Northern Michigan University’s English Language Institute (NELI)

As the new ESL Coordinator at Northern Michigan University, I would like to offer a bit of news about the ‘new’ program. While NMU has had an ESL program for over three years, we are just now redesigning the program and working towards CEA accreditation. To that end, I was hired Aug. 1, 2013 as a full-time coordinator, and I am very excited about this position and the growth of the program.

One of the projects I am very interested in – is a Conversation Partner (CP) project, and I would like to invite NMU’s Alumni the opportunity to volunteer as a CP before I open it up to the public. I believe that being invested in NMU – and – being local are two important components to this project.

At this point, we have only five students, but we have expectations of steady growth as early as October 2013. We have students from Saudi Arabia, China, Slovakia, and Japan, and we may be receiving students from Brazil. One of our new students, from Slovakia, is the brother of a student who graduated from our ESL program somewhat recently: The sister loved Marquette so much and learned a great deal and inspired her brother to attend the same program!

The time commitment for volunteering in this program would be somewhat flexible, but it would require a weekly commitment. Since I have scheduled classes around only three instructors, there will be hours of the day in which each student is free. At this time – because the placement tests will not be administered until orientation week – I do not have a schedule for all the students. I will have this information by Aug. 26, and at that time, I could post the opening ‘slots’ we have for CPs.

Our fall semester is broken up into two, seven-week sessions:

  • August 26 – Oct. 11
  • Oct. 21 – Dec. 13

The qualities I am looking for, in regard to CPs, include good listening skills, patience, willingness to pursue questions to make sure statements by the student are understood, open-mindedness regarding cultural differences, and a willingness to learn about the culture of the student. While many second-language students want to learn slang, and while I see a need for these students to learn idioms, I would like each student to  learn to use casual, polite conversation. I would also like the student to learn the ‘modes’ of communication: When to interrupt, approximately how long to stay on with a conversation, how to state when he/she does not understand, etc.

Meetings between the CP and the student should not be held in the CP’s home. Meetings could be held on campus, at a local restaurant, or in any appropriate public place. This excludes bars.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me, as I would be pleased to talk with you about this:  Jo Doran, cdoran@nmu.edu, 906-227-2594. At this time, I have not yet redesigned the ESL website on NMU’s site, but you may leave a comment on my website: jodoran.net. Please click on “Leave a Comment” in the left sidebar.