New GLCI, IAF directors hired

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College this spring welcomed a new leader for the Great Lakes Culinary Institute and the first-ever director of the International Affairs Forum.

Leslie EckertLeslie Eckert (right) is the new director of GLCI, taking the reins of the American Culinary Federation (ACF)-accredited program June 5. Eckert studied, taught and managed programs at three campuses of the International Culinary Schools, in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and most recently, Raleigh, N.C. In North Carolina she was the academic director for Culinary Management, Culinary Arts & Baking Programs. Her top priority at GLCI is increasing enrollment and student retention.

Like GLCI students, Eckert, 51, initially earned an associate’s degree. She then went on to earn a bachelor’s in culinary management and an MBA with a concentration in hospitality management. She hopes to cultivate a desire for career advancement among GLCI students, too.

“When you start building on those degrees, it really opens doors for you,” she said.

Eckert is also a fellow in the American Academy of Chefs and is certified by the ACF as both an executive pastry chef and as a culinary educator. She succeeds Fred Laughlin, who retired in December 2018.

Eckert arrives on the cusp of GLCI opening Cafe Lobdell’s for its second summer of service. The capstone course in GLCI’s one-year Baking Certificate program, coffee and pastries will be served in Lobdell’s Teaching Restaurant from 7-11 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays June 25-Aug. 1. Find out more about culinary programs at

Leila HilalLeila Hilal (right) is the first-ever director of the International Affairs Forum. She spent the past five years as a fellow in the International Security Program at New America, a nonpartisan Washington D.C. think tank.

Also affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America, the International Affairs Forum marked its 25th anniversary this year. Originally a monthly lecture series featuring guest speakers in public policy, academia and media, IAF’s volunteer leadership has in recent years expanded its programming and outreach significantly. Hilal is charged with executing IAF’s mission to advance the understanding of the world and its critical issues through education and public dialogue.

Hilal received her law degree from SUNY-Buffalo in international law, and went on to earn a master of laws from Harvard University, specializing in public international law.

IAF concludes its 2018-19 season with a June 20 lecture in Milliken Auditorium, “Russia Against the West: Can the Post-WWII Global Order Survive?" Speaker Angela Stent is director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies and professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University. The author of Putin’s World, published in February, Stent is America’s leading expert on the triangular relationship between the U.S., Russia and Europe, and previously served in the U.S. State Department and as a NATO adviser. The lecture begins at 6 p.m. Admission is free for students and educators and $10 for others.

Release date: June 13, 2019

For more information:

Diana Fairbanks
Executive Director, NMC Public Relations, Marketing & Communications
(231) 995-1019


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