Spring 2000
Vol 8 Issue 2


Database of Dreams?

Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX)

Who's Doing What

Student Learning Through Career Exploration

High and Low Technology Have Roles in Today's Complex Machining Industry


Invisible Lines of Connection

The Forum



Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction

The Labyrinth... Sharing Information on Learning Technologies

Invisible Lines of Connection
Jon Lea Fimbres Cairo, Egypt
Regional Educational Advising Coordinator, Middle East & North Africa, U.S. State Department

Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other's presence we exchange our cells, pass on our life force... as though to say, "Go on take us with you, carry us to root in another place."
--natalie goldberg... long quiet highway

It has been a fascinating discovery to make all the connections between my life as a faculty member at Maricopa Community College and my life as an overseas educational consultant. My experience overseas reinforces the value of excellent training and collaboration. The many valuable learning opportunities in which I participated during my five years at Paradise Valley Community College and South Mountain Community College have provided an excellent foundation for overseas work and in an expanding network of resources. Because Maricopa supported and created opportunities for me to learn more about international education, cooperative learning skills, innovations in technology, and cross-cultural training, I have been able to contribute helpful training and curriculum expertise and find rewarding work in the Middle East.

Before I left Maricopa, Naomi Story and Alan Levine invited me to be an "international Internet correspondent" to report on cultural, educational, and technological happenings in Egypt and the Middle East. This concept inspired me to learn more about computers and the Internet (and to invest in a sophisticated home computer office in Cairo.) Much to my surprise, within six months of moving overseas, I was hired by the U.S. State Department to coordinate American advising centers throughout the Middle East and North Africa. My home computer office allows me to work with over sixteen advising centers in fourteen different countries from Morocco in North Africa to Oman in the Arabia Peninsula.

The Internet skills I learned allowed me to coordinate a Bi-Regional Advising Conference that was held in New Delhi, India. All of the arrangements, logistics, organizing were carried out over the Internet. We brought together over 76 advisers, which represent 26 countries, to learn about distance education, American accreditation processes, and international student admissions procedures. The many hours I spent working with Mike Rooney's Student Success committees in which I planned advising conferences gave me the experience I needed to coordinate an international conference.

In addition to working as a virtual liaison between Washington and the overseas centers, this year I will fly to Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Qatar to train advisers at the overseas advising centers. My cooperative learning and inter-cultural training skills have allowed me to develop a comprehensive training program for new and continuing advisers. Little did I know that the time I spent trying to create a new advising model at PVCC would provide the foundation for an overseas advising program. Dr. Cardenas and Dr. Cordova did not realize they were helping to support Middle Eastern relations!

One of my favorite learning opportunities was developing my Spanish language skills by studying activated learning courses and immersion programs. Although I don't live in Spanish-speaking countries, I am always amused at how helpful my Spanish language skills have been. On a recent trip to Senegal, where most of the population speaks French or Wolof (the original language), I found that I could communicate with Spanish and Arabic because Senegalese children have to learn three languages. Even though few people spoke English, we could communicate in our collective "third" languages.

I guess it is true that you do not always appreciate what you have until you do not have it anymore. While I was an avid learner and enthusiastic professional developer, I do not think I realized how fortunate I was to have access to the most inspiring, creative, and innovative teachers and programs until I moved overseas. Many of the ideas that we were learning four years ago are just now being accepted internationally. There is increasing interest in technology, American-style education, and cultural awareness. So, everything I learned has been useful overseas.

I like the idea that our professional collaborations are opportunities to share learning throughout the world. It is encouraging to be reminded that a South Mountain Community College storytelling workshop will provide guidance for a keynote speech and that a Paradise Valley Community College collaborative teaching opportunity will provide curriculum for a distance learning adviser training program.

My years at Maricopa continue to provide invisible lines of connection to talented people, creative ideas, and fascinating learning opportunities.