IACET: Tell us a little about yourself.
Norina Columbaro: I started out my career as a technical writer developing IT policies and procedures. I soon realized I enjoyed working with and training adults, so I went on to focus my next path on career and technology education. This led to me starting my business, Performance for Life Consulting, back in 1999. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with over 60 different organizations worldwide supporting them with accreditation, technical writing, coaching, communications, team building, instructional design, and leadership development. I also have a Ph.D. in Urban Education, Leadership and Lifelong Learning, and have collaborated on publications and research around mentoring, online learning, communities of practice, and accreditation. Over the years, I have been so fortunate to be mentored by some exceptional people and have had the pleasure of working with amazing IACET commissioners over the past 5 plus years.
IACET: How did you become a Commissioner?
Norina Columbaro: I was recommended by a wonderful colleague and fellow commissioner, Kevin Perry. I truly appreciate this great opportunity!
IACET: What inspires you most about Continuing Education and Training (CE/T)?
Norina Columbaro: For me, it is the chance to support people's life-long learning. It is also the opportunity to help create a better society in which people work with each other for positive change. I believe that is a significant part of continuing education. This is embodied in a quote by Malcolm Knowles (who coined the term Andragogy and wrote a book in 1950 called “Informal Adult Education”). He said, “Time is running out too fast. Our fate rests with the intelligence, skill, and good-will of those who are now the citizen-rulers. The instrument by which their abilities as citizen-rulers can be improved is adult education. This is our problem. This is our challenge.” I really love that quote because I feel that it represents a lot of what we do today as adult educators in that we give access to the tools and support through CE/T to empower people to make positive changes in their lives, communities, and the world.
IACET: What do you think best prepared you for your role as an IACET commissioner?
Norina Columbaro: I feel that being a practitioner as well as a researcher in adult learning and training has prepared me to provide a rich, rounded perspective as I review applications. However, most importantly, I would have to say that serving as the manager of education of one organization that went through accreditation as well as helping other organizations apply for accreditation has been the most beneficial as I review applications. I know first-hand how stressful it can be as an applicant, but I also know the benefits from being an accredited provider.
IACET: With that said, what are some of the benefits of accreditation, and how does being an Accredited Provider of IACET specifically, impact an organization?
Norina Columbaro: People often think it's all about the endgame - in this case being accreditation. That is a wonderful thing, and it certainly has its benefits. IACET Accreditation truly demonstrates you have achieved the “gold star” of quality to be internationally recognized in such a way. But I think another benefit is in the process of applying. People often do not think about that, as they go through the process of applying, it makes them really take a good look at how they currently do things as a learning organization and determine areas in which they can improve and streamline. This has short-term as well as long-term benefits for their learners, instructors, staff, and the business as a whole!
IACET: Having been an applicant, what advice do you have for successfully going through the process of accreditation?
Norina Columbaro: Prepare and organize. Take a workshop to truly understand the standard, and what is required to demonstrate compliance. In addition, make sure you have buy-in from your leaders. I had to get buy-in from my leadership when I wanted to pursue accreditation the first time. This is absolutely critical so that you have the resources, support, and structure to become and remain compliant as well as integrate the standard into how you do business.
IACET: As an instructor of the Introduction to IACET accreditation courses, what are some teaching objectives you provide for the applicants?
Norina Columbaro: One thing I focus on first in my facilitation is breaking down the standard and application in a way that is accessible and digestible. If that is not done in the beginning, the application can be overwhelming. I also explain to learners that, when we look at your application, we are looking at it from two standpoints. The first standpoint is how your CE/T organization operates. The second standpoint is how your instructional design processes are documented and executed. Then it makes it a bit easier to understand how those 9 categories fit together. I like to encourage a lot of dialogue and interaction in my courses so that I can really address the individual needs of the applicants. The overall goal is for each of them to be positioned for success and have a clear understanding about the standard(s) as well as how to achieve IACET accreditation. Of course, I want them to have fun in the process!
IACET: What three words would you like to leave us with about accreditation and adult learning?
Norina Columbaro: The first word would be "life-long". I loved Eartha Kitt. One quote that has been attributed to her is, “I am learning all the time and my tombstone will be my diploma.” I had that quote on my desk for years, especially when I was first going through IACET accreditation myself and becoming an Accredited Provider. That quote captures that idea very well, and I find it inspiring and a constant reminder of why I do what I do. The second word would be "evolving". Adult learning is continually re-inventing itself through innovative implementation of technology and continuing to foster inclusiveness. It is extremely important that spaces are created that facilitate learning and include all learners. The third word would be "global". This is one of the many things I love about IACET! We are continuing to re-visit our vision and mission of accrediting continuing education and training organizations all over the world. It is what we do.