University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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UW-Eau Claire ESL Program
Has New Name/Curriculum

 MAILED:  April 25, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - The English as a Second Language program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has a new name and a new curriculum.

Named the English Language Academy, the program provides state-of-the-art ESL instruction to international students and others whose first language is not English to prepare them to pursue academic study or begin professional work in the United States.

The English Language Academy, which operates year round, unites the Intensive English Language Program and the Credit ESL Program. This change signifies a cooperative effort among the department of foreign languages, Continuing Education and the Center for International Education and brings under one roof all ESL instruction on campus.

The new curriculum integrates skills such as reading, grammar and listening with content-based instruction. ESL coordinator Beth Ernst describes the approach as the marriage of language learning and the study of a particular subject matter such as American history.

"Most ESL programs are skill-based with separate courses for each skill," Ernst says. "Our new program is on the cutting edge as far as ESL is concerned. It not only makes sense, but it is supported by research that shows that content-based learning is better and more enjoyable than skill-based learning alone."

Ernst said the new ESL curriculum includes 14 courses that will be officially implemented during the fall 2003 semester; however, pilot courses are now under way. New courses include "Integrated Language Skills (levels 1, 2 and 3) for ESL Learners," "Business English for ESL Leaders," "Theater for ESL Learners," "Current Global Events for ESL Learners" and "Introduction to the Institutions and Culture of the USA."

Each semester a theme is incorporated into the integrated course. For example, the spring semester theme is diversity. Students attended special events such as the Indian Pow wow and Judy Richardson's lecture during Black History Month.

The summer's theme will be self-actualization, and the students will read "The Alchemist." The fall semester will focus on peace and harmony.

Leading the changes in UW-Eau Claire's intensive English program is Dr. Kate Mastruserio Reynolds, who joined the department of foreign languages in 2001 as director of TESOL and campus coordinator of ESL programming.

Along with the development of the English Language Academy, UW-Eau Claire last year received a $1.05 million federal grant to train teachers of non-English speaking students in the Eau Claire Area School District and surrounding districts.

"We're very excited about our new program, which incorporates the latest ESL curriculum and methods with personal attention from professors who put students' academic success first," Reynolds said. "Our only concern at this point is the effect that immigration policies, the war in Iraq and the SARS virus may have on our enrollment in the coming year."

International student adviser Phillip Huelsbeck said usually 60 to 90 international students are enrolled at UW-Eau Claire for the fall semester. "As many as half would take ESL courses, based on their English proficiency," he said.

At this point Huelsbeck doesn't know what to expect for fall. "We're in a holding pattern. We know students get discouraged by the long delays for U.S. student visas and some are opting to go to other countries," he said. "Our international students are an educating force on the campus, and we are certainly hoping for the best."


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: April 25, 2003