Hagedorn works to expand ISU’s international reach


Miranda Cantrell/Iowa State Daily

Linda Hagedorn, associate dean of the school of education, traveled to China, Tunisia and Vietnam during the previous fall semester to improve English education in these countries, develop new academic and economic opportunities and share American culture.

Saige Heyer

Being passionate about what you do is something to strive for, and taking that passion to an international level is exactly what Linda Hagedorn has done.

Hagedorn, an associate dean of the School of Education, is quite passionate about working with international students.

Last semester, Hagedorn went to China, Vietnam and Tunisia to expand Iowa State’s international reach and help students and teachers become more fluent in English.

Hagedorn’s trips to China and Tunisia were funded by grants from the U.S. Department of State. The first grant for China was $100,000 and the second grant was $50,000. Iowa State was partnered with Kirkwood Community College for the trip to Tunisia and the amount for the full grant was $250,000.

“In terms of grant standards, they’re not big,” Hagedorn said. “I think they’re significant, but they’re not big, and it’s very hard to find big amounts of money for international programs. We don’t [apply for grants] for the money, we [apply] for the opportunity for the importance of the topic.”

The trip to Vietnam was not funded by grants, but rather by the Vietnamese government as part of their National Foreign Language 2020 project. This project aims to build a national foreign language capacity.

Hagedorn had been asked by a former student to present at the National Foreign Language 2020 project in Vietnam. This student, who received her Ph.D. ten years ago and now has a job in Vietnam, remembered Hagedorn’s influence.

Although her focus on international students is part of her responsibility as an associate dean, it is something Hagedorn has a great passion for and interest in.

The trip to China was commissioned by the U.S. Department of State and was part of a partnership Iowa State already has with Henan Normal University in Xinxiang. Iowa State and Henan Normal jointly administer a master’s program.

The universities had to have a working relationship and work as a team. Hagedorn asked her colleagues at Henan Normal if they would be willing to work on her with the project. The Department of State did not identify who was eligible.

Hagedorn was in China over fall break and used that as an opportunity to teach people about American culture, specifically Thanksgiving traditions. She, with some degree of difficulty, cooked a turkey and meal.

“They took me to a kitchen in a restaurant and that’s where we cooked this Thanksgiving turkey,” Hagedorn said. “I won’t go through all the details, but typically the Chinese don’t eat turkey, so getting the turkey was difficult.”

She shared the American culture and values through the food and the Thanksgiving story. She also brought videos about Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The educational institute in Tunisia, however, was already identified by the Department of State. It was a technical institute, meaning it has a three-year program and is somewhat like a community college similar to those found in the United States.

The purpose of the trip to Tunisia was to look to alleviate the issues of the Arab Spring. Because the situation in Tunisia is so difficult, the grant is being used to introduce community college-type programs to help people learn more skills and get more jobs. 

Conferences took place with employers in the area to find out what they are looking for in employees. Two of the main things they are looking for are skills in accounting and welding. As with the programs in China and Vietnam, they are also looking for people fluent in English, as being able to speak English in Tunisia helps with international trading.

The students at these technical institutes do not get a bachelor’s degree, but rather a post-secondary diploma.

“You meet students and they’re just students when they come to us, but years pass and they hold very high positions of leadership, and often they’ll remember their professors and look again for additional leadership,” Hagedorn said.

Learning to speak and understand English in these countries — and others — is very important when it comes to international business, as well as coming to the United States to go to school. Hagedorn said that English is recognized around the world as the medium of communication, especially if looking for success on a global perspective.

The barrier is reading and writing in English. A lot of time is spent on grammar, reading and writing. The last thing people typically learn is how to speak and understand English. 

Hagedorn also works closely with Rebecca Tang, an assistant professor of apparel, events and hospitality management at Iowa State and Arne Hallam, an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Tang has worked with Hagedorn for the past year and a half on the international education projects and has written ten grant-soliciting proposals.

“Dr. Hagedorn is passionate on international education,” Tang said. “Her educational belief is that all the young adults across the world should have the equal opportunity to get higher education.”

Tang said Hagedorn’s passion is meaningful because the fate of some young adults may be changed by these joint programs. She also said the pictures Hagedorn shared from her trip to China showed Hagedorn’s “enthusiasm and passion to convey American culture and value.”

“I do hope that we can continue these types of programs and provide more opportunities for students…to go different places,” Hagedorn said.