WorldView: A Language Blog

WorldView is a place for leaders in the fields of language education, global citizenship, immersion learning and other topics central to the Concordia Language Villages mission to address issues important to their fields.

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Meet Mary: Introducing Concordia Language Villages' New Executive Director

Published: October 22, 2020

Mary Maus Kosir is the new executive director for Concordia Language Villages. The WorldView Blog editorial team posed some questions to her as she assumes the leadership position this month.

The mission of Concordia Language Villages is to inspire courageous global citizens. What does the mission mean to you, and why should it resonate for others? 

During her Bosch Fellowship in Germany in 1996,
Mary spent an afternoon with then-Chancellor
Helmut Kohl.

As a graduate of a strong liberal arts institution, I have always appreciated an education that holistically supports critical thinking, comfort with ambiguity, cultural appreciation and the value of intercultural differences. As I reflect on my life, I have tried to live and lead in a way that inspires courageous global citizenship. It is what spoke to me as I explored my own ancestral history and what has shaped my beliefs and values—respecting and appreciating differences, understanding the role we have in this global community, and becoming more aware and engaged in our increasingly interconnected world. That’s the heart of what Concordia Language Villages is about, and I’m humbled to contribute at this moment in time when the work of the Villages is more important than ever. 

 Why should someone learn another language? 

As a young girl when I would visit the family farm in Central Minnesota, I remember hearing conversations between my father and his siblings that I couldn’t understand. It was then I knew that in order to better understand my own heritage, I needed to learn German. I wanted to understand those conversations. Through my own language learning, I was able to more deeply understand my history and heritage, and respect the culture and all that surrounds it. Moreover, I found that I was better able to deal with the abstract and my problem-solving skills improved. Language learning expanded my worldview and made me aware of the interconnectedness of the world, which fueled my passion for travel and exploration!  Working for over two decades with undergraduate and graduate students, I encouraged and organized programs that took groups of students abroad to immerse them in new cultures, languages, sounds and smells. The Villages has found a way to bring immersion learning alive, build community, and create environments that support the holistic learner—all contributing to more effective language learning.

During the past seven months, our daily lives have changed dramatically … at work, at school, at home and in our communities. How does this landscape shape the future of Concordia Language Villages? 

As Albert Einstein once famously said, “The answers have changed.” This is a time of a fundamental redefinition of our normal. And with it comes an opportunity to think fresh, see new ways of doing what we’ve always done, and build on the incredibly strong foundation put in place by Village staff over six decades. Accelerating change may be our new normal, and with it comes enormous opportunity to bridge virtual and residential worlds, reach new audiences across the country and around the world, and create hybrid immersive opportunities for all ages and abilities. The innovative opportunities are incredibly exciting for Concordia Language Villages at this juncture.

The pandemic has demonstrated that our global interconnectedness is undeniable. But globalization still has its critics. What is your take on the future of globalization post-pandemic? 

The pandemic is allowing us to see that it is imperative to cooperate globally in order to combat future threats—to our economies, to our climate, to our health. With the collapse of international travel and challenged global supply chains, it has somehow become easier to see how interconnected our global economy is at its core. With the increased use of technology, whether it be e-commerce or video conferencing, we are witnessing firsthand how this technological connectedness can strengthen globalization in ways we never anticipated. Our planet has been made smaller by technology and the innovation surrounding it. The face of globalization will change dramatically in the years ahead, but I’m optimistic it will be for the better.

How have you kept a steady professional focus and healthy personal balance over the last seven months? What tips would you give others? 

Mary's love of walking began during her Fulbright
exchange in Austria.

I have become a fan of walking. Nothing crazy, but I try to walk 30 or so miles a week. During the early days of the pandemic, I was walking outside simply to take a break from the new reality of working from home, and also to simply get out of the house physically for a bit.  But as the weeks turned into months and I began to turn off the music in my ears and leave my phone and earbuds at home, I was awakened to the sounds and smells of the outdoors. These walks have turned into a more mindful time for rejuvenation. For gratitude. For planning. For observing. For an hour, 15 minutes, whatever time I may have. It’s a practice that I believe has helped me to stay balanced over the last seven months. With appropriate layering, I hope to continue walking well into the months of winter and the darkness that comes with shorter days. And it’s a practice that no matter where I am in this world, I can take with me.

About the Executive Director

Mary Maus Kosir has extensive experience in educational administration, international program development and entrepreneurialism. She speaks English and German. Mary served for over 20 years at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, first as head of International Programs and then as Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs. She also co-founded WholeMe, LLC, a grain-free, whole-food company based in Plymouth, Minnesota. Mary is originally from Bemidji, Minnesota and now resides in St. Paul. 

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