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Department of Modern Languages
The University of Mississippi

Karen Jiménez Ochoa: Portrait of a Business Woman and Lifelong Learner

By Margaret Savoie and Sandra Spiroff

Karen Jiménez Ochoa is a multifaceted professional with a diverse range of skills and expertise.  An industrial engineer and specialist in international trade, she is also a founding member of the Association of Woman Experts in Foreign Trade of Latin America, a member of the Young Latin American Leaders Initiative of the U.S. Federal Government, a founder of the Latin-European International Consultants Network, a member of the Project Management Institute AND a current student in the M.A. in Modern Languages with emphasis in Spanish program at the University of Mississippi.

Karen Jiminez Ochoa

Karen Jiménez Ochoa, Modern Languages

Jiménez Ochoa said that she pursued a second master’s degree to develop new skills and expand her service offerings to a new area.

The M.A. degree in Modern Languages emphasizing Spanish (with comparable programs in French and German, as well as Linguistics) is for those students fluent enough in the language to take instruction en español. The program makes a study of the Spanish world, including cultural movements and film and cinema, as well as course content on morphology, syntax, and pedagogy.

“Ms. Jiménez [Ochoa] has been a pleasure to work with due to her work ethic and desire to learn,” said Dr. Diane Marting, Professor of Spanish in the Modern Languages Department.

The fact that Jiménez Ochoa comes from a long line of teachers inspired her to further pursue her own educational endeavors, despite having previously worked in the business sector. She observed the positive impact their work had on the lives of their students. As a result, switching from the business sector, which promotes investment and commercial partnerships, to educational initiatives seemed only natural. Jimenez said it was part of her life mission to continue this legacy and


Back in 2009, when Jiménez Ochoa was the Director of the AI-Invest Program for Honduras, the country experienced a significant political crisis, which led to the suspension of the economic support of international organizations and programs, many of which Jiménez Ochoa directed or co-led. The AI-Invest Program for Honduras was supported by the European Commission, and due to the crisis, the activities were halted, therefore ending Jiménez Ochoa’s contract.

Rather than looking for another job, Jiménez Ochoa felt empowered by her experiences and decided to establish her own import and international consulting companies. Both businesses have survived despite government policy difficulties.

“It is said that consultants are good to advise, but not to execute, what we advise others to do,” said Jiménez Ochoa, “Founding my import company gave me the opportunity to get familiar with the difficulties entrepreneurs face and gave me the experience to advise others properly.”

Likewise, as a student in a new country, Jiménez gained a unique perspective on life that differed from previous experiences of being a tourist or traveling for work. Her belief in the diversification of knowledge led her to enroll in classes at UM and pursue an additional degree.

Dr. Diane Marting

Dr. Diane Marting, Professor of Spanish

Marting agreed with the importance of this diversification: “Everyone can benefit from speaking and writing better, from learning about other cultures, from learning about how we communicate to others. Both a Humanities and a Social Science approach to the areas of knowledge are available in our M.A. in Spanish and our Ph.D. in Second Language Studies.”

She added, “The personal attention that is possible in our small programs and our department’s extreme internationalization–we are the only university in the country to sport two undergraduate language flagship programs (Arabic and Chinese) with their excellent faculty–reward students here with teaching and learning opportunities that few outside the department fully comprehend.”

Through all of her years in the professional world, and through her businesses, Jiménez Ochoa said her favorite part, which is priceless, is the collection of friendships around the globe–including Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the U.S.

“Wherever I go, I have a place to stay and a friend, and that is something to be grateful for,” said Jiménez Ochoa.

In the future, Jiménez Ochoa would like to go for a Ph.D., but said for now, she will go where life takes her and enjoy this adventure in the academic sector; after all, she is a lifelong learner and international businesswoman. Professor Marting, for her part, hopes that in the future the Modern Languages department will be able to support more graduate students at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels. This will continue and enhance the University of Mississippi’s reputation as a great institution which welcomes students from every corner of the State, from across the U.S., and from around the world.