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Meet the Professors

Department Chair

Photo of Lynn Harper

Lynn Harper
Instructor, Communication

Professor Lynn Harper started as a full-time instructor at CLC in 2007, teaching Public speaking, honors public speaking, dynamics of small group communication and interviewing. Having a competitive background in Public Speaking and Oral Interpretation, naturally she specializes in both. She has conducted multiple workshops on and off campus focusing in areas of leadership skills, how to effectively communicate with your professor and how to improve public speaking skills.

Her greatest passion is Forensics, better known as the Speech and Debate team. Professor Harper began as the assistant director in 2007, then became the director in 2010. In 2016 she stepped down to pursue other avenues in higher education. During her tenure as director of forensics, she was honored with the National Phi Rho Pi Collie-Taylor award for Coach of the year in 2012 and 2013.

Professor Harper attended a community college receiving her A.A.S. before acquiring both her B.A. & M.A. in Communication Studies from Eastern Illinois University. Her B.A. focuses on Corporate Communication while her M.A. focuses on Community College Pedagogy. Prior to teaching at CLC, she taught at Eastern Illinois University and Danville Area Community College.

“It is important on the first day of class to establish an atmosphere that will allow students to feel safe and comfortable. I want them to share their ideas, opinions and beliefs without being judged. We share messages daily. What will you do with your messages? Create, share and change the world.”

Faculty/Academic Advisors

Photo of Joel Chmara

Joel Chmara
Instructor, Communication

Joel Chmara started teaching at the College of Lake County in 2004. He teaches Public Speaking, Small Group Communication and he developed an Oral Interpretation performance art course that runs every spring semester. Joel coaches the speech team at the college. He is also a performance poet who has toured throughout the U.S. and Europe. Joel was featured on HBO’s Def Poetry, been in the National Poetry Slam finals, presented a TED X Talk, co-wrote and co-starred in a Big 10 Basketball commercial, and was once paid not to perform for Michelle Obama. Joel is an alumni of Northern Arizona University and Illinois State University.

Photo of Joel Chmara

Ali Cunningham
Instructor, Communication

Ali Cunningham has a Master’s degree in Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. For many years she provided academic advising and career guidance as a college counselor. She also helped students navigate personal problems that were impacting their education and career. Throughout her work she noticed that one of the most effective ways to empower her students was by teaching communication skills. This led her to pursue a graduate-level certificate in Communication Processes and change her career focus from counseling to teaching.

Ali believes that her main task as an instructor is to support students in achieving their academic, professional, and personal goals. This motivates her to develop classes and assignments that teach practical skills and are relevant to students’ lives and careers. She seeks to create meaningful relationships with her students and establish a safe environment in the classroom in which they feel heard and supported. “Our students are resilient and strong. They are often caring for families, working, and facing a variety of challenges. They pursue their goals not just for themselves, but also to uplift their families and their communities. I am honored to be a part of their journey.”

As an immigrant herself and a native Spanish speaker, Ali is passionate about supporting students for whom English is their second language. She is also especially interested in supporting students who struggle with communication anxiety.

Ali lives in Lake County with her husband and son. She enjoys drawing, painting, and visiting the beautiful Forest Preserves in the area.

Photo of Fred Gifford

Fred Gifford
Instructor, Communication

It all began when I fell off a roof. After graduating from Franklin High School in Milwaukee I obtained a certificate in carpentry from Milwaukee Area Technical College, after which I immediately became a carpenter's apprentice. Two months into the job, I was hammering nails into the roof of a house and I day-dreamed myself backwards off that roof and landed nine feet below on the grass. That crash landing inspired to work with my mind rather than my hands, thus initiated my trip through higher education. The journey led me to the acquisition of a bachelor’s degree then master’s degree in Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and, ultimately, to a professorship at the College of Lake County.

While my informal, then formal, education was of great value, that which I've learned from my 1000s of students during my 25 years teaching at CLC has been priceless. I believe each individual in a classroom serves as a teacher and a student; every person, whether in college or not, provides an opportunity for others to learn. Although I teach a variety of communication courses at CLC, I consider myself an Intercultural Communication specialist, but I take pride in knowing that each of our Communication Department’s courses have the potential to be a life changing experience for you.

When I received the gift of employment at CLC, I had no idea how high the incredible faculty, staff, and students would elevate me off that unforgiving ground I fell to decades ago. I hope to see you elevate yourself in one of our courses soon.

Photo of Kari Proft

Kari Proft
Instructor, Communication

Professor Kari Proft has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a Master’s degree in Communication from Illinois State University. Her doctorate in Higher Education and Adult Learning will be completed in 2018. Prior to her tenure at CLC, Kari worked in the non-profit sector in the Chicagoland area and ran a small web based company that developed public education web sites. In 1999, she began teaching at night for CLC as a “hobby” to get involved in community education. In fall 2008 her “hobby” became a career committed to teaching and learning as a full time tenured faculty member for CLC. She has a true passion for student success in helping them build the academic skills they need, whether the next step is a career choice or to transfer to a four year school.

Having her office at the CLC Southlake Campus in Vernon Hills, provides Professor Proft with the opportunity to teach a variety of communication courses: Public Speaking, Intercultural Communication, Interviewing Practices, and Communication Skills. In addition to teaching, Kari serves on the CLC Foundation Board and serves on various committees with the purpose to enhance the teaching and learning environment. By living in the community near the Southlake Campus, Kari enjoys the opportunities she has to promote the services and quality of education provided by CLC. When she is not at CLC, students will see her at music festivals, high school sporting events, and the local Starbuck’s.

Photo of Cindu Thomas-George

Cindu Thomas-George
Instructor, Communication

Cindu is a tenured professor specializing in Public Speaking, Intercultural Communication, and Online learning. Cindu is an award-winning educator, receiving the 2017 NISOD Teaching Excellence Award, a national recognition of excellence in Higher Education. In addition to her role as a faculty member at CLC, she co-founded the Diversity and Equity Infusion Project (DEIP) where she conceptualizes, designs, and facilitates professional development that work to prepare faculty to create anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable learning environments for today’s increasingly diverse student population. Cindu began her career as an adjunct faculty member at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco. She holds an M.A. in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University where she learned the art of teaching, public speaking, and the importance and relevance that diversity and social justice education has in our world. Additionally, Cindu is the Founder and Principal Trainer of Shakti Diversity and Equity training, As a DEI practitioner, she works across industries to help cultivate workplace cultures that foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for today's increasingly diverse workforce

It was her own lived experiences of being the daughter of Indian immigrants and navigating her role in Higher Education as a woman of color that drew her to a career committed to driving inclusion, equity, and anti-racism forward. Her passion and commitment for this work extends beyond her professional life- Cindu actively volunteers and is a co-founder and Board member of Malayalees for Social Justice, co-founder of the South Asian Solidarity Movement, co-founder and co-chair of the Women of Color Employee Resource Group at CLC, and sits on the advisory board for Orion3. Previously, she was a board member of YWCA Lake County and helped direct the organization’s racial justice initiatives and programming. When she is not working, you can find Cindu enjoying fitness, live music, nature, and exploring the vibrant culture of the city of Chicago with her children and husband.