Q&A with Asia Society’s Kelly Kleinkort

Kelly Kleinkort, Asia Society's Director of Education, Business & Policy
Kelly Kleinkort, Asia Society’s Director of Education, Business & Policy

Developing a global outlook is critical for success in the 21st century – and knowledge of Asia is crucial.  Asia is home to major global economic players, including India and China, and home to ⅔ of the world’s population.  In Montessori education, developing a global outlook is integrated into the classroom.  We explore cultures and people to show how all children are part of a larger global community.

Our Director of Innovation and Global Strategy, Kevin Kalra, recently spoke with Asia Society‘s Director of Education, Business & Policy, Kelly Kleinkort to learn more about developing a global outlook in the early years:

What does global citizenship mean to you?  Why is it important?

I think the primary issue is not global citizenship but global competency.  At Asia Society, we define global competency as the ability to investigate the world, recognize different perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action.  I think it’s not just important for students – but for all people to understand that we live in a deeply interconnected world.

Why is learning about Asia so critical for the 21st century learner (especially in Texas)?

We’re located in Houston, the most diverse city in the United States.  The latest census shows about 8% of population in Houston is of Asian descent, and this continues to grow.  Regardless of whether a student becomes an educator or a business leader, students must learn to navigate across and respect cultures, especially those of Asia.

Tell us about your experience in Asia.  What inspired you to pursue a path in education?

As an undergraduate, my mentor challenged me to travel and assess my worldview.  In 2001, I traveled to China, visited Inner Mongolia, where I lived and taught English for the summer.  I didn’t realize I had so many internal biases. Travel soon became addictive, and I decided to move back in 2003 and lived in China for three years.  It’s become my passion to create globally competent students, with the emotional intelligence to not only assess their own worldview but also appreciate  those that diverge from their own.

How can Asia Society support parents in developing a globally competent child?

In Texas, we invite parents and families to visit our Center – it’s a beautiful jewel in the heart of Houston.  We want everyone to visit!  I know it’s a bit of a drive for friends in the suburbs, but please come!

We have great resources on our websites, including lesson plans and resources to weave global competency into curricula and day-to-day lives.  We also have great family programs like creation stations, where families work on art projects with their children.  I would also encourage parents to visit institutions closer to their home as well.

Houston is seeing incredible growth in its suburbs, including Cy-Fair, Katy and southwest Houston.  Are there plans for Asia Society Texas Center to reach out to suburban families?

We reach out through schools, and we try to get more students to visit the Asia Society Texas Center through these relationships.  We’ve had students from Galveston to Cy-Fair visit – and from throughout the Houston metropolis.

We do hope to grow our online resources.  Most programs we do here are also available online, so families can watch performances and panel discussions on our YouTube page.

What has been your favorite family event at Asia Society Texas Center so far?

I would definitely say it’s AsiaFest!  It’s a big celebration that we started last year.  It’s an opportunity in May to celebrate all the pan-Asian cultures in Houston.  We have food trucks, activities, and performances!  Our next AsiaFest will be on May 13, 2017.

Thanks Kelly.  Always great to learn from you.


About the Asia Society

The Asia Society is the leading educational organization that promotes mutual understanding and strengthens partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States.  Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution with major centers and public buildings in across the US and Asia.

The Asia Society Texas Center has a local focus, engaging Houstonians through programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.


Featured Photo by Nash Baker via Houston Museum District Association