New Riverland president is ready to listen and learn in her 1st 100 days

Published 4:43 pm Thursday, April 20, 2023

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Linaker, who will start in July, tours Albert Lea campus

Kathleen “Kat” Linaker was named the president-designate of Riverland Community College on Wednesday, and on Thursday she stopped by the Albert Lea campus to introduce herself.

Linaker is currently the vice president of academics at Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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“The technical education piece is very important to me because it is that piece of our college that meets the needs of employers with the skilled employees, the trades and the health care professions,” she said.

Describing her first 100 days, she planned to listen and learn while meeting with leaders, faculty and staff at Riverland’s three campuses: Owatonna, Austin and Albert Lea.

She also hoped to represent Riverland and help move it forward to meet community, employer and student needs.

“I really intend to spend my time meeting with all of you, listening, learning,” she said. “I think it’s really important that I understand Riverland and the programs.”

Her goal was to serve the people of Riverland and the institution.

She said that taking the position was a natural fit for her.

“I grew up in rural Alberta, so I’m a farm girl at heart, a Midwest farm girl,” she said. “When I saw the posting, the mission of the institution really fits who I am, and so I thought this would be a really good match for me.”

Touring the campuses, she said she was impressed with the facilities, programs and the people. She also described the Albert Lea campus as beautiful.

“[The campus] has been redone, the facilities are amazing, it’s bright, it’s clean, it is cutting-edge for the technical programs,” she said. “That is something that you need to have as a community college so that your students experience.”

This will be Linaker’s first time serving as a president, though she has served as vice president and associate president at two community and technical colleges, one in Wisconsin and the other in New York.

Prior to visiting, Linaker had been to Owatonna and Austin previously, but never Albert Lea.

“I was blown away with how beautiful it was, the lakes and all of the activities,” she said.

In his opening remarks, current President Adenuga Atewologun said it was an exciting new chapter for the college.

Devinder Malhotra, Minnesota State chancellor, echoed Atewologun’s comment about it being an exciting time.

“As I was combing through the references and all the feedback about Dr. Linaker it became evident to me that her personal story is what fuels her passion and commitment for the work she does and what makes her student-centered,” he told the audience.

Speaking with references, he noted a common thread: a compassionate nature, active-listening skills, an ability to accept feedback and make tough decisions for “the stewardship of the institution of the community it serves, but most importantly for the stewardship of the students the college serves.”

He described her as a leader with a generous heart and strong smile

Linaker and her husband, Clinton Eliason, have a daughter, Katherine Eliason, who will be an incoming freshman at Riverland this fall.

“I was actually in school when she texted me, she was like, ‘Call me,’” her daughter said, admitting she had never heard of Riverland Community College until her mother applied.

Linaker will officially take over July 1.