The international community at WVU has gone through several exciting changes this fall that will streamline outreach to international students and improve the quality of services they receive in their time here. The Intensive English Program (IEP), under the directorship of Stacy Fint, gives international students the opportunity to hone their English language skills before entering their prospective degree programs. This fall, the IEP moved under the auspices of the Vice President’s Office for Global Affairs and the new leadership of Vice President Dr. William Brustein. This move has integrated vital student services like English education, visa processing, and outgoing study abroad trips with the administrative capabilities Brustein brings to the table.
Throughout West Virginia University Intensive English Program’s 35-year history, it has demonstrated a commitment to integrating English language learners of all skill levels into University life. The IEP’s main goal is attainment of student proficiency in English for successful entry and smooth matriculation through a WVU degree program. The program also provides services to special populations like one-semester English study abroad students, English language learners from private global firms, and teacher-exchange participants. Most, however, are learners who need to develop their academic English use before seeking a four year degree at WVU.
The IEP is newly accredited by the Commission on English Language Accreditation (CEA). While the IEP has long held Higher Learning Commission accreditation through the University itself, CEA certification offers an English language program-specific way to demonstrate how well it follows these disciplinary standards. Over the course of three years, the program had to prove its adherence to over 30 distinct criteria, including the rigor of its curriculum, quality of its facilities, the value of its student services, and measures of student achievement.
Director Stacy Fint observed that this accreditation process communicates the seriousness and rigor of WVU’s English instruction, and provides a comprehensive understanding of the program’s strengths and areas for improvement in the future. She believes this reflection on teaching practice and student service is a vital part of any growing and evolving instructional program. In order to earn their certificates of completion, students must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA in the highest of the five levels within the IEP. Students usually advance through these levels on a four-semester timeline. Fint: “Our most successful students consistently use their time with us to build a bridge from their home country to the West Virginia University community.”
Critical skills that students learn in their time at the IEP include how to successfully write college-level research and how to deliver academic presentations. Throughout the program, students build an academic vocabulary and syntax so they can actively participate in their upcoming major-related classes. The IEP employs both graduate and full time instructors, who are also given the opportunity design a dynamic elective catalog around the curricular standards and their own interests. Past electives have included the graphic novel, American culture, social media, theatre, short story, and animation. Director Fint feels these courses offer an opportunity for students to develop a different side of their academic vocabulary as they communicate about their hobbies, special interests, and about their projects and research interests. Teaching instructor Kristin Williams appreciates her chance to see how her international students live, saying that “every day is like a trip across the world, because all my students are from a different place. Teaching allows me to see the world through their eyes and experiences.”
Moonjung Jang, a WVU student from South Korea, values the way the IEP blends respect for her home culture with a smooth transition to her new Morgantown home. IEP faculty and staff “understand and respect that international students all have different backgrounds including their school system, and the teachers help international students to get used to the new environment in many ways.” When their work days are over, students in the IEP participate in social activities like a spring formal each year, English tables each week, West Virginia cultural events, and travel to nearby cities like Pittsburgh and D.C. It’s clear these students earn more than a certificate and develop so much more than language: the personal growth, cultural competency, and network of close friends with which they leave the program all set them up for a success.