An Interview with Linda Korbel on Globalizing the Community College

By Frost, Robert A. | Community College Enterprise, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

An Interview with Linda Korbel on Globalizing the Community College


Frost, Robert A., Community College Enterprise


Even as international education remains in the background of many community colleges, senior leaders have been engaged at the national and international levels for over two decades in crafting an international education policy agenda. Perhaps no one understands it better than Linda Korbel. Today she is Dean of Languages, Humanities, and the Arts at Oakton Community College near Chicago, Illinois, but for many years she also has led national efforts to increase the profile of international and intercultural education initiatives in the United States.

As the Executive Director of the American Council on International Intercultural Education (ACIIE) since 1993, Korbel Center Meetings, helped to and recently worked to realize the merger between ACIIE and Community Colleges for International Development (CCID). In 2007, Ms. Korbel won the prestigious Werner Kubsch Award. given annually to recognize great contributions to the field of community college international education. (1)

The following interview took place through meet/rigs before and emails just after the most recent round of Airlie Center meetings in 2008.

Frost: When we look at leaders in a historical context, sometimes we wonder if a historical figure is so because of who he or she was, or if it is because of who she connected with. My sense is you have been in both spaces recently.

Korbel: I believe that my work in global education bears out what you suggest, Rob. Having begun my career as a language educator, teaching the French language at Oakton since 1971, I think I was fortuitously prepared to think with a world view and to recognize the connections that link us to the world community. In my college, it really was our faculty in Modern Languages who spearheaded our ventures into what we then called "international education," pursuing grants and encouraging our fellow faculty in other disciplines to develop curriculum with global perspectives. Spurred on by my involvement in this activity, I then became department chair for Modern Languages and International Studies and the college's representative to the fledgling Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs. In ICISP, I organized and provided oversight for a number of activities and programs, and ultimately served as the consortium's executive chair for seven years.

The circumstances that resulted in my becoming executive director of ACIIE represent an interesting convergence of events: the American Association of Community Colleges decided to discontinue its partial support for ACIIE's staff and office, and Oakton's president at the time, Thomas Ten-Hoeve, was elected chair of the ACIIE Executive Committee just when that committee had decided to move headquarters from Washington to one of its member college campuses. TenHoeve obtained support from Oakton's Board of Trustees to move the operation here if I would be willing to step into the executive director role as a half-time responsibility. Using your historical context, then, we can say that the rest is history!

Frost: I know for many years you have held a close mentoring relationship with Dr. Margaret Lee, the President of Oakton College. In addition to Dr. Lee, who have been some of your great inspirations and influences in the recent past?

Korbel: As I moved into the much bigger global arena of ACIIE, many community college leaders served as mentors to me. The most significant include certainly Tom TenHoeve, with his passionate commitment to things global and his uncanny sense of involving local communities in their college's initiatives. Carole Cowan, president of Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, and Laura Walker, retired director of the World Languages Program at Tulsa Community College, spent countless hours with me to provide a clear picture of the history of ACIIE and the intricacies of operational and political considerations. Another mentor is Jack Smith, retired program officer for the Stanley Foundation, with whom ACIIE and I collaborated for many years to organize the Airlie Center conferences and subsequent outreach events across the country. …

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