think both are needed. Your method is based on your content, your content may be based on methods that were used in the past. It’s a combination of the two. You don’t have one without the other.
What would you say to someone in your country who is beginning to dream of taking an international program in Brazil?
I would say: go! There are many opportunities! Especially for our Business students at Hays State University. I will promote the program and hope that the students see the value, maybe investigate for themselves. Having credits for the classes you are taking in the summer, in a place as beautiful as Brazil, which has a wonderful and unique business environment, with many opportunities, why would they not want to learn? And my experience so far has been so fabulous, that I hope you have a lot more students, not just from my university.
Whoever is reading the blog, you should attend IBS Americas programs! It is wonderful! You will learn a lot, you will make a lot of money in the future, you will have knowledge, credits in the university, what is there not to like? Come here to learn about culture and see which program will bring you more opportunities in your country. Power comes from knowledge. Come to Brazil!
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Also read our article, São Paulo: synonymous of diversity in every way, to know what you will find in the richest and most multicultural state of Brazil!