Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena, known as “Lani” was born in the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka. She studied at Ladies’ College, Colombo, and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English (Honors) from the University of Sri Lanka. She taught English as a Second Language and elementary French at Museus College, Colombo, and worked as a Research Assistant in English for Specific Purposes at the Department of English, University of Colombo.

Lani came to the United States to complete a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of Kansas at Lawrence. While working on her Master’s degree at KU, Lani became fascinated by the unique characteristics and opportunities of distance education. She pursued this interest in her doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction through a major emphasis in Instructional Technology and a minor emphasis in Instructional Television. She completed her doctorate at KU with Honors and won the National University Continuing Education Association’s Charles A. Wedemeyer award for her dissertation, New Communications Technologies and Distance Education: A Paradigm for the Integration of Video-based Instruction.

After completing post-doctoral studies as a Kellogg Research Fellow at the University of Oklahoma, Lani joined the Training and Learning Technologies Department, (later named the Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology program) in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico as an Assistant Professor of Distance Education and Instructional Technology in 1989, to develop the graduate emphasis in distance education. She now serves as a Regents’ Professor in the Organization, Information, and Learning Sciences program in the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences at the University of New Mexico. In her teaching and research activities, she pursued her passion for online learning, blending it with her keen interest in intercultural communication.

Lani’s interests outside the academic field include travel and gardening. Lani enjoys international travel and considers herself to be a global nomad comfortable in cultures different from her own. Her garden is primarily xeriscaped, in keeping with Albuquerque’s arid climate, but Lani also makes room for a few favorite roses.


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