A Split Personality Caused by a Mixed Heritage

Sep 25, 2014

  Midwest-based hybrid seed giant Dupont-Pioneer, which has offices worldwide, employs someone called

Claudia Schabel stands in front of the Brazilian flag at Dupont Pioneer headquarters in Johnston.
Credit Rob Dillard

   an Organizational Vibrancy Champion. In other words, she’s in charge of diversity.

“An organization becomes more vibrant when you have diversity inclusion, when you have employee engagement.”

Claudia Schabel

  holds the job on the sprawling campus of Dupont-Pioneer in Johnston. She’s nearly ideal for the job. Half of her character was shaped next to her twin sister in South America.

“I grew up in Capinas, Sao Paolo in Brazil,” she said

The rest came from her father’s East Asian background.

“When I was 17-years-old, we decided to go to Japan,” she added.

So she’s an unusual blend of extrovert.

“In Brazil, people generally speaking are very open and very loud,” she said.

Combined with the Japanese tendency toward introversion.

“The people are a little more reserved," she said. "They are very cognizant when people are around them in public of being discreet.”

This leads Claudia Schabel to some wild swings in behavior. Some days, the passionate Latina comes out.

“I just want to embrace the whole world and be friends with everybody," she said.  "I think that is how I’m the most Brazilain.”

Then there are times when the quieter, more introspective side of her personality emerges.

“I can be a little more Japanese when I’m navigating some circumstances that are new to me," she said. "So I’m a little bit more reserved and observe a little bit more than speak.”

Now she’s adding a third plank to her personality, bringing in what she considers the even temperament displayed by most Iowans. But why did she land in Des Moines?

“I had met my husband in Japan, we were dating at the time," she said. "He’s from Iowa, he’s from Ames, and he was teaching English in Japan.”

She quickly settled into life in the Midwest – taking classes at Des Moines Area Community College, enrolling at Drake University, and graduating with a degree in international relations, which only seems natural given her family history. Speaking from a large conference room in the main office building of Dupont-Pioneer, Schabel says she wishes it was no longer necessary to keep a corporation focused on a diverse workforce, but that’s the unfortunate truth.

“When I first started this work about ten years ago, I thought in 10 years I’d be out of a job," she said. I’m glad to say I have a job, but unfortunately the work still needs to be done.”

Outside her professional life, she adds to Central Iowa’s cultural diversity in different ways, by fostering Latino-owned businesses and by mentoring young Latina professionals. She throws herself into other volunteer jobs, as well, at places such as Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. These projects are how she’s writing the third chapter in her colorful, worldly life.

“I still have an accent, I still make mistakes, but it is my home, she said. "I feel very comfortable here.”

Claudia Schabel will be recognized for her contributions to the cultural diversity of the state at the Passport to Prosperity banquet served by the Iowa International Center Saturday night.