ESL Program Set to Begin


Northern will launch its new English as a Second Language (ESL) program with a four-week summer session from July 24 to Aug. 18. The program was developed in response to the university’s growing commitment to internationalization, coupled with international student enrollment that has rebounded from the post-9/11 decline.


“We need a support service in place that enables students to smoothly transition from their home countries to the United States, and from their home cultures to our academic environment,” said Cynthia Prosen (Graduate Studies, Research and Continuing Education). “After completing the ESL program, students will be encouraged to either matriculate into one of our baccalaureate or graduate programs, or continue to take ESL courses during the fall and winter semesters.

“A benefit of the program will be the increased diversity that foreign students will add to our campus. Exposure to people from other countries and cultures should help all of us appreciate our similarities and differences. While I’m reluctant to put numbers on our eventual goal, we would like to significantly enhance our international student body, which is rather small.”


Prosen said the ESL endeavor is a collaborative effort: the Departments of English and Modern Languages and Literatures are providing academic leadership; Z.Z. Lehmberg (English) has been instrumental in developing the academic content; and John Weting (Office of International Affairs) has provided insight on dealing with students from other countries.


The program will accommodate all levels of English proficiency through a combination of classroom instruction and field experiences.


“We plan to attend to not only the language-learning aspects, but also their cultural assimilation,” Prosen added. “Little things like going to the grocery store can seem daunting in a foreign country. We’d like to make the students as much a part of our community as possible to enhance their experience while they’re here.”


NMU employees may recall a previous ESL program on campus from 1999-2001. It was operated by an outside firm – FLS International based in Pasadena, Calif. Prosen said Northern opted to deliver its own program this time around because it was well-positioned with available academic and administrative experience.


She enlisted the expertise of John Mallo (Graduate Studies, Research and Continuing Education), who directed the previous program for FLS International until 9/11 forced it to shut down its NMU location. Since mid-January, Mallo has been busy with recruiting efforts. His first step was holding focus groups with international students attending NMU to find out which elements of an ESL program they would consider most attractive.


“They confirmed what we thought, but in a different order,” Mallo explained. “Conditional acceptance to the university was at the top of the list. They also said all levels of ESL instruction would be important, and being able to use a laptop on a wireless campus was a big plus in their minds. So even though ESL students take non-credit courses, they will be treated as full-time students in every other regard – from conditional acceptance to tuition to use of the laptops. We also provide extras like international student radio show opportunities on WUPX. Friends and family back in their home countries can hear them broadcast music and other information over the Internet.”


Mallo said the NMU program is being advertised in three major publications perused by international students who want preparation for the Test of English as a Second Language, or TOEFL.


“These students want to go to a place that forces them to become immersed in the English language. It’s sink or swim in Marquette, and that’s exactly what they want. But they will also receive personal attention at NMU that they won’t get elsewhere. I’m just pumped about this. It will take a while to develop, but I’m confident that it will be successful.”


Mallo said the list of top 10 nations that have the largest pool of prospective ESL students is dominated by Asian countries – Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and China. Others in the top 10 are Brazil, Turkey, France, Germany and Mexico.


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Updated: May 5, 2006

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