Views from the NAFSA National Conference, Anthony Schmidt, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Friday, June 29, 2018
Posted by: Lynda Swindell
The 2018 NAFSA annual conference was held in Philadelphia this year. While intensive English/ESL accounts for only a small portion of what occurs at NAFSA, there were still plenty of sessions related to our industry. Here are a few highlights for those who could not attend.
Incorporating Videos into International Recruitment Strategies
The panel gave numerous examples of video campaigns they had completed with various institutions. Some of these examples include the EducationUSA (in particular the EducationUSA Belarus) YouTube Channels, the British Council’s “1001 Ways” campaign, and Birmingham City University’s Thai-language “UK Snap” web series. Some practical takeaways and best practices included keeping videos under two minutes, using students’ native language, including subtitles (because most watch videos without sound), considering the timing of the videos release (e.g. releasing it to coincide with a recruiting fair), and having the students in the videos share it on their personal social media networks.
Supporting International Students’ Academic Success
This highly interactive session focused on challenges international students face while studying abroad (especially international students at Western universities) and possible solutions to these challenges. Linguistic challenges include lack of proficiency, lack of confidence, lack of awareness of genre (such as composing emails), high social but low academic proficiency, and high oral but low written proficiency among others. Possible solutions include continued ESL support; raising awareness of support services such as the writing center, library services, tutoring; professional development of faculty; conversation partners; and volunteer opportunities. Challenges may also be related to culturally adjusting to differences in finances, transportation, climate, food, technology, interaction, etc. Solutions to help ease the adjustment can include well-prepared airport welcomes and orientations; continuous practical workshops on culture, things to do, where to shop, how to find an apartment; peer mentor programs; social clubs; encouraging the use of support services. Finally, the presentation looked at challenges in academic acclimation, such as learning and teaching expectations, concepts of academic integrity, workload, assessment, faculty-student relationships, etc. Some ways to help academic acclimation is providing well-structured orientation before and after arrival, professional development for faculty, requiring office visits with faculty, ongoing plagiarism workshops, time management training, note-taking instruction, test-taking strategies, and connecting students to domestic or international mentors.
Academic Pathway Programs: Building a Common Understanding
This information session was an iteration of EnglishUSA’s .“Exploring Pathway Programs” webinar held in September, 2017. The sessions focused on the various definitions and models of pathway programs. A key point that was raised during the discussions is related to the two options that are often given when considering a pathway: use a third-party provider or do it in-house. Panelists recommended a third option: not doing a pathway at all. According to the panelists, pathways should not be seen as a panacea to current issues facing IEPs, as they are also subject to market forces and should not be done to replace an IEP, which, in the words of one panelist, is still a valuable model.
Navigating a Marketing and Sales approach to ESL Program Expansion
Presenters in this workshop suggest taking a sales and marketing approach to ESL program development. They suggested changing mindsets from “students” to “customers” in order to find ways to expand and adapt with a volatile marketplace. They suggested rethinking program mission statements to make them more flexible (i.e. not solely focused on intensive English or university international students). A more flexible mission statement can lead to having a more flexible strategic plan and also more flexible program offerings. The presenters suggested starting with a SWOT analysis to understand a program’s current strengths, weaknesses and how these can be used to design stronger programs.
Innovative and Sustainable Practices in Intensive English Programming
The IEP-focused poster fair was quite interesting. A range of topics were represented including posters on content-based instruction (teaching language through US History), developing a collaborative housing network, managing emergencies, linking university students and IEP students via courses such as global communications, creating friendship programs, theme-based language learning workshops, and created a STEM ESL program.
English Language Institute
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville