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Generational Impact: The Korbel School Lays a Foundation for Experiential Learning

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Korbel Communications

By Dr. Melinda Cain

Feature  •
Alumni, Alumni   •
Mother and Daughter in Egypt, Melinda riding a camel and Marie-Louise in front of the pyramids


"Today, as never before, people and nations are deeply divided, and the hard core of this division is a difference of viewpoint concerning standards of human behavior." Mrs. Marie-Louise Cain, Teacher, June 28, 1966. The above quote is from my mother over 50 years ago, a sentiment that still resonates now: we are a divided nation – with different political viewpoints, economic status, and "cultural identities" that create offensive behavior and violence threatening peaceful and productive co-existence. My mother earned her bachelor's from D.U. in 1945 and then returned for her M.A. at the Graduate School of International Studies in 1964. My mother was in that first graduating class under the watchful eye of Josef Korbel and understood the impact of getting her education here. The school changed her life and created mine. She was committed to learning about and sharing the world – its history, cultures, and educational travel experiences with students, teachers, and me. She was a precursor to today's educational travel industry and university study abroad programs. What I learned in our travels shaped my life. She inspired my education, global focus, and commitment to help "build bridges," not walls, between the "divide" of cultural identities. What I learned from her shaped my mission to help people and organizations live and work better in a multicultural and international world. Her teachings are rooted in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

She led (and I accompanied) trips based on topics that ranged from European Classic Civilization to Comparative Political Systems. Her travels took us to the former USSR, Egypt, Italy, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and India. Rumor has it she also rode a burro over the Khyber Pass. During these trips, her commitment was to coach and enrich the perspectives of students and teachers so that they could share their experiences and insights to improve their understanding of others. She said, "The impact of a trip abroad can drastically change a young person's outlook on life. They can be stirred deeply by the new patterns and attitudes which confront them; they will learn vividly that we are only one people, among many, and that we are not the rulers of the world. They will see that social change toward a stable peace can only come through effort and education."

The Korbel School education, educational travel programs, and global experiences change one forever– including me. My mother's passion for travel inspired me to pursue my education outside of Colorado. I  received my B.A. in Political Science/Western Literature (French/Spanish) at Mills College in California. I would travel to Washington D.C. to get my M.A. in International Communication with a minor in International Law at American University. However, the road led back to Denver for my M.A. and Ph.D. in International Studies at GSIS.

The school provided my mother with valuable personal insight into international affairs that had a lasting impact. Dr. Korbel inspired my mother to travel and to extend that experience to students. Teaching is part of a generational legacy I fondly share with my mother. I am forever grateful for my mother's leadership, compassion, and commitment to sharing her Korbel educational foundation with others throughout her life – and for being a role model and setting the foundation for me to strive to make a difference in other's lives – towards a better world for all.

The cains sitting