February 24, 2014

English Language Support to Help International Graduate Students

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Correction appended


The English Language Support Office — a new resource for international graduate students — is scheduled to open July 1, according to Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs.

Developed collaboratively by the Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines and the Graduate School, the office will provide both semester-long credit courses and shorter one or two-week institutes in academic and professional speaking, writing and presentation, according to Allen.

Allen said the office will help international students adjust to Cornell courses.

“The English Language Support Office’s services will support international students’ academic and social acculturation to help them understand and fully be apart of academic life in the United States, and specifically at Cornell,” she said.

Allen said the office will offer mentoring and peer tutoring services for graduate students — many who have learned English as a second language — and additional services will be added as the office develops.

“We are currently moving in … the final stages in the search for a new director for the office.” Allen said.

The office will address “diversity and international students,” a focus area of the Graduate and Professional Community Initiative, according to President David Skorton’s Feb. 10 Sun column.

Skorton said that the University needs more programs to help graduate students keep up with the constantly changing demands for a graduate school education.

“All these changes, and the varied interests and needs of our students, suggest that we need to renew our focus on graduate and professional student education and life,” Skorton said in the column.

The office will be funded collaboratively through the Graduate School and the Provost’s Office, according to Joe Martin, Writing Workshop director at the Knight Institute.

“The Knight Institute will provide the academic home for English Language Support Office instructors who will be lecturers … in the College of Arts and Sciences,” Martin said.

The Knight Institute will serve as the basis of the program and provide the office with instructors already experienced with working with international students, according to Martin.

“Initially, Knight Institute instructors will be able to orient the ELSO staff to the Cornell graduate student population and highlight areas of major concern,” he said.

Gideon Ponio grad, who is from the Philippines, said he believes that the new office will be an asset for graduate students who are seeking to improve their English skills.

“International students [at] Cornell definitely already have good English skills, but from experience, some of them still find it hard to articulate their thoughts or make a transition from their native way of speaking to how it is translated into English,” Ponio said.

Mariano Sanchez-Talanquer grad, who is from Mexico, said he could also improve his writing from participating in the program.

“Since I am already in my third year, I wouldn’t take long semester courses, but I could use some help in polishing manuscripts for submission to academic journals or writing the dissertation.” Sanchez-Talanquer said.

He added that there is a major “gap” between the level of English necessary to perform well in classes and that needed to successfully submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal or give an “error-free job talk.”

“I think some support in perfecting those final products would be appreciated by graduate students across disciplines,” Sanchez-Talanquer said.

This article previously incorrectly identified Joe Martin as co-chair and director of the Knight Institute. In fact, Martin is the Writing Workshop director at the Knight Institute.