SMC engages foreign speakers
Veronica Darling | Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The English Language School at Saint Mary’s demonstrates the College’s mission for student diversity by working to help students reach their educational goals for to English language learning or proficiency.
Terra Cowham, assistant director of the English Language School, said the program provides intensive English Language-instruction to non-native speakers, ranging from beginner to advanced levels.
She said while the program mainly focuses on preparing students for higher education and life in the U.S., it also supports students who come for more personal goals.
“Some students want to work on gaining confidence in their speaking, reading and writing skills,” Cowham said. “We have had many students whose spouses come for work, and they need a program that will help them gain social language so that they can engage with the community around them.”
Cowham said in spring 2013, the School’s calendar changed from semester-long courses to four-week sessions, which are offered in the fall, spring and summer. This allows the program to have start dates every month as opposed to only in the fall or spring.
“Having four-week sessions also allows students to come for as many sessions as they would like,” she said. “They could stay for a few months if they did not want to study the whole semester.”
Cowham said the program now offers a more specialized summer program, with three sessions beginning May 12.
“We have continued to grow and help students along their educational journey,” she said. “We have grown in our extracurricular activities and have added new elective classes.”
Cowham said the current classes offered are Speaking and Listening, Reading, Grammar, Cultural Exploration and Service Learning, along with other intensive academic preparatory courses.
“Full-time students typically take five classes a day. The classes are approximately one-hour long, which equates to five instructional hours per class per week,” Cowham said. “Classes are offered from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to12 p.m. on Friday,” Cowham said.
She said the program attracts students of all ages from all over the world.
“We have students who are studying here for their college program, some study here before their entrance into higher education, some are wives and mothers, and we have students who come for just a few classes,” she said. “Our teachers care about each student as an individual.
“We welcome anyone who wants language support on their educational journey.”
Cowham said because the program is small, the teachers are able to offer a great deal of individualized attention.
“We can work directly with student needs as well as offer a close-knit community of learning,” she said.
In addition to benefitting students, Cowham said there are many ways the students’ families in the School find fulfillment in the programs as well. With little to no English-speaking experience, the individuals who participate in the program gain a confidence in their English environments.
Cowham said the program organizes cultural and extracurricular activities for the participants, which is vital to learning a language and to building relationships with other students.
Director of the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership Elaine Meyer-Lee said the program is working to develop an opportunity for community members to host students coming from other countries.
“We now have a partnership with a women’s college in Japan that was started by a Saint Marys’ alumna called St. Agnes University,” Meyer-Lee said.
Meyer-Lee said living with a family for the summer could be a beneficial opportunity for intercultural learning for both the international students and host families.
For more information about the English Language School or to volunteer to host a student, visit: cwil.saintmarys.edu/els or call 574-284-4212.