Woman of the Week: Kelly Cabrera

Kelly Cabrera

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they learn to hate, they can be taught love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

—Nelson Mandela

This Nelson Mandela quotes serves as words of wisdom and/or inspiration that our featured woman, Kelly Cabrera, has chosen to live her life by.  

Kelly Cabrera was born in Pereira, Colombia in South America to a low-income family in a poor neighborhood. Although in most people would fall into a cycle of circumstance, Cabrera took her childhood as a lesson in the importance that education played in a person’s ability to succeed in life. With neither of her parents possessing a college degree, Kelly Cabrera set her eyes on obtaining a college education to put her on a path to affluence. With the support of her family, especially her mother’s, she had the opportunity to go to attend the Universidad Catolica de Pereira where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Originally Kelly Cabrera aspired to a career as a dentist, however, her parents were unable to afford her participation in such a program, so she was left to get her degree in journalism. Luckily a few months into her education she started to love journalism, and after graduation she became the director of the Office of Communication at a prestigious Colombian University. From childhood Kelly Cabrera could tell that education was the silver bullet, the ability to gain an education could solve the problems of poverty, and that belief was only secured in her time as director. In her time there she decided to pursue involvement in graduate studies programs more related to education and the integration of media in the classroom. Kelly Cabrera ended up receiving her first master degree and her Ph.D in Education from Universidad Tecnologica de Pereira.

In 2009, Kelly Cabrera came to Springfield to learn English at Missouri State University and ended up falling in love with the city. Kelly Cabrera said, “Springfield is a great place because of its people. Its community is kind, open, and welcoming to others and that makes it a fantastic place for international students.” Kelly Cabrera would go on to earn two more master’s degrees from Missouri State and is now employed by the university. Kelly Cabrera serves as the Coordinator of the International Leadership and Training center. The center offers customized training programs for both professionals and people within the business community that are from other countries. She also acts as a recruiter for Latin American students that could attend Missouri State, and she teaches Spanish for the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. The best part of this career path, as described by Kelly Cabrera, is getting to know about a variety of countries and their cultures through interactions that she has with international students. Kelly Cabrera has said her job is, “like having the world in one place,” which gives her a chance to journey on explorations from the comfort of her own desk. The emphasis that Missouri State has placed on cultural competence, one of the three pillars of its Public Affairs Mission, has translated into people of different backgrounds feeling valued for their ethnic heritage and unique experiences.

Kelly Cabrera has looked back on her success and noted that her mother served as an inspiration to her. Cabrera and her two siblings were raised by a single mother without a college degree, which was not something that can be described as easy. Kelly’s mother emphasized to her children the importance of education from a young age, and that was a lesson that held true for each child. Now the three children of this poor single mother have gone on to become: a Doctor in Education, an Electronic Engineer, and a Lawyer. All three children saw the hope that their mother had for them and pursued an education that would secure those hopes. Struggles would inevitably come on their journey toward success, but in holding true to their dreams they were able to overcome those struggles.

The task of being a working woman in this world is not an easy one, but Kelly Cabrera has some advice to offer on the subject. She believes that women have shown that they are capable of doing anything that they set their minds to. Adversity is something that no woman will be a stranger to in their life, but that is not something that justifies conceding to defeat. Kelly Cabrera holds that even when you do not know exactly how to do something, being eager to learn will help you fill the knowledge gap and aid you in accomplishing your goal. Curiosity is something that separates humans from other species. Our curiosity fuels innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. Our curiosity makes it possible for us to look up at the stars at night and know that the capacity that we once set for ourselves is now limitless; and in the absence of these limitations we see minorities of every caliber, whether that be in race, religion, or gender, achieving feats that were well beyond the scope of our imagination just years prior.